Bridging Traditional Japanese and Modern Design
The Blend Within “Art”
Ikko Tanaka (1930 – 2002)
Japanese artist, graphic designer whose designs are inspired, influenced by: Japanese art, West European and American styles of typography, Bauhaus style, American Jazz among others. Known for numerous cultural and performance art posters, interior design and his work with Japanese fashion designers, Hanae Mori, Issey Miyaki and Kenzo Takada.
He was born in Nara, Japan, in 1930 and began his career as a graphic designer in the 1950s. Throughout his career, Tanaka drew inspiration from a variety of sources, including the Bauhaus movement and the Swiss Style. He was heavily influenced by the simplicity and geometric forms of Bauhaus design, as well as the use of typography as a design element. Tanaka also drew inspiration from the clarity and simplicity of Swiss Style design, which he combined with his own unique style to create his iconic designs.
However, Tanaka was also deeply influenced by traditional Japanese design elements, including calligraphy, woodblock prints, and ceramics. He often incorporated these elements into his work, using bold, graphic shapes and bright, contrasting colors.
One of Tanaka’s most famous works is the poster he designed for the 1970 World Exposition in Osaka. The poster combined traditional Japanese motifs, such as the rising sun and cherry blossoms, with modern, abstract shapes, creating a dynamic and visually striking design.
Throughout his career, Tanaka’s work remained rooted in his Japanese heritage while also embracing modern design trends. His unique blend of traditional and modern design elements made him a pioneer in the field of graphic design and a major influence on designers around the world.
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The Third Tokyo International Biennial Exhibition of Prints Dai Sankai Tokyo Kokusai Hanga Biennial Ten (1962)
Haath poster (1986)
Hanae Mori Poster (1978)
Japan poster (1986)
Stavinsky L’Histoire du Soldat (1974)
The Best Five of 84 poster (1983)
All photos credit: USC Pacific Asia Museum
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