Yoshi Sodeoka’s Bookshelf is all about design that gets better with age

6 November 2019

For the last three decades, multi-disciplinary artist Yoshi Sodeoka has been breaking boundaries and pushing technology with his experimental video art. As well as exhibiting at top art institutions from MoMa, The Whitney Museum and the Tate, the New York-based designer has also made a name for himself in the world of editorial illustration and music with his hypnotic works. He’s made it into the pages of The New York Times and into the backdrops of the live tours of Tame Impala and Beck, and now, to the delights of our faithful Bookshelf readers, he’s treated us to a peak inside five meaningful titles from his shelf.

“I’m one of those people who rarely buy books and magazines anymore,” he tells It’s Nice That, “and I feel a little bad about it.” In the past, collecting books and magazines has been a staple for the Japanese artist, often delving into the pages of his favourite publications before the speed internet revolution kicked in. “I don’t miss the clutter that books and magazines created,” he continues, “but I still do miss holding physical items. I got rid of a lot of books and magazines over the past ten years but kept a lot of essentials that I still feel attached to.”

Rifling through his extensive collection for the benefit of our hungry book-loving eyes, Yoshi went through his collection of old books and magazines that he bought “a long time ago”. He continues, “it wasn’t easy picking five for this but I tried to pick some old books that are not only visual inspiring, but also have some nostalgia too.” Taking us on a tour of Japanese graphic art, cyberpunk aesthetics and even a book found in a dumpster just after 9/11, without further ado, here’s Yoshi with five highlights from his bookshelf.

Computer Images

This is a book a good friend of mine salvaged for me from a sidewalk dumpster near my downtown New York studio shortly after the 9/11 attack. My art studio was less than a mile away from the World Trade Centre (I still have a studio in the same building today). Not that the content of this book has any significance to 9/11 whatsoever. But when it was picked up, the book was really dusty. We contemplated to see if the dust came from the 9/11 debris. But we concluded that the dust was probably just from some guy’s apartment. I remember a lot of things that happened around that time and this book is one of them. 

Anyhow, I haven’t even bothered to find out when this book was published. I always assumed that it was from the early 90s. But now I see that it was published in 1983. I’m really impressed that none of the artworks were made after 1983. It has some amazing computer generated images in it. The artists in this book probably hadn’t even thought of their computer art being a big inspiration to many net artists today. 

Shigeo Fukuda: Illustrick 412

Shigeo Fukuda was a prolific Japanese graphic artist that I’ve always admired. I got some of his graphic books in Japan about 20 years ago and this is one of my favourites. I always turn to this book when I need some good graphic ideas. I obviously love all of his drawings in this book not to mention this newsprint format. The weight is so light contrary to the look of it. The pages are turning more yellow over time but this book just looks better with age.  

Mondo 2000

I still have copies of Mondo 2000 from the early 90s which are in pretty good shape. At the time, I honestly didn’t really understand what this magazine is all about. I just thought that it’s one of the coolest looking magazines I could find at the bookstore. Check out the logo of the magazine on the cover. I had never seen anything like it at the time. I really loved that so-called “cyberpunk” aesthetic. There’s a lot mind-blowing graphics pages in colour. They were totally ahead of its time. Nothing in this publication looks dated even nearly 25 years later. 

幼稚園 (Youchi-En): Kindergarten Magazine

This is a magazine for preschool children in Japan that I snatched from my nephew about 15 years ago. It’s packed with a lot of random graphics and insane typography on every page. There’s no negative space in the design and it looks so insane. It’s a pure visual assault. Wikipedia says this magazine has been around since the 1930s and it’s still going strong. I grew up in Japan and I sort of remember my parents buying me some of these. But I honestly don’t remember it being so psychedelic. Maybe graphics got gradually more insane over the years. Or maybe it has always been this way and my undeveloped child’s brain processed it as a normal visual phenomenon. 

略画辞典 (Ryakuga-Jiten): Sketch Dictionary

This is an old visual reference book for hobbyists that my parents bought me when I was about two or three. I was obsessed with drawings as a child. I don’t remember any of this. But they tell me I used to get frustrated and cry when I couldn’t draw the way I wanted. So, they got me this book hoping my drawing skills would improve. It’s a charming book with a lot of witty drawings. I’m glad that I held onto this book all these years. It brings back a lot of good memories as a child and it’s nice to think that this book had a role in making me what I am today. I’m forever grateful to my parents for that.  

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About the Author

Jyni Ong

Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor.

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