Ikko Tanaka (born 1930 in Nara City-2002) is still considered one of Japan’s most influential graphic designers. He founded his studio (Ikko Tanaka design Studio) in Tokyo in 1963 and a year later he took part in documenta 3. His diverse oeuvre ranges from book designs and typographic experiments via art direction for companies like Seibu, Mazda and Shiseido, to logos and exhibition designs, through to the concept for no-name design store Muji. Outside Japan, he is best known for his posters, designed for theater and dance productions, exhibitions and other cultural events, social and environmental issues, but also for font foundries and fashion designers.
His style can be described as forceful and clear, expressive and harmonious, boldly abstract and sublime, deceptively simple. A fresh take on Japanese aesthetics is clearly identifiable, as are western sources of inspiration, including the Bauhaus.
Statliches Bauhaus is a German art school founded by Walter Gropius in Weimar which operated from 1919-1933 that combined crafts and the fine arts, and was famous for the approach to design that it publicised and taught.
East meets West, as one of his books about Issey Miyake was titled, also applied to the activities of Ikko Tanaka, who always saw himself as a mediator between Japanese culture and the West.
I had the chance to see some of his work at the Neues Museum in Nürnberg where he was part of the exhibition and i must say it is really deep even though it is so simple.
The colors and the geometric figures he uses make an almost empty canvas an amazing masterpiece.
If you are interested seeing it yourself and are in Nürnberg i really recommend it to you.
The normal exhibition costs on Sundays only 1€ per person and the extra exhibition costs 6€.
Picture taken by Andre Benz
Text by Patrick