Tadanori Yokoo: Graphic Design the Way it Should Be

Tadanori Yokoo (b. 1936) is a graphic designer, but really he is so much more.  Whereas in the West printed work (posters, prints, animation, book design, album covers, illustrations, etc.) is created as either art or a commercial vehicle, Japan does not focus on such a distinction.  Instead, since the late 17th century a tradition of ukiyo-e has existed there which celebrates the potential for a poster or book cover to also be a work of art.  Yokoo is a part of that tradition, and looking at his posters will make you feel pretty bummed out about how ugly the advertisements are that are pasted everywhere on our city streets!

a ballad dedicated to the small finger cutting ceremony

recruiting members for tenjo sajiki (1967)

The art critic Yasushi Kurabayashi wrote, “Yokoo’s posters are not designed around conventional poster-like ideas. Rather his posters have been executed from his own desire for creative expression, with little regard for cognitive clarity or message.”  So essentially, instead of thinking of the poster as a tool for selling something, an object to inspire a specific impulse or thought in the viewer, Yokoo is more focused on making his commercial creations into works of art.  I guess the idea is when something looks that great, people will stop to check it out, and in admiring it figure out what it is that is being advertised in the image.   Works for me. I would certainly spend a longer time looking at something beautiful; and I would definitely appreciate the good taste and sensibility of a company that would support the production of such an alternative poster to sell their product, wouldn’t you?

Earth, Wind, and Fire (1976)


The Beatles, Star Club (1977)


Mazda 110s (1968)

London Philharmonic Orchestra (1978)

America (1968)

Check out the Japanese Gift Market for tons of Yokoo objects, including pins,statues, and notebooks (and a ton of bizarre Japanese stuff!), or learn more about him on his official website.





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