Glue Vapors & Go: The Life of Awazu Kiyoshi

This story originally appeared in Slanted #14 and was reprinted in my self-published booklet Space Is The Place Supplement.

Nibankanbiru

I attended high school in the countryside of upstate New York1 during the very late ’80s and nascent ’90s. During this time, a popular T-shirt for the local hayseed headbangers to wear was a Metallica tee that bore the slogan “We Were Metal When Metal Wasn’t Cool.” This is essentially the same ethos behind the late Japanese graphic designer Awazu Kiyoshi’s body of work in the 1980s — he was analog when analog wasn’t cool. The world was waiting with baited breath for the digital revolution to arrive, doing their damnedest to create a seamless world of perfect models populating perfect advertising efforts, but Kiyoshi Awazu did an about-face and embraced the primitive side of commercial art. And this is why I lionize him as a figure in Japan’s design history. In that era’s world enamored with slick façades, his romance with the crude and imperfect feels like a breath of fresh air, even forty years after creating his most vital work.2

I had been biding my time, waiting for a decent eulogy-in-print of Awazu in the international graphic design press since he passed away in April 2009. Awazu was among the upper echelon of Japanese graphic designers throughout his career domestically, though has received far less attention abroad than his peers Yokoo Tadanori and Tana’ami Keiichi. But it looks like Awazu’s time in the spotlight isn’t coming, so I’ve taken up the task here in hopes of encouraging design aesthetes internationally to examine his life and body of work. It’s funny — the same lack of sentiment expressed abroad is neatly mirrored in Japan. Chatting with Muroga Kiyonori, the editor-in-chief of Idea Magazine, he expressed the view that he’d always felt that Awazu was a lesser force than his contemporaries, but with his passing, Awazu’s lifework is potentially worth a deeper study. With that unconscious taunt, I picked up the gauntlet…

Kiyoshi Awazu

Born in 1929, the self-taught Awazu took up the mantle of graphic designer in 1954, designing posters for kabuki and less-popular shingeki theatrical troupes such as Shinkyo Gekidan, Zenshinza, and Shinseisazuka. This was followed by a number of years in which he created posters for film studios such as Dokuritsu Eiga and Nikkatsu, quickly gaining notoriety for his deft mixture of illustration, custom lettering, and detailed typography. Awazu’s 1955 poster “Give Back Our Sea” was both award-winning and culturally resonant, establishing the designer as an advocate of social causes through his portrayal of a fisherman barred from his trade. His posters for the 1957 documentary The Crying Whales and the 1957 play Chuji Kunisawa further cemented Awazu’s position as a young designer to watch.

Awazu spent the rest of the 1950s and the 1960s hard at work, refining his folk-influenced style, experimenting with color and form, and investigating the possibilities of chance processes after an encounter with composer John Cage. In a bold move at the time, Awazu consistently declined invitations to join advertising agencies and larger design studios, opting for a more autonomously directed career outside of advertising. His frequent collaborations with architects helped infuse some of Japan’s national monuments with a proto-hippie folk sensibility that eschewed the hard edges of modernism for an organic massing of lines and naturalistic form. The ’60s found Awazu continuing his work in film, creating fascinating poster designs for the avant garde film The Woman In The Dunes, and Kwaidan, an adaptation of four traditional Japanese ghost stories as popularized by journalist, amateur ethnologist, purported orientalist, and plural miscenegist writer3 Patrick Lafcadio Hearn. Freewheeling formal experimentation influenced by Pop Art and ’60s counterculture from both abroad and home in Japan also found their way into his work, primarily influencing Awazu’s bold color schemes, raw linework, and nuanced typography.4 Traces of Ben Shahn‘s illustrative approach and lettering pop up in Awazu’s work in the 1960s, as do elements of the Push Pin Studios appropriation of “olde timey” advertising cuts deployed decoratively, a compositional approach influenced by Yokoo Tadanori, concentric linework, and a reliance upon overprinting for dazzling optical effects.

