Being a international student from Japan, I am always fascinated by the difference between Japanese and western aesthetics. Traditionally, the Japanese see more beauty in simplicity and purity, hence we use the phrase,”simple is best” and “less is more” many times, even in our daily lives. There is almost always a certain tranquillity in the design from art (paintings and prints), kimonos, ceramics, culinary, posters, package design… the list goes on. The diligence and care they put into each of the stages in their work is sometimes astonishing and very inspiring.
What I find when I look at designs from Japan is that overall, the Japanese people are very skilled at working under certain constraints – space, material, weather, environment, etc, and they find a way to enrich the whole experience with small creative inventions.
I went to the Japanese Poster Exhibition at the TDC and saw some really wonderful posters! From the photos that I have posted, I think you can feel the tranquility within every design, even from the very dynamic poster at the bottom (red and black) which depicts a chinese character meaning “movement,” “dynamic,” （動）I really feel that each design comes from very careful observation of movement, typography, media and the sound of the words. This careful examination towards the subtle detail is also something I really love about Japanese design.
A word about the alphabet (characters) in Japanese; as some of you will know, we use 3 kinds of characters in Japan: Kanji (漢字 chinese origin), Hiragana (ひらがな) and Katakana (カタカナ). Up until the middle ages Kanji was the most dominant characters that were used. They were the male lettering. Then from around 700 AD, Hiragana started to be used by women, in writing diaries and literature. You can see these characteristics in the shapes of the letters – the kanji being straight and linear, the hiragana being more curved. The Katakana originally came from the Kanji, but represents the same sound as the Hiragana, so it has qualities of both.