Yoko Akama


Yoko  is a kooky design researcher.  Her Japanese heritage and cultural upbringing has informed her practice, and zen philosophy is a strong inflection in her work on human-centred design. Her teaching, research and designing continues to practice a ‘tao’ (way of being), in engaging and entangling with social ‘wicked problems’. This has led to various partnerships with communities on building disaster resilience in Australia and Japan, and project work with public institutions to scaffold adaptive capacity for well-being and climate change. Trained as a communication designer, visualisation is a process that features strongly in her work, particularly to catalyse meaning-making, learning and dialogue through participatory interactions. 

During 2009-2014 her research was funded by an Australian government Bushfire Co-operative Research Centre (CRC) to assist emergency management agencies to adopt a community-centred approach to disaster preparedness. Her methodological exploration continues in another Australian Research Centre (ARC) funded project on Indigenous Nation Building (2014-2017) which partners with three Indigenous Nations to explore what and how nation building can be meaningfully enabled to achieve self-determination. 

Yoko undertakes leadership roles of two prominent design networks in Australia, the Service Design Network and Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability Lab in Melbourne. These networks are fostering a community of practice among academia, business, government and community organisations on sharing and building knowledge on the application of human-centred design. She has been awarded with several awards including British Council Design Research Award (2008), a Finalist in the Victorian Premier’s Design Award (2012) and two Good Design Australia Award (2014). She is also an adjunct Research Fellow at Re:Public, Japan.