Yusaku Kamekura achieved what most only hope to accomplish in more than half a century of professional longevity. Kamekura was born in Japan’s Niigata prefecture in 1915 and was schooled at the Institute of New Architecture and Industrial Arts, built by Ranahichiro Kawakita. As a student, Kamekura was heavily influenced by Bauhaus design theories and the principles of constructivism. His designs synthesize the post-war influences of modernism with the classical elegance of traditional Japanese aesthetics. Kamekura’s work often utilizes orderly forms composed on a spare plane to uniquely couple his traditional sensitivity with the influences of western design.

After substantial recovery and rebuilding in the post-war period, Japan experienced enormous economic growth that promised to drive the traditional society into the twenty-first century. As Japan continued to modernize and industrialize, a gap emerged between the spiritual culture and material civilization. Design promised to bridge this fissure and unify Japanese society as well as establish Japan as a global power. Recognizing these possibilities, the Design Promotion Committee proposed a major international design competition in order to improve the global standard of design (with Japan at its center) and to promote cultural exchange on an international level. Osaka, already considered Japan’s industrial design center, was announced as the host city for the International Design Festival, which commenced bi-annually in 1983.

Kamekura, with his predilection for wedding modernism with classicism, seems the natural choice to promote such an endeavor. His poster for the inaugural International Design Festival demonstrates that the strength of the Japanese is in their ability to be both modern and deeply rooted in heritage.

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