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    Ikko Tanaka: Tanaka Sharaku (detail)

Looking back at the ultra-prolific Ikko Tanaka and his stunning graphic design

Posted by James Cartwright,

If Shigeo Fukuda was the king of Japanese graphic design then consider Ikko Tanaka the monarch Fukuda usurped. Two years Fukuda’s senior, Tanaka never quite gained the universal acclaim afforded his peer, but was equally instrumental in the development of Japanese graphic design, evolving it into a powerful visual language still widely referenced today.

Tanaka’s work is renowned for its modernist simplicity, utilising strong geometrical forms as the basis for bold, communicative imagery with a distinctive Japanese twist. His poster designs in particular frequently make reference to traditional Japanese art forms, from the painted faces of geishas to the dextrous markings of calligraphic brushwork. This fusion of eastern and western design is Tanaka’s greatest legacy, paving the way for a slew of young designers following in his footsteps.

Later in his career Tanaka was responsible for creating the brand ethos for the now universal homeware manufacturers Muji, bringing the restrained aesthetics of Japanese homes to a vast global market.

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    Ikko Tanaka: Amnesty International

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    Ikko Tanaka: Tanaka Sharaku

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    Ikko Tanaka: Nihon Buyo

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    Ikko Tanaka: Kimono Exhibition

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    Ikko Tanaka: Imagination of Letters

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    Ikko Tanaka: Flower Arrangement

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    Ikko Tanaka: Ginzo Saison Theatre

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    Ikko Tanaka: Hanae Mori

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    Ikko Tanaka: Kobe Biennial


Posted by James Cartwright

James started out as an intern in 2011 and is now one of our two editors. He oversees Printed Pages magazine and content wise has a special interest in graphic design and illustration. He also runs our online shop Company of Parrots and is a regular on our Studio Audience podcast.