Graphic Design Pieces from Japan in the 1960’s and 70’s

I’m fascinated by the Japanese culture with their incredible attention to detail and precision when it comes to learning and perfecting their craft. I think too many people in this world celebrate mediocrity – in the class room, in the work force. It’s almost as if it’s an attempt to create a population of people that just blend in with each other… sheeple, if you will. But, that’s a whole other topic I will save for another post in another blog some day. Back on the topic of design, the Japanese, their culture and strength in tradition… Here’s a group of people who strive on a daily basis to stand out from one another. The competition is so great they have to make their mark, get noticed, be unique. It was true back then, and it’s even more true now. As an Ikebana artist myself, I can only hope that I can honor their traditions with each arrangement I create. As a graphic designer, let me start by saying I am in awe just by looking at each of these pieces, their composition, style of illustration, use of color and technique. Hence, my second post to showcase these designs.

To follow up to my previous post – which focused on showcasing designs from the 1920’s and 1930’s – I’d like to jump ahead and show some of my favorites from the 1960’s. In other places around the world, graphic design was being represented by some of the legendary greats. From Saul Bass, creating those various movie posters – to Paul Rand’s LSD-inspired psychedelic designs for concert posters and album covers. From the type of music people listened to, to the style of film that captivated viewers, experimentations with psychedelic drugs crossing over with bright colors in fashion – all of these influences both visually and audibly helped to shape design around the world, and design work in Japan reflected this as well. Take a peek at some of these design pieces…

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If you’d like to see more, visit the Gurafiku site. It contains an extensive collection of Japanese posters and other graphic design pieces that can be previewed by selecting the various decades. For example, browsing through the Japanese movie posters, for instance, is an incredible way to spend your lunch hour. Just an FYI, I’ve also included a few of my favorite (and more recently designed) posters within the slideshow of images… for your viewing pleasure of course. Enjoy!

 

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.


Hand-drawn, hand-cut type in this beautiful letterpress poster

Created by Darren Newman, this poster was created to promote the “Typeface” film for its premiere in Manchester. The film itself showcases a print shop located in Two Rivers, Wisconsin – a small rural town where most all of the factories have shut down and businesses are struggling. This film also pays homage to this incredible print making craft which peaks the interest of so many design enthusiasts. Personally, I love the style of these letterforms – they remind me of something you would have seen Herb Lubalin pull off back in the day. The curves and variances in the line widths are just so beautifully constructed!

Cool Photoshop Tutorial that Replaces Color with Words

 

 

Even though it says it’s meant for CS4, it’ll work for any version you have installed. Basically, this will work best with a high-contrast photo. The more distinct your light and dark areas, the better visual translation you’ll see. This tutorial seems pretty simple, and I have yet to try it out, but when I do – I’ll edit this and will repost my version. Check it out here.