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Recent works of Tanaka Ikko, 1965
Ogawa masataka writes for Graphic Design 19 on the work of Ikko Tanaka
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In a word, Ikko Tanaka is an outstanding "honor student" in the field of graphic design in Japan. He entered this field dashingly in his twenties and, if I remember correctly, he was 29 years old when he won the members' prize of the Japan Advertising Artists Club. Previously, this prize had always been awarded to veteran designers in their forties or fifties such as Yūsaku Kamekura, Takashi Kono, and Yoshio Hayakawa. It was quite an unheard-of event when Tanaka received this prize when he was still in his twenties. While still a young man, he had already attained a stable mastery of his field and was able to produce well-rounded works.
By this time, as a matter of fact, he had already accumulated eight years of experience in design. He entered the Design Section of the Kyoto Art School after finishing his fourth year in secondary school. While still in school, he changed his specialty from textile design to graphic design. Among his classmates, who were all three or four years older than he, he developed his youthful sensitivity to the utmost. After coming to Tokyo, he plunged eagerly into an active career in the design field, joining groups of designers who were in the forefront of the field, such as Light Publicity and Nippon Design Center. Viewed from the sidelines, he appeared to move straight ahead without any useless wanderings. This is the reason why he may be called an "honor student."
However, this precocious designer always maintains his freshness and youthfulness. I once said two or three years ago that the careers of newcomers to the field reminded me in some ways of the careers of popular songsters. Popular singers make a brilliant debut, signing novel songs and relying on an odd quirk or a clever trick rather than on true individuality. Then, before one notices it, they disappear from public view. This tendency seemed to me to be shared by some of the young graphic designers who are captivated by sensuous and formal effects. There are all too many young designers who are making their way shrewdly solely by trifling with sensuous effects and reacting very sensitively to the fashions of the moment.
In spite of this atmosphere surrounding him, Tanaka has never lost sight of the sound design sense which he has acquired. On the contrary, his design sense has been more and more refined as time has passed.
When I think of Tanaka's works, the first image which flits across my mind is a simple, Japanese form such as a traditional family crest--in other words, an image full of refined elegance. This is probably because among his outstanding works at the time of his debut in this field there was a series of posters in which the Noh plays were the main motif. However, this is not the only reason. When we view his recent poster or pamphlet designs, we sense here too a traditional, symbolical approach to form, a purely Japanese expression relying upon bold simplifications. Tanaka was born in Nara and educated in Kyoto.
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I think that, consciously or unconsciously, he inherited the traditional Japanese approach to beauty.
Furthermore, he has a keen sense of color. He likes to use red, crimson, pink, purple, blue, and green. In the refined color contrasts developed against a white or black back-ground, there is a vitality unique to him alone. It is difficult to describe, but the effect of his color combinations is something like the delicate interweaving of lyrical sweetness and fantastic freshness. These works are filled with a fascination which is truly of today.
Traditional form and contemporary colors--these seemingly conflicting elements are skilfully combined in Tanaka's works. This skillful blending is the essence of his design work. The works produced as a result give out a rich and mellow odor like the choicest sake. This is the characteristic of the creative works of Ikko Tanaka.
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