Canonized for his early works, Awazu’s veer into graphic left-field in the late ’60s and ’70s seems to only be the territory of visual connoisseurs. I personally know of a grand total of two other giant fans of his work amongst design aficionados abroad. Undocumented in English is a wide swath of experimentation for the fields of architecture and theater from this period — the excitement of British paper architects Archigram married to the decorative elements of ukiyo-e expressed through the medium of coarse-grained silkscreen. Traditional motifs are filtered through at-times highly disturbing contemporary lens — dismembered heads emitting copious bodily fluids and the omnipresent crows of Tokyo crying tears of shame, interleaved with expressive hand-drawn characters, their strokes swollen and collapsing upon themselves.

What was potentially most notable about Awazu’s work in the 1970s and 1980s was his devotion to the poster as a form of graphic expression in a time when public perception and appreciation shifted from “pure” graphic design to more photo-reliant, advertising-based big budget initiatives such as those produced by art directors like Ishioka Eikoh for the PARCO department store chain spanning film, print, and broadcast. While Japan’s design industry moved wholesale to a fascination with the gloss and sheen of the photograph and the airbrush, Awazu battered away via pen, brush, ink, and press type, creating virtual cosmoses of flattened figure/ground relations.

Despite being out-of-step with visual trends at that time, Awazu had established himself as a force to be reckoned with, and commissions continued with an increased focus on collaborative projects in the field of architecture. Most notable of these projects was Awazu’s exterior for the Nibankan Building5 in the red-light district Kabukicho. Reminiscent of proposed early Modern Japanese kiosk designs, the Nibankan Building’s various planes are pasted with bright colors and geometric shapes — like a Pop Art painting fragmented and vomited on a simplified, though not simplistic multi-planar structure. Designed by architect Takeyama Minoru, the building was featured on the cover of Charles Jencks’ breakthrough 1977 book The Language of Post-Modern Architecture. The collaborative, forward-thinking, and formal approach as well as the holistic graphic treatment were an early precursor of hyper-decorative treatments by other Post-Modern architects, most notably Michael Graves. Included in the architectural plan was a proposal for five-year interval graphic revisits, the pop colors and shapes to be revisited regularly. Adventurous and forward-thinking, the re-skinning of the building was meant to mirror the constant change that is so much the innate essence of Kabukicho.

Nestled in nearby Harajuku, the Awazu Design Office chugged away — Awazu and an assistant working through each day’s assignments, breaking for extended games of go amidst the fumes of Krazy Glue, Awazu’s adhesive of choice6. He preferred the clear, very, very permanent sealant for paste-up in lieu of the then-typical rubber cement. Then in 1988, the company quietly packed up and relocated to a remote part of Kawasaki where Awazu had Kyoto Station architect Hara Hiroshi build him a palatial modern home with an in-house studio amongst the rice fields and rolling hills of Kanagawa. From his new home, Awazu continued his assorted activities, exhibiting internationally, taking on design commissions, sculpting, and screenprinting.

In 2000, Awazu took over the job of Director of the Toppan Printing Corporation’s7 Printing Museum, the ardent independent contractor finally becoming a “company man.” Awazu steered the museum situated in the industrial Edogawabashi district to numerous awards and an enhanced status amongst cultural institutions in Tokyo. Meanwhile, he continued to actively research and exhibit, exploring a long-held interest in the petroglyphs of Native Americans, which culminated in an exhibition on the subject.

Awazu passed away in his beloved Kawasaki after an extended bout with pneumonia at the age of 80. His website is still operational as of December 11, 2011. It has yet to mention his death.8

Walking through Kabukicho today at midday, the Nibankan Building stands disheveled and worn. The last graphic facelift was probably a decade ago. Most of the businesses in the building appear to be closed — a mini-economy of bath houses, pachinko parlors, and assorted tawdry service providers boarded-up and shut, most likely forever. Looking up at one of Awazu’s masterworks, a raspy voice from nearby resonated in my ear — a proposition from a prostitute. Leveling my eyes at her, I smiled and said, politely, “No, but thank you” in Japanese. I’m a service provider, too, as was Awazu-san, and looking at the lovely giant red number 2 topping the building and the striped and concentric circled amalgam that is pasted on the building’s surface, I couldn’t have been more adequately pleasured.

1Pain.

2And, frankly, this statement stands for his contemporaries. Yokoo devolved into a bad painter (and worse actor), riding out his early fame on a gilt-edged red carpet. Tanaami has busied himself exploiting the early aesthetic which he departed from decades ago, trotting out inkjet prints on canvas that have been poorly painted-over, offering low-rent Thomas Kinkade-style productions as “originals,” despite the evidence of the paint-by-numbers methodology in play.

