Ikko Tanaka: Tanaka Sharaku (detail)

Work / Graphic Design

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

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.


Ikko Tanaka: Amnesty International


Ikko Tanaka: Tanaka Sharaku


Ikko Tanaka: Nihon Buyo


Ikko Tanaka: Kimono Exhibition


Ikko Tanaka: Imagination of Letters


Ikko Tanaka: Flower Arrangement


Ikko Tanaka: Ginzo Saison Theatre


Ikko Tanaka: Hanae Mori


Ikko Tanaka: Kobe Biennial