Design Nation 01: Japan

In this series I take a look at designers and their work from specific countries. By diving into projects found online, we’ll see how culture, geography and politics set trends in these creative communities. This first country is one of my favorites: Japan.

Ever since I visited Japan in 2016 I’ve been obsessed with it. Japan is a phenomenal place with incredible people, delicious food, ample amounts of history, and a vibrant design circle. Sure, there are lots of examples of bad graphic design in Japan – loud, hastily done, and overall looks slightly dated (we have this everywhere in the world). There’s so much more though as Japan’s latest generation of creatives emerge and begin to influence the country.

Here’s some examples of my favorite designers and their works in Japan. Most of this will be branding and graphic design, but it’s interesting to see the range of style. My favorite trend is this high-end, minimal look that I also noticed while walking the streets of Tokyo and Kyoto. Mostly found in coffee shops and galleries, it merges modern design with traditional Japan.

Kakino-kinoshit Branding

kakino kinoshita promo

Lead by art director Masaomi Fujita this beautiful art gallery brand is one of my latest favorite design executions. The gallery itself was created from an 80 year old folk house in Tokorozawa, Saitama, in an effort to preserve the heritage of the area while high-rises and retail stores pop up around it.

kakino kinoshita logo

I love that the logo itself uses the the format of traditional Japanese family crests, holding true to the cultural heritage. Though family crests are traditional, the logo itself feels like it belongs in 2017 with the perfectly symmetrical circle and inclusion of English text.

business card

From the reserved use of color to the fantastic patterns, this entire design shows that things don’t have to go totally crazy or look dated in order to hold true to traditions and history. Check out the full project here.

TOKYO BOUSAI Disaster Defense Manual

TOKYO BOUSAI cover

This is an amazing example of design with a purpose. Yokohama design firm, NOSIGNER, worked with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government to create a disaster defense manual for the residents of Japan. The book itself was distributed to 7.5 million residents and consisted of information like how to be prepared during an earthquake – something very important in Tokyo.

I love the colors of this. It clearly shows that the manual is for emergencies with the bold warning yellow, but still looks welcoming and fun – like, you actually want to open it and learn how to be safe in an earthquake.

tokyo bousai booklet

NOSIGNER even went as far as creating a manga story within the manual. It makes it way more engaging for the audience it’s going to and is incredibly well executed.

tokyo bousai manga

You have to check out the entire project on Behance. The packaging / delivery of this manual is the icing on the cake. NOSIGNER turned something that would normally be considered boring and turned it into an engaging and beautiful work of art.

Edut Branding

edut business cards

This interesting, modular brand was created by Hiromi Maeo at Enhanced Inc in Tokyo. Edut is an education company that uses big data to tailor curriculum for each individual student based on their specific needs. Kind of a cool use of this type of information, but we’re here to look at the branding.

edut logo variations

What I really like about this is the purpose of the modular, moving dots in the logo. Because the program itself is meant to be different for each student, the logo itself has an infinite mix of styles and colors. I’ve seen things like this before in logos, but the refinement and clean execution of the Edut logo makes it my favorite execution so far.

edut sticker

The rest of the project shows how these dots are applied to materials and it’s so freakin’ clean – I love it! It does have a bit of a Swiss feel to it, but still very much Japanese with the appropriate use of spacing between elements (look at the business cards).

These were my favorite examples of Japanese graphic design that I’ve come across recently. Some trends I’ve noticed in these designs are:

  • Ample use of whitespace
  • Swiss influence with Japanese refinement
  • There’s still a love for tradition and heritage

If you really want to have some fun, browse through some more designers and artists from Japan on Behance. It’s fascinating to see the similarities and differences in style. Are you a fan of Japanese graphic design? Know some even better examples of great design from Japan?

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