Japanese Graphic Design: Not In Production 7

Japanese Graphic Design: Not in Production focuses on the activities of highly active designers, type foundries, distributors/retail spaces and Japanese design publications from the past ten years. The goal of this section is to help promote cognizance of graphic design activity in Japan — acknowledgement of such activity is often hindered by the linguistic and social differences between Japan and the rest of the world, yet this gap is lessening.

Hattori Kazunari

Hattori Kazunari is well-known for his direction of advertising for the Kewpie Corporation and East Japan Railway Company, as well as his art direction for the magazines Mayonaka, Ryūkō Tsūshin, and here and there. He also designs books, exhibition posters, logos, and symbols, all embracing the rough edges of digital production. His work in the field of corporate identity is notable, having designed the identity of the Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum and many other projects.

Yamaguchi Yosuke

Yamaguchi Yosuke

The graphic design work of Yamaguchi Yosuke is an anomaly in the current Tokyo design landscape. American graphic designer E*Rock once said of his own work, “I  paint like a designer, and design like a painter” — this is no less true of Yamaguchi’s wide-ranging print works and collections of paintings. Haunted by a dark, atmospheric color palette and ambiguous, ethereal figures, his posters and books are — self-generated image-making married to found typography and hand-drawn lettering that looks to history as much as it does to a dystopian future.

More: http://blogs.dion.ne.jp/bonfire

Hirano Kouga

Hirano Kouga is a Japanese graphic designer who is known for his book designs with his unique handwritten letters. Since the 1960s, he has designed more than 6,000 books and worked consistently with particular clients including publishers like Shobunsha, the theatre company Kuro Tento (Black Tent) and the band Suigyu-Gakudan (Buffalo Band). His works for individual clients are diverse, but form an uniform visual identity. He is active designing and lecturing.

More: http://imprint.printmag.com/daily-heller/kouga-hirano

Idea Magazine

Muroga Kiyonori’s time since assuming the editorial helm at Idea Magazine in 2003 has seen a radical shift in focus. Gone are the days of an internationally-oriented slick trade journal, instead opting for a deeper, more critical focus on Japanese graphic design as a whole. The past few years in particular have seen in-depth essays, articles, and interviews with and about the designers who have helped shape Japan’s visual culture from the viewpoints of typography, graphic design, manga and anime, video games, book design, and product design. This Japan-centric vision is bolstered by internationally aimed articles exploring more peripheral areas of design such as post-punk D.I.Y. publishing, type design, contemporary critical graphic design practice, international design history, and the occasional feature on rich bodies of work by foreign designers.

More: http://idea-mag.com

Excerpted from Idea #340:

Towards a new form of practice

A number of young designers in Europe and America who are attempting to develop their own paths in exploring graphic design through innovative small-scale practices. Many of the designers featured were born in the 1970s and 1980s, coming of age in commercial practice in the digital environment. The majority of those featured operate within the sphere of graphic design production from the approach of a more personal practice, inflecting their work with nuanced, idiosyncratic conceptual and formal approaches.

While widely varied due to cultural context and social/environmental differences, all have a kinship in unique, singular approaches to developing formal options for clients. This is perhaps the sticking point for the latest wave of graphic design- perhaps the “solution” as an end result of graphic design as a process is a dead methodology. What is instead offered are graphic “options” in lieu of “solutions” — inquiries answered with inquiries.

Taking cues from history, both of earlier Avant Garde movements in art (commercial and otherwise), as well as the lineage of educational institutions that informed them, these practitioners’ works are infused with an individual aesthetic sensibility.

Casting nets

Looking abroad to understand divergent, though concurrent contemporary practices is of value to Japanese designers. Over the past decade, a shoring up of contemporary practice and aesthetics has occurred in Japan, with indigenous designers looking inward to create aesthetics that are both uniquely signature and singularly Japanese. While less concerned with foreign graphic tendencies, having a window from which to view contemporary graphic output abroad is of immense value, providing the space to pause and reflect on potentialities.

In recent history, Japanese designers had tended toward a Euro/America-centric worldview, looking West for inspiration and leadership. Though that time has ended, there is still something to be gleaned from viewing a collection of work that is quite truly different from contemporary graphic design within Japan.

Ian LYNAM
October 8, 2012

Ian Lynam is a graphic designer living in Tokyo and the art director of Neojaponisme. His website is located at ianlynam.com. His new book, Parallel Strokes, on the intersection of graffiti and typography is available now.

