Japanese Posters and Magazine Covers from the 1920’s and 30’s

From a graphic designer’s point of view, these selected pieces really stand out – not only compositionally, but in the style, the execution, the precision, placement of elements, eye flow, use of color, juxtaposition, foreshadowing, perspective, typography and all of the other buzz words you can throw in there. They all work so well and serve as exemplary pieces, together to represent this collection, but also each stands out uniquely in their own way.

What I love in seeing examples from artists this era is the pure artisanship on display. With a ticking clock in today’s design world, I feel the true mastery of art and technique has gotten lost in the concept of time. It’s become more about getting done what you can in the time allotted, rather than doing your best in however long that takes. Quantity first – and as a result, quality suffers. Whereas back then, it was more important to take time to master the art of using pen and ink on paper, as you can see in their various styles of illustration in each of these pieces. You were known by the work attached to your name. That meant something in order to be distinguished as an artist – regardless of where you lived in the world. However, the Japanese took honor and their work to a much more serious level.

From a historical point of view, they represent best Japan at that time – the influences of the war, the changes in political views and social changes that were moving through the nation. These also represent some of the European influences with hints of Cubism, Constructivism and Surrealism in these works.  These ads, posters and magazine covers mark the beginning of when communication design emerged in Japan. Some people referred to these works as “city art” with hopes of appealing to urban consumers through avant-garde visuals, trendy at that time with styles initiated in the West. The significance around these pieces as a whole created an awareness of the larger world, and therefore, they established many of the principles of early graphic design in Japan.

 

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From the book of Modernism on Paper: Japanese Graphic Design of the 1920s-30s by Naomichi Kawabata

 

To see more examples, please visit this link here.


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