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Fragments of Graphism: An Alternative History of Graphic Desgn in Japan

  • DATES : Tue. January 23 - Thu. February 22, 2018
  • HOURS : 11:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m. Closed Sundays and Holidays. Admission free.

Graphic design made great strides in Japan during the modernization period of the early 20th century and again in the postwar era of rapid economic growth. Throughout the course of prewar Modernism, postwar recovery and high-paced economic development, and then the arrival of the information age, Japan’s graphic designers firmly established “design” as a full-fledged field of creative endeavor—an area that, by dint of its outstanding quality and a unique aesthetic sense, has contributed greatly to the development of the nation’s industries and culture.

With the coming of a truly global era in the late 20th century, however, currents in design have been changing significantly across the globe. The act of designing, which used to be undertaken exclusively by specialists, has, with the advent of digital tools, become readily available to the broad masses. Furthermore, design methods and materials, which previously were obtainable only by economically “advanced” countries, today can be accessed from anywhere in the world.

Amidst these changes, in what direction will Japanese graphic design move in the years ahead? And what possibilities might this future bring? To address these questions, an awareness of history is indispensable. Throughout the 20th century, Japan’s graphic design culture developed aesthetics and methods different from the design culture of the West. Today, in the 21st century, the progress of the past serves as a rich historical source.

This exhibition will present an overview of the history of Japanese graphic design in the 20th century—together with works, people and events deemed worthy of attention—from the respective vantage points of the designers who are at the forefront of contemporary graphics. The exhibits are gleaned from IDEA (Seibundo Shinkosha), a magazine which has followed the leading trends in graphic design both in Japan and abroad for more than half a century, starting in 1953.

The gallery will also be home to a temporary library of design-related books, selected by 47 designers, spanning a broad time spectrum, including all back issues of IDEA. Visitors will be able to take these rare books directly in hand, enabling them to think about the future of design.

The exhibition represents a new attempt to expand beyond a simple retrospective of 20th century design in Japan to a critical interpretation. We hope that this alternative history of graphic design will serve as a place to consider, together, the graphic design of today—and tomorrow.

Room A: 13 Fragments Emanating from Preceding Japanese Graphic Design

Opinions vary as to how the history of graphic design in Japan should be told. Until now, the historical narrative repeatedly reproduced and shared in the media has consisted of a review of the leading designers of the Modernism movement in art during the early 20th century and again during Japan’s era of robust economic growth after the war, the activities of the design community during those times, and examples of designs that had social impact through events such as the Tokyo Olympics (1964) and Osaka Expo (1970). As a historical resource, however, the chronicle of those times should be expanded, reinterpreted and contextualized from broader geographic, chronological and political perspectives. In this exhibition area, 13 of today’s rising stars in Japanese graphic design reveal how, from their respective vantage points, they are each working to connect the history of Japanese graphic design in the 20th century into a new context.

Participating designers:
Takasuke Onishi, Daijiro Ohara, Kensaku Kato, Jun Kawana, Atsuki Kikuchi, Yui Takada, Yoshihisa Tanaka, Ryoji Tanaka, Koh Chihara, Rikako Nagashima, Takeo Nakano, So Hashizume, Akinobu Maeda

Room B: The Complete Archive of IDEA Magazine

IDEA magazine (published by Seibundo Shinkosha) was launched in 1953 as the first publication of its kind since Kokokukai, Japan’s only advertising-related magazine of national scale published in prewar years (1926-1941). At the time of its launch, IDEA’s editor-in-chief was Takashi Miyayama, who had been the editor-in-chief of Kokokukai when that publication was terminated; Hiroshi Ohchi served as art director, and Yusaku Kamekura designed the magazine’s logo. Since its launch, IDEA (published quarterly since 2014), under its various editors-in-chief, has continuously showcased the contemporary trends in graphic design both in Japan and overseas. In this zone, visitors can view
bound copies containing the entire collection of the magazine’s back issues.

