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

13 August 2012

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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About the Author

James Cartwright

James started out as an intern in 2011 and came back in summer of 2012 to work online and latterly as Print Editor, before leaving in May 2015.

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