Japanese Graphic Design: Not In Production 6

Japanese Graphic Design: Not in Production focuses on the activities of highly active designers, type foundries, distributors/retail spaces and Japanese design publications from the past ten years. The goal of this section is to help promote cognizance of graphic design activity in Japan — acknowledgement of such activity is often hindered by the linguistic and social differences between Japan and the rest of the world, yet this gap is lessening.

Harata HeQuiti

Harata HeiQuiti (Heikichi) is a Japanese graphic designer whose focus is in editorial design and whom is well-known for his poetic visuals. Harata was born in 1947 and graduated from Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music with a major in Visual Design.

Influenced by preceding 1960s designers like Sugiura Kohei and Yokoo Tadanori, Harata began working freelance solo and developed a highly signature optical/pictorial/poetic means of combining of imagery and typography. He is influenced by early 20th modernist writers and poets like Inagaki Taruho. Parataxis — the literary technique of conscientious connection using short sentences about very distant topics by framing them together — lays at the very core of his approach.

In the early 1970s, Harata worked on the magazine Shinjuku Play Map, which led to a large body of commissions in editorial design, from which he gained a strong following. His early visual works for Japanese underground magazines like Heaven and visuals for the legendary Japanese popular music group Yellow Magic Orchestra embodied the zeitgeist of Japanese New Wave graphic design and visual art in the ’80s. In the same period, he self-published an independent magazine WX-raY — even though only the inaugural issue was published, Harata’s influence reverberated widely, sparking a wave of self-initiated and self-published media by graphic designers.

These activities have made Harata a cult star in Japanese graphic culture. He has been active in various cultural fields including literature, music, and theater. Harata is one of pioneers of Japanese manga design, integrating the typographic design and comic characters within these projects.

Harata has developed and practiced his own book design methodology “Shoyō-Sekkei” (書容設計). Literally translated, the aggregate parts are:  Sho (book) +  (vessel) + Sekkei (design). No mere conflation, the  element simultaneously means “outlook” — referring not only to modern Western “form and content” philosophies, but a more holistically comprehensive overview of the total architecture of the book as object and how readers will interact with a book project as both object and media. Harata utilizes traditional Japanese aesthetics to help reify both the thought and form of these types of projects.

At the core of Harata’s practice is a desire for a unified methodology of total design that dissuades deconstruction or fragmentation. Heavily reliant upon the compound, juxtapositional nature of the Japanese language, Harata’s work is worth prolonged examination. His work represents the very best in potentialities of graphic expression with imagination and integrity, as opposed to the disintegration of design into mere methods and mannerism.

Ohara Daijiro

The work of Ohara Daijiro represents a near-polar opposite in his reverence for the untrained, though channeled with precision in his use of bubbly cartoon lettering, art nouveau-esque display types, and roughly-rendered geometric characters. The past century collides in his work in a visceral way, bleeding dot gain and the uneven tones of cheap reprographic technology. Reminiscent of vintage candy shops, low-budget U.K. psychedelia, and reverberating with the echoes of the ’60s and ’70s small press in Japan, Ohara’s work retains bits of the innocence of the work in Graphic ’55, the island nation’s first full-fledged graphic design exhibition. These assorted strains of influence are mixed with a hand-wrought tactility that is innocent and playful, yet craft-centric in its thoroughness and richness of form and finish.

Ohara’s designs for Sakerock mimic their continuation of the values and sounds of late 1980s indie music in Japan — the past reverberating into today through their work alongside stalwarts like Kicell, Your Song Is Good, Zainichi Funk, and Mu-Stars. There is no denying the strength of musical communities, especially when paired with visual execution in step with melodic vision.

More: http://omomma.in

Gakiya Isamu

Utilizing a mashup of illustrative, collage, comic and manga sensibilities, Gakiya’s work operates at the corner of Archie comics, magical voids, other dimensions, and lowbrow illustration. Anarchic, with a tongue in cheek sense of humor, highly graphic and culling from a myriad of sources, he combines hand-wrought illustration and lo-fi reproductive techniques into seamless, seductive planes of fantasy.

More: http://gakiyaisamu.com

Tokyo Art Book Fair

Annual small publishing expo founded by Ehguchi Hiroshi and Miyagi Futoshi of Utrecht and Oliver Watson of Paperback Magazine. It is now the largest annual arts publishing fair in Asia.

More: http://zinesmate.org/

Ian LYNAM
October 4, 2012

Ian Lynam is a graphic designer living in Tokyo and the art director of Neojaponisme. His website is located at ianlynam.com. His new book, Parallel Strokes, on the intersection of graffiti and typography is available now.