Participating artist (installation):

Room C: A Library of Clues for the Graphic Design of Tomorrow

The field of design, born within the great transformation to the modern era, gradually lost its initial dynamism and focus on philosophical ideas amid subsequent industrial developments, becoming a mere database of methodological structures. Within changes in the frameworks of professions and values brought about by globalization and technological innovation, graphic design—a “method” until now—appears to be undergoing a shift to but one element of the realm of computing. Amidst this turn of events, how can graphic design be updated? And how can this be grasped as a human issue? For this exhibition area, 47 designers who are currently garnering attention for their unique activities were requested to select five books which they believe might provide clues to answering those questions. For every group of five, one volume has been chosen to put on open view, creating a library of 47 works.

Participating designers:
Hirofumi Abe, Tomoyuki Arima, Shohei Iida, Yoshiaki Irobe, Yuri Uenishi, Rina Okazawa, Ken Okamoto, Chikako Oguma, Shunsuke Onaka, Fumikazu Ohara, Toru Kase, Yuzo Kariya, Tadao Kwamura, Toshimasa Kimura, Hiroyasu Kimura, Akihiro Kumagaya, Tetsuya Goto, Satoshi Kondo, Shun Sasaki, Asami Sato, Yusuke Shono, Keita Shimbo & Misako Shimbo (smbetsmb), Tezzo Suzuki, Yuri Suyama, Saki Soda, Yohei Sometani, Mariko Takagi, Chie Tanaka, Yuichiro Tanaka, Mina Tabei, Hibiki Chikada, Yasuo Totsuka, Toshinobu Nagata, Kentaro Nakamura, Nicole Schmid, Yuma Harada, Ayumi Higuchi, Hiromi Fujita, Jujiro Maki, Haruka Misawa, Isao Mitobe, Masashi Murakami, Takahiro Yasuda, Kazuhiro Yamada, Hideyuki Yamano, Kohji Robert Yamamoto, Natsuko Yoneyama

Takasuke Onishi

Born in Saitama Prefecture in 1976. After initially studying law, Onishi graduated from Tama Art University with a degree in Graphic Design. In 2009 he established direction Q. While on the one hand undertaking total direction encompassing everything from brand image design to operation, as “iruinai” he engages in cultural and arts-related support and projects focused on human’s powers of creativity. Onishi also teaches at Nagaoka Institute of Design and MeMe Design School.

Daijiro Ohara

Born in Kanagawa Prefecture in 1978. Ohara undertakes numerous projects searching for new perceptions of words and letters through graphic design, exhibitions, workshops, etc. His recent projects include: “Mojyuryoku” (Letter-Gravity), mobile typography on the theme of gravity; Ryosen (Geographical Lines), a series of graphics incorporating reconstructed trekking maps and mountain photography by Takashi Homma; “TypogRAPy,” performances with musician Shuta Hasunuma and rapper Illreme; and “NEW co.,” live print and drawing sessions with Masatomo Yoshizawa (YOUR SONG IS GOOD). Ohara is the recipient of a JAGDA New Designer Award and Tokyo TDC Award.

Kensaku Kato

Born in Saitama Prefecture in 1975. Principal of Laboratories. Kato’s work scope includes graphic design, book design, web design, signage, etc. Major fields are art, architecture, philosophy, fashion, etc.

Jun Kawana

Born in Chiba Prefecture in 1976. After working for pri graphics inc., in 2017 Kawana established his own book design office. He undertakes numerous book designs and magazine editorial designs.

Atsuki Kikuchi

Born in Tokyo in 1974, Atsuki Kikuchi attended Musashino Art University, majoring in Sculpture. In 2000 he established Bluemark Inc., then in 2011 he founded his own design office. Mr. Kikuchi’s major work to date includes: VI and signage planning for Aomori Museum of Art (2006); art direction for the minä perhonen (1995-2004) and Sally Scott (2002 to date) fashion brands; book design for the magazines “Shun ga marugoto” (2007-2012), “So-en” (2013) and “Nikkei Kairo” (2015-2016); and package design for “Kamenoko Sponge” (2015). Mr. Kikuchi has also published a collection of his works titled “PLAY” (2009). Among his many awards received to date are the Kodansha Publishing Culture Award, Japan Package Design Award Grand Prix, Hiromu Hara Award,ADC Award and JAGDA Award.

Yui Takada

Born in Tokyo in 1980. Principal of Allright Graphics. Takada graduated from Kuwasawa Design School. He established the design office Allright Graphics in 2006, and in 2007 founded Allright Printing, a print shop specialized in letterpress printing. Takada is also an Associate Professor at Tokyo Zokei University.

