Things we talk about when we talk about graphic design; the insanely beautiful and influential work of Ikko Tanaka.
One of the most famous Japanese graphic designers and even dubbed a 'Graphic Master', Tanaka is written into history for creating an iconic, contemporary style of design. He fused modern principles with traditional Japanese aesthetics and developed a ground-breaking visual language that is still referenced today.
Tanaka was born in 1930 in Nara. He studied at the Kyoto City College of Fine Art and graduated 1950, initially working in textile design before moving on to graphic design dabbling in posters, logos, typography, books and magazines. Working for clients such as Mazda, Hanae Mori, Issey Miyake and Muji, Tanaka became a widely recognised art director and even published a few important books on typography.
He came to specialise in museum and theatre publicity, becoming well known for creating bold, colourful posters for the traditional Japanese Noh theatre. He is iconic in his famous graphic of a female theatre mask; a page divided into large quadrants of blocky colour and small facial features emerging from the centre. His use of strong and clean geometric forms and a vibrant pastel and primary colour palette were super influential in graphic design history.. His balancing of the quintessential energy of Japanese graphics combined with Western styles of type and layout proved Tanaka to become highly prolific.
Ikko Tanaka passed away in 2002, yet his legacy lives on in future generations of designers and art galleries from New York to LA, Paris and Mexico. We certainly can’t deny his influence on our own work here at Odd Pears. The flowing, mathematical forms! The popping colour palettes! Ack! We’ll always have a soft spot for Tanaka.