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About Mr. & Mrs. Miho, 1972
Toshihiro Katayama writes about Jim & Tomoko Miho for Idea 111
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I was absorbedly looking out of a window in a room on the 50-odd floor of a New York sky-scraper. The business aspect of New York as viewed through the windows of a towering building is quite different from the megalopolis tourists see from the roof of the Empire State Building. What I couldn't see in Europe during my long years in Switzerland-that is, what we can call the symbol of modern civilization-was found there. It was in the office of Vice President Russell Jr. of Champion Paper that I met Jim [Miho]. That is why, whenever I recall Jim, his face and numerous building windows in New York tend to overlap.
Jim said he wanted to photograph every aspect of Madison Avenue and liked to take a walk among empty buildings on Sundays. I think that Jim, who lives on Fifth Avenue, irresistibly loves New York. What makes him love New York so much? Perhaps he has discovered that indefinable "something" that cannot be found anywhere else in the world.
His eyes seem to stare sharply into two directions-the direction of graphic design and that of a world constantly observed through the camera. He has Japanese parents and has been living as an American. These two elements sharpen his vision. In fact, his keen sense about typography and paper comes from his typical Japanese sensitivity and the bold compositions seen in books and direct mail items he makes are undoubtedly born of American circumstances. These two factors make him a shrewd judge of the refined and therefore infatuated with New York.
In New York, he is exposed to the most modern and refined things every day, and photographs and edits them. Such sharp eyes really belong to an art director who has engaged in many editorial design projects. His power of observation has been proven by his collection of very early works by Andy Warhole. Among his collections is a sculpture made by himself. With the aid of polished stainless steel and a lens, it changes light into a rainbow. I feel his personality is reflected in that sculpture.
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It is about five years ago that I heard the name of Tomoko from Mr. George Nelson. When I visited him at his New York studio for the first time, I had a chance to be shown works produced by the Graphic Division of his office. One of those was a voluminous catalogue for Herman Miller Co., a top furniture maker in America, where Mr. Charles Eames and Mr. Nelson himself used to work.
After three years of professional experience in Switzerland, I was confident that I had a fairly critical power of observation. Nevertheless, I was overwhelmed by the exquisite layout of the catalogue. I felt each page involved the designer's tremendous spiritual strength. Unconditionally I respected the author's patience. The author, I learned, was Tomoko [Miho]. Ever since her name has been haunting my memory.
Her name deeply impressed me again while visiting Chicago. Mr. John Massey, who works on graphic design for Container Corporation of America, showed me Tomoko's poster drawn for the City of Chicago. The poster is now among the art treasures at the Modern Arts Museum in New York. With modern architecture as its theme, Tomoko employed graphic technique, and successfully went beyond the object and created modern architecture with a difference. Her simple yet powerful drawing was so impressive I couldn't persuade myself that it was done by a female designer. The same designer demonstrated her incredibly meticulous skill in that enormous catalogue. The two different works enabled me to recognize her real capability.
Tomoko looks very nice in a dark dress. I've rarely seen her wear dresses of other colors. Dark is really becoming to her. Modest and reserved, Tomoko seems to be seeking proper words when she talks. She is a rare figure in the design world where there are many loquacious and frivolous people. She has the beauty Japanese women have nurtured for long years. Her highly refined works are unequivocally supported by this beauty.
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Logo Histories’ Extra Issue unlocks opinion and insights lost to time, buried within the pages of rare out-of-print design books and magazines. Through this series, you'll come to understand the challenges and opportunities corporate identity designers of the past faced to help you better understand design practice of the present. For Logo Histories, click here.