Japanese Graphic Design: Not In Production 5

Japanese Graphic Design: Not in Production focuses on the activities of highly active designers, type foundries, distributors/retail spaces and Japanese design publications from the past ten years. The goal of this section is to help promote cognizance of graphic design activity in Japan — acknowledgement of such activity is often hindered by the linguistic and social differences between Japan and the rest of the world, yet this gap is lessening.

Booklet Press

A non-profit, small-scale press and independent publishing library located in Minato-ku’s Shibaura House. Run by architects Morishita Yu and Évita Yumul, Booklet is a free library devoted to small press initiatives, focused primarily on ‘zines and cultural publications.

More: http://bookletpress.org

Okano Kunihiko

A recent graduate of the TypeMedia program at the KABK in the Netherlands, Okano stands as perhaps the most nuanced and rigorous designer of Latin typefaces and lettering in Japan. His most recent typeface is Quintet, a layered script family available via House Industries’ PLINC system. Quintet demonstrates his years of experience studying the nuances of calligraphic lettering.

Kunihiko Okano’s approach represents a calligraphic-based approach that emphasizes legibility and readability in creating Latin character sets that complement the Japanese character sets for the typefaces he designs. A tireless and thorough craftsman, Okano is an unrelenting force in the Japanese sphere of typography. His work speaks for itself — graceful and poised type designs that retains the springy qualities of pen-rendering.

The AXIS Font family, much of which is the work of Okano, is the typeface family utilized by Apple, Nintendo, and Mazda to express the brands’ typographic voices in Japan. NTT Docomo, the largest mobile phone carrier in Japan, also utilizes AXIS as the default typeface for its handsets. Despite the contemporary styling of the AXIS Compact family, whose Latin forms follow the formal evolution of humanist sans serif typefaces such as Frutiger and Myriad, Okano is no mere default Modernist. His work exercises multiple perspectives — the chopped terminals of punch cutters, deep ink traps of the 1970s and 1980s, and exaggeratedly differentiated counter spaces enhance readability with one foot in the past and one solidly in the present. Okano’s typefaces move your eyes — some almost somnambulantly in their refinement, while others insinuate a rhumba, moving optics along in steady, surprising succession.

Okano’s logotype work operates in different terrain, often that of contemporary nostalgia — a national obsession with better days (given form via the 1995 movie Always — San-chôme no Yûhi, a gauzy, soft focus look at the post-War obsession with the automobile and the electric conveniences freshly offered to the general public at that time). While in no way overt, many of Okano’s works mine history for aspects of their base forms, then update them with the sharp angularity offered by an incisive sense of the contemporary. Okano is no retro revivalist offering up readymade solutions; his work is that of one who understands history, then synthesizes and sublimates the lessons of the masters into brave new form.

More: http://shotype.com

so+ba

This design studio in the Kyodo area of West Tokyo was established in 2001 by Swiss partners Susanna Baer and Alex Sonderegger. so+ba is active in the fields of graphic design, art direction, and sound visualization. Both partners teach typography and design at Tama Art University.

More: http://so-ba.cc

Dainippon Type Organization

Partners Tsukada Hidechika and Tsukada Tetsuya operate a hybrid typographic design practice and product design studio devoted to typographically-themed toys. Their “Toypography” project is a system of colorful, modular curved, and straight shapes for creating Latin and Japanese characters. Their playful take on connotative bilingual lettering treatments for corporate and commercial clients is both evocative and masterful, despite veering wildly from style to style.

More: http://dainippon.type.org

Yorifuji Bunpei

Mixing twee, oddball illustration, accomplished typography and pop color schemes, Yorifuji Bunpei’s work is omnipresent throughout Tokyo. Yorifuji-designed posters for the Tokyo Metro train system adorn every station and his public awareness campaigns for Japan Tobacco dot the streets of the city, reminding citizens of the potential good manners of smoking. His large-scale worked is backed up by the design of innumerable intimate art and photography monographs for small publishers like Nanarokusha (ナナロク社), Akagokusha (赤々舎).

Yorifuji has simultaneously produced multiple self-initiated projects. The yPad is a series of iPad-sized sketchbooks filled with grids, typographic tips, and project scheduling calendars intended to help designers. His bestselling self-published books The Catalogue of Death, Master of Imagination & Drawing and The Catalogue of Unco mix quirky illustration, oddball humor, and prose with appealing, well-considered typography and design.

More: http://www.bunpei.co/

Ian LYNAM
October 2, 2012

Ian Lynam is a graphic designer living in Tokyo and the art director of Neojaponisme. His website is located at ianlynam.com. His new book, Parallel Strokes, on the intersection of graffiti and typography is available now.

