Monday, February 22, 2010

Japanese Poster Graphics

Woodblock print handbills from the Edo period (1600-1868) are the earliest form of poster art in Japan. Styles and motifs were borrowed from the ukiyo-e prints, and like those prints, the handbills enjoyed broad appeal among the masses. Then in 1860, following the opening of Japan by the American Commodore Matthew Perry, lithography first came to Japan from the West, bringing new influences in the way of foreign engraving, and novel concepts of design. (Example with baby, ball and top)

At first, the Japanese held to their standards, typified by portraits of traditional, beautiful women, remaining faithful to the format popularized by Japanese painting. However, by the 20th century, modern western styles began seeping into Japanese poster designs. This was especially true with art nouveau and art deco styles. In the 1920s social awareness began to shape the newer designs as well, some posters having a distinct proletarian style. (Example below, in red with the large numeral 4)

Following World War II the production of graphic art and design became more organized with artists forming strong associations, and posters and other printed media began to have profound effect on popular culture. In 1960 Tokyo hosted the World Design Conference and thereafter Japanese graphic designed extended its reach overseas, discovering a worldwide audience.

Today Japanese design continues to embrace its traditional roots, but with a global perspective. Who would doubt that the work of this country’s graphic artists now represents the cutting edge of both concept and digital design technology, respected as never before. (bottom examples: whale and menu)

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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America