This whole trend reifies the time-worn concept of The Designer As Failed Painter — that all designers actually seek fine art careers, but have taken up the workaday practice of graphic design as a way of earning a living — a myth that is given form by those who fail to find fulfillment in a life in the commercial end of the arts.

Perhaps I should look out before I shoot my mouth off like this. I am 40 years old and have only been practicing graphic design professionally for fourteen years (and have chosen to devolve into being a “failed writer” in lieu of being a “failed painter,” apparently). Honestly, I find the whole designer as failed painter theme sordid. Embrace what you do. In the now-decade-old words of cultural writer and agitator W. David Marx, “Design is the new rock ‘n’ roll.” Designers should revel in their activities, not fawn over the activities of the painter in the garret rendering still lives brushstroke-by-brushstroke. Do what you do and OWN it.C

3And this is where I give Hearn crazy props. He was a white man with the gall to marry a black woman fifty years before it was legal in Ohio and then to marry a Japanese woman in Japan in a time when it was fairly unheard of.A

4And turtles! Awazu was fucking apeshit for turtles. He worked so many goddamn turtles into his work that it’s painful. This includes not one, but two known gigantic three-dimensional sculptures of turtles — one adorning his later Kawasaki home and another public sculpture.B

5The Nibankan Building stands as architect Takeyama’s precursor to the Shibuya 109 Building, every foreign otaku’s wet dream/nocturnal emission — the hub of Shibuya fashion which opened in 1979 and whose cylindrical structure is a major stopping point for nearly every one of my Study Abroad students from the U.S. Their fascination with Gyaru/Gothic Lolita/Mori Girl/Time Slipper/Whatever-fashion-flavor-of-the-month-the-international-media-has-quantified-and-categorized-lately makes me sad usually — they are young and they are thinking about the veritable data, not the vessel. I’m aging (rapidly). I dwell on the less important things… like graphic design and architecture instead of sock glue.

6This bit of information speaks to me, somehow — Awazu was consistently dedicated to experimentation and visual research and chose to seal his progress in the most permanent way possible, as well as a method that is highly irritant to general human existence due to its toxicity. There is something devoutly poetic about this.

7Toppan is the Disney® of Japanese printing conglomerates. To date, my interview to pick up a paltry freelance project for the Toppan Printing Corporation stands as the single biggest epic fail of my career to date. (And that’s saying something — I have had my fair share of fuck-ups… trust me).

8This, too, is somehow poetic. No matter how hard the PR spin (or lack thereof), one cannot evade mortality.

ALittle-known fact: Hearn also had a bum eye due to getting punched in the face on a high school playground, and never allowed anyone to photograph him with his bad eye on display. Peep Wikipedia — Hearn is always posing to hide his eye, or has his baby blues closed.

BI am randomly excited about this. When I was 16 years old, I got an awful (but miniscule) full-color tattoo of a cartoon turtle sporting a top hat with a wilting flower on my ankle. 22 years later, I am married to a Japanese woman whose name literally translates into “Turtle Mouth.” She views the tattoo as being foreshadowing (and awkward for her family, as tattoos are taboo in Japan, particularly the rural area where her extended family resides). I just view it as evidence that I am highly prone to making really, really fucking stupid decisions.

CThis being said, it’s disclosure time: I was offered a live painting gig at Tokyo Big Site, Tokyo’s biggest auditorium, for a whiskey trade show a few years ago. The organizer, a friend, confused me writing about graffiti and lettering with being a tried-and-true graffiti writer/street artist, and asked me to paint a giant canvas in front of a crowd of hundreds alongside a real sumi-e ink painter working on a similarly-sized sheet of rice paper.

Due to scant design commissions on my part at that time, and a sizable commission for pictorially synthesizing the essence of a thirty-year-old single malt whiskey which was going to be dutifully poured down my throat on canvas during the painting process, I gratefully took up the task at hand. What resulted was the murkiest painting of deconstructed pop cartoon characters to ever grace an auditorium stage. And a mammoth hangover. A painter I am not. And now, a few years later, I consistently have to insist that I am decidedly not a painter to the folks I happen across who saw me flinging acrylic paint around onstage that day. Consider yourself warned.

Ian LYNAM
December 11, 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 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.