Japanese Graphic Design: Not In Production 4

Japanese Graphic Design: Not in Production focuses on the activities of highly active designers, type foundries, distributors/retail spaces and Japanese design publications from the past ten years. The goal of this section is to help promote cognizance of graphic design activity in Japan — acknowledgement of such activity is often hindered by the linguistic and social differences between Japan and the rest of the world, yet this gap is lessening.

Typecache.com

A repository of type from around the globe broken down by style and foundry — an excellent resource provided by Yumiba Taro and Yoshino Akira.

More: http://typecache.com

Tsunekawa Ryochi

Tsunekawa is a thorough designer of nostalgic Latin display typefaces. Mixing Art Deco, post-War advertising, and early Modernist sensibilities, this former architect-turned-full-time type designer continually releases highly appealing, poppy type designs informed by history.

More: http://dharmatype.com

Oubunshotai & Oubunshotai 2

Linotype’s type director Kobayashi Akira has published two excellent books on the use and nuances of Latin type written in Japanese, published by Bijutsu Shuppansha.

More: http://www.bijutsu.co.jp

THA

Nakamura Yugo’s interactive design studio is one of the most revered in the world, blending generative software, broadcast direction, web design and development, module device user interface design and self-initiated projects like the Framed electronic artwork system.

More: http://tha.jp

W+KTokyoLab

Advertising agency Wieden + Kennedy launched their W+K Tokyo Lab record label and Tokyo office in 2003. The office releases CDs and videos of contemporary Japanese pop music alongside highly expressive videos of the label’s artists. W+K Tokyo Lab has released music and visuals by instrumental hip-hop pioneers Hifana, beatboxer Afra, emcee Chinza Dopeness, electronic artist Jemapur, and a number of others. Co-founded by Wieden + Kennedy partner John Jay, it was taken to its full form under the direction of fellow co-founders Eric Cruz and Bruce Ikeda (both no longer with Wieden + Kennedy) alongside form-giving collaborators Gino Woo and Shane Lester.

More info: http://www.wktokyolab.com

Ian LYNAM
October 1, 2012

Ian Lynam is a graphic designer living in Tokyo and the art director of Neojaponisme. His website is located at ianlynam.com. His new book, Parallel Strokes, on the intersection of graffiti and typography is available now.

Japanese Graphic Design: Not In Production 3

Japanese Graphic Design: Not in Production focuses on the activities of highly active designers, type foundries, distributors/retail spaces and Japanese design publications from the past ten years. The goal of this section is to help promote cognizance of graphic design activity in Japan — acknowledgement of such activity is often hindered by the linguistic and social differences between Japan and the rest of the world, yet this gap is lessening.

Black Bath

Following a handful of years working alongside the expat design duo Namiki, Tamenaga Yasuyuki launched his studio Black Bath, focusing on graphic and interior design. Of particular note are his interiors for the offices of Google Japan.

More: http://black-bath.com

AQ

AQ is a digital design firm and consultancy based in Tokyo run by Chris Palmieri, Eiko Nagase, and Paul Baron. The firm founded Tokyo Art Beat, Tokyo’s online guide to visual culture events and create dynamic web design for a wide array of cultural and commercial clients.

More: http://aqworks.com

Art Space Tokyo

Written by Ashley Rawlings and Craig Mod, Art Space Tokyo acts as a 272-page personal guide and interpreter, connecting the reader with the neighborhoods and figures behind some of the most inspiring art spaces in Tokyo.

Each of the featured spaces has been rendered as a striking illustration by Takahashi Nobumasa. The book covers art spaces in neighborhoods such as Ginza, Yanaka, Gaienmae, Omotesando, Harajuku, Roppongi, Asakusa, and more. The neighborhood surrounding each art space has been meticulously mapped with recommendations for the best food, coffee and sights to enjoy in an afternoon of art viewing.

More: http://artspacetokyo.com

Akiyama Shin

One of Japan’s most prolific designers, Akiyama Shin has designed books for innumerable contemporary artists. He runs a Niigata-based practice and self-publishes his and others’ art and design projects via his edition.nord imprint.

More: http://akiyamashin.jp, http://editionnord.com

Axis type family

The definitive Japanese gothic typeface, designed by Type Project in conjunction with Kobayashi Akira and Okano Kunihiko.

More: http://www.typeproject.com

Ian LYNAM
September 28, 2012

Ian Lynam is a graphic designer living in Tokyo and the art director of Neojaponisme. His website is located at ianlynam.com. His new book, Parallel Strokes, on the intersection of graffiti and typography is available now.