Images and text from Idea 081, 1967
It is often said that the wisest way to judge the ability of an interior designer or furniture designer is to see a chair of their own design. Certainly, a chair is one of those furnishings in the closest touch with us and, though it is small, we cannot find any other piece of furniture to which such various designs are applied. If they show a fine sense in making a good chair, they are almost sure to be trusted as furniture designers.
Then what is a barometer of a graphic designer’s ability corresponding to a chair of an interior designer? It is difficult to limit to one article, as in the case of furniture, but if we are forced to think of one, many people would probably answer ‘Poster’. I also had the same idea years ago. It offers variety in composition and colour, and in it, the designer can display their characteristics fully, using all manner of skill. But lately, I have come to think of a poster as an inadequate barometer of their ability. Because it contains a problem of range in the style of expression and too many factors that have little to do with the designer’s ability—such as the cooperation of copywriters, photographers, and printers.
What is the substitute then? I would like to suggest a mark or symbol design. The work is, of course, simple and not conspicuous. But nothing in graphic design excels at showing the designer’s formation straightforwardly and intensifying an image of a certain object concisely. The very design of a mark is, so to speak, a symbol itself of the philosophy of the graphic designer’s formation.
Mark design is important not only to the designer but also to the business people who use it; it is nothing but “a seal” in which all the credit and responsibility of the firm are placed. It can be called the “face” of the enterprise, which must be used permanently and widely to describe all the goods of the enterprise and its tradition. It is by no means an easy task for the designer to encapsulate the image of the enterprise into a small, simple shape and produce freshness in vigorous expression.
The design policy of the Tokyo Olympics was very popular. But, looking back on it, the mark design was decided upon first, and related designs were produced one after another based upon it. The designer of the mark was Yusaku Kamekura—the vivid presentation with a crimson disc as a central figure was extremely impressive. However, surprisingly enough, there are few designers in Japan who have made continuous and serious efforts in pursuing important mark designs like that.
Yusaku Kamekura has insisted on the meaning of mark design through his writings over these twenty years, while producing innumerable designs that attach importance to the role. The background of Kamekura’s mark designs is his boldness in eliminating all the waste, combining simplification derived from Japanese traditional family crests and Western intellectual mechanics of formation with a sharp modern sense of composition. In sum, Kamekura’s work strikes us; he faces it in a dignified manner. With a compass and a rule in his hands, he is wrestling with mark designing.
His clear judgment on formation and sharp expression— he persistently asserts his originality among Japanese designers prone to indulging in satisfying only their taste.