Yoshihisa Tanaka

Born in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture, in 1980. Tanaka’s recent work includes: visual identity (VI) planning for Tokyo Photographic Art Museum and other cultural facilities; joint ownership of the POST bookshop and CASE publishing firm; and art direction of Tokyo Art Book Fair, “Anish Kapoor in Beppu,” Takeo Paper Show, etc. Tanaka is also active in the artist unit Nerhol, together with sculptor Ryuta Iida. Their major solo exhibitions include “Index” at Foam Photography Museum (Netherlands), “Nerhol Promenade” at 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, and “Interview, Portrait, House and Room” at Youngeun Museum of Contemporary Art (Korea). nerhol.com

Ryoji Tanaka

Web designer and Head Designer of Semitransparent Design, Ryoji Tanaka graduated from Doshisha University (Faculty of Engineering) and the International Academy of Media Arts and Science. He is active in a broad palette of media, especially web-based media, performing everything from corporate branding and ad planning and production to exhibition of his works at art museums and galleries in Japan and abroad. His recent endeavors include planning of “Illuminating Graphics” at CREATION Gallery G8 and “Semitransparent Design: Boring/Bored” at ginza graphic gallery (ggg).

Koh Chihara

Born in Tokyo in 1971. Graduated from Tama Art University’s night course in Fine Arts in 1996. While still a student, from 1995 Chihara worked at Hajime Tachibana Design. He went freelance in 1998. In 2003 he held “BICHA-BICHA Exhibition” (Gas Shop), and in 2005 he completed Robundo Typography School. From 2007 to 2017 Chihara taught part-time in the Department of Design of Tama Art University. He is currently broadly active in diverse areas relating to graphic design.

Rikako Nagashima

Born in 1980 in Ibaraki Prefecture. Graduated from Musashino Art University. She has been the principal of village® since 2014. She designs visual communication, serving as an intermediary with her targets’ thoughts, aiming to question existing perspectives and to contribute to realization of value changes. Her major work to date includes: Sapporo International Art Festival 2014 on the theme of “City and Nature,” guest directed by Ryuichi Sakamoto; “Night Cruising,” a documentary about the making of a film with a sightless protagonist; Tohoku Youth Orchestra, comprised of children from disaster-struck prefectures; and PEACE SHADOW PROJECT, a questioning of nuclear power in collaboration with contemporary artist Tatsuo Miyajima.

Takeo Nakano

Born in Tokyo in 1977. Graduated from Musashino Art University. After initially working at Katsui Design Office, Nakano established Nakano Design Office Co., Ltd. He probes possibilities of graphic design within diverse areas, his main themes being informational structuring and contextual visibility. Among his awards received to date are the Japan Typography Association Grand Prix and Second Prize in the Book Design Competition. His works have been selected for inclusion at the Lahti Poster Biennial, Moscow Global Biennale of Graphic Design, etc. Nakano was invited to show his works at the International Typography Biennale “TYPOJANCHI 2011 SEOUL.”

So Hashizume

Born in Hiroshima Prefecture in 1978. Graduated from Musashino Art University, Department of Visual Communication Design, and completed the Master Course at Royal College of Art (RCA) in London. Hashizume teaches part-time at Joshibi University of Art and Design, Department of Design and Crafts (Concentration in Visual Design). While performing art direction and graphic design work in numerous areas, he also undertakes planning of exhibitions and workshops on focus points and real practice, develops educational programs, etc.

Akinobu Maeda

Born in Aichi Prefecture in 1976. Participated in the “ILLDOZER” design team. Since its disbandment, Maeda has been active as an art director and graphic designer in a broad array of fields, especially advertising, catalogs and package design. He currently serves as art director of TOO MUCH and POPEYE magazines.

The content of this exhibition will be covered in a special feature of IDEA No.382, to go on sale in June 2018.

Opening Party
January 23 (Tue), 2018 7:00 p.m.– 8:30 p.m.
Admission free. No reservations required.
All visitors are invited to attend.

Directed by
Kiyonori Muroga, Tetsuya Goto, IDEA team

Planned by
So Hashizume, Kensaku Kato, Daijiro Ohara

Organizers and Venues

Recruit Ginza8 Bldg., 1F, 8-4-17 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 104-8001
TEL: 03-6835-2260