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.