Inspired by selfie culture and TV newscasts, Kohei Kojima came up with a mobile toolkit for video conferencing. We extended the Japanese designer an invitation to The Challenge because of his research into how technology and culture influence human behaviour. Kojima’s credentials include a degree in spatial design from Nagoya University of Arts and a master’s in product design from ÉCAL.

Have you worked in an open-plan office?
KOHEI KOJIMA: I’ve never worked in a large office, but I was an intern in an open-plan design studio. One benefit is the collaborative atmosphere: it’s easy to share information with your colleagues, and even serendipitous encounters can result in great ideas. On the other hand, the casualness of communication in open-plan environments can disturb concentration. And whenever my boss had a video call, we had to tidy up the space and hide confidential samples. Once he’d started an online conversation, sounds from outside would often impede the discussion, or the lighting wouldn’t be appropriate. We were always rushing to fix the setting; it was just like a film studio.

Those experiences drove you to design On Air...
The project is a mobile studio for holding one-on-one online meetings anywhere in the office. It provides a suitable background, an acoustic barrier and flattering lighting that makes users look their best on the display. On Air is also inspired by selfie culture. I feel that people are becoming increasingly preoccupied with their appearance on screen.

Are you hoping to develop the project further?
I’d like to apply chroma key compositing techniques – the type used for TV newscasts. That would allow users to create a virtual office on the display. It would also be interesting to incorporate VR and AR technologies, although I don’t know where that would lead.

Your project reflects a shift towards working from anywhere. People today are connecting via video conferencing more often than in the past. How do you envisage the workplace of the future?
I think we’ll move even further in the direction you describe, ultimately into a world of virtual offices. We’ll experience the feeling of working together in the same room while physically being in different places. That said, I don’t believe all companies will adopt this method. We live in a physical world, so physical communication will still be important. A conference room, though, which is often empty in real life, makes more sense in virtual reality. You could adapt its size to suit the number of participants attending a meeting. We need to rethink our surroundings and furniture, which ought to keep up with constant developments in technology. Certain elements may require altered shapes or functions. We may even have to create completely new typologies.

You can see more responses to our Open Plan 2.0 Challenge in our newest print issue, Frame 126. Get your copy here.