Ikko Tanaka

Last May, I happened upon the “How Posters Work” show at the Cooper Hewitt museum. Today, I am embarrassed to admit that this was one of the first times I had really considered poster design to be an art form. Be it because of my Fine Arts heavy background, (in which there was little emphasis put on design, let alone poster design) my general ignorance of the history of graphic design (I am working to remedy that ignorance), or simply because I had never really seen such a variety of approaches and techniques employed for the creation of posters. Whatever the reason, I found myself in awe of these designers as well as in awe of how much I had been missing out on. I immediately purchased the Ellen Lupton How Posters Work book from the museum shop and have gone through it many times since. It was this, along with my research on Cieslewicz, Bass, Vignelli, and Glaser, that has started me to really think about and take note on what makes a poster effective and attractive. (I have also since learned that the creation of a successful poster is not as easy as it initially seemed to be!)

Naturally, I have formed favorites. From our class research so far, I favor Cieslewicz and Bass. From How Posters Work, I have come to favor big name designers such as Bruno Munari and Paul Rand but also possibly lesser-known designers such as Felix Pfaffli and Ikko Tanaka.

It is Japanese graphic designer that I am especially inspired by. Tanaka, born in Japan in 1930, was a graphic designer, art director, editorial, and interior designer. He exhibited in Europe, Japan, and the US. He made posters for the Tokyo Olympics along with many performing arts shows across the world and worked with corporations such as Mazda and brands like Muji. His use of color and type stand out to me especially in that they appear to be of another time while magically, simultaneously, remaining fresh and of the moment.

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