Japanese graphic design

Sensing a new spirit of Japan
When it comes to Japanese graphic design, a certain set of visual elements are conjured in one’s mind. Simplified forms; a minimal color palette, the generous use of negative space; an effective use of black; and unique lettering, are all characteristic elements that draw on the aesthetics of Zen culture, Japanese Buddhism, calligraphy, ukiyo-e woodblock...
Do I look simple?
The Japanese graphic designer Ikko Tanaka is recognized as a pioneer of modern Japanese graphic design.  He merged western modernist aesthetics and Japanese tradition to generate a new visual expression for contemporary audiences. Tanaka’s frequent use of geometric forms and a limited color palette is clear evidence of his strong respect for the Bauhaus, the...
Letters to see and feel, but not to read
This is a poster for a stage play called Abe Sada (阿部定) performed by a Japanese experimental theatre company called Black Tent Theatre in 1973. The story of the play is based on a true murder case that rocked Japan in 1936, a notorious crime that is the central focus of the poster. At first...
Remembering Hiroshima
The week of August 6, 1945, United States armed forces dropped two atomic bombs on Japan; the first landed that Monday on Hiroshima, and another arrived three days later in Nagasaki. While the attacks seemingly worked in the allies’ favor, with Japan surrendering the following week, the fallout was devastating for the island nation–it is...
See No Evil
For her poster campaign for the Ad Council of Japan on the theme “Media Literacy Is an Imagination,” Shiro Shita Saori turned to the classic Japanese proverb of the three wise monkeys, who embody the maxim “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.” This poster plays on the first element of the maxim,...
Exhibition poster in black and white with 3 registers. Top and bottom registers consist of 3 squares, black in the corners, white in center. In center register: circle thickly outlined in black with 4 black squares in diamond in center. Black squares have small white square in center. Text along bottom register.
Simple Yet Bold
Born on today’s date in 1930, Ikko Tanaka was one of the giants of Japanese graphic design in the second half of the twentieth century. Tanaka began designing posters in 1954 and was renowned for his ability to synthesize both Japanese and Western aesthetics. His name became synonymous with straightforward, impressive designs recognizable for their...