Ikko Tanaka – Graphic Design blend of East and West


Ikko Tanaka

Born January 13, 1930

Education Kyoto University

Known for Graphic Design

Awards JAAC Special Selection, Mainichi Design Award, Minister of Education Newcomer Prize, Tokyo ADC Members’ Grand Prize, Mainichi Art Award, Purple Ribbon Medal, and the New York ADC Hall of Fame Prize. Tanaka has exhibitions in New York, Los Angeles, Paris, Mexico.

Ikko Tanaka was a Leading Graphic Designer in Japan. He had an enormous impact on the post-war visual culture in Japan.  He is widely thought of as the Father of Japanese graphic design. He merged Japanese traditional forms and colours with International Style Modernism.  He reduced classic subjects to geometric shapes and emphasised sharp colour contrast.  He believed like many Japanese that the large universal themes can only be touched through the barest of expression.


“After WWII, a lot of infrastructures was destroyed, but they grew (again) quickly, so you see a very environment from his works,” “He blends traditional idioms with a modern sensibility. He was a truly gifted artist.”

He was Born in 1930 in the ancient capital of Nara in western Japan, Tanaka studied art at the Kyoto City School of Fine Arts. He later lived in Kyoto, where he was active in modern drama and theatre. He established a design studio in Tokyo in 1963 and became known for his unique “Ikko style” by blending Japanese-style art into Western graphics.

His works consist of unusual spatial relationships between elements, and he manipulates line and form and colour to direct the viewer’s attention.  The traditional western concept of enlarging a title and reducing the size of the date are given different treatment in the cover for Ryu-Tsu (see below).  It is paradoxically still able to get the viewers attention.

Ryu-Tsu was a fashion and culture bible for the fashion industry. Models were mostly western.

He won the silver prize in the 1968 Warsaw international poster competition and earned a New York Art Directors Club Gold Award. Tanaka’s better-known works include posters for Italian shoemaker Salvatore Ferragamo’s 1998 Tokyo exhibit, and he contributed to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, creating the games logotype, medal motif and facility pictograms.




Ikko Tanaka, 71; Leading Graphic Designer in Japan – latimes,http://articles.latimes.com/2002/jan/25/local/me-passings25 (accessed March 30, 2017).

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teamSimon is a Sydney based digital designer. He is the Director of a boutique digital design studio, Bailey Street Design located in the vibrant inner west suburb of Newtown.  Simon studied graphic design at Shillington College and specialises in web design for small and medium size businesses.  Simon and his team (Toby the studio dog) are passionate about visual communication in the digital environment


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