As a young man, Kazuhiro Aihara dreamt of being a professional snowboarder and was well on his way to making that dream a reality, when all of a sudden it didn’t materialise for a number of reasons. “I felt absolutely defeated in my life,” the Tokyo-based graphic designer tells It’s Nice That. “Around that time, I realised I loved creating graphic designs and, along with snowboarding, I started designing a few different things for fashion and music flyers.”
He recalls one of his happiest moments when someone said, “your works are awesome”, and just like that, he made the decision to become “a legendary graphic visualiser”. Since then, he’s developed a practice with typography and lettering at its core. Influenced by traditional Japanese calligraphy, underground graphics from the 70s and 80s and decadent cinematography from the films of Wong Kar Wei and Shunji Iwai; Kazuhiro draws on the lively overlapping of cultures across Tokyo’s thriving landscape.
“I always try and make graphics that have artistic value as well,” explains the designer. “Tokyo is a big city full of creativity, but many graphic design works belong in the world of commercial advertisement. Of course, this industry is one of the main purposes of graphic design and I also have been making some commercial works over the past few years. But I want more people to know the artistic sides to graphic design.”
With the hopes of increasing this visibility through his work, Kazuhiro discusses a couple of his most recent projects. The first of these is for perhaps the biggest commercial client of them all. Yes, it’s Nike. The second project is for New York-based independent arts magazine Tunica. For Nike, Kazuhiro designed the campaign for the Sacai x Nike trainer around the concept of “sport and distortion”.
On his design, Kazuhiro says: “I made the main graphics by collaging together some conceptual illustrations.” Designing unique lettering for the campaign, Kazuhiro paired his illustrations and type with Nike archival images to create an interesting contrast. “The idea was to express the revolutionary work of Sacai while respecting the history of Nike’s shoe design.”
For Tunica, Kazuhiro created two logos for the seventh issue’s double-sided cover. The publication’s star-studded contributors include the likes of Virgil Abloh, Ram Han and Roberto Sanchez, and along with a comprehensive design team spanning international waters, Tunica’s latest issue explores the theme of “extended fantasy” in a myriad of ways. Creating a typeface that was intended to be both legible and illegible, Kazuhiro hopes to provide “a sense of the unusual” to the publication. “The idea was to trust uncomfortable shapes which makes us reach out to another world.”
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