Category — Graphic Design
These Japanese fonts won’t be found in textbooks or typography journals. You have to go looking for them on the streets of Japan: your local barber, an old florist, or an outdated toy shop. Finding beauty in these unsophisticated yet nostalgically charming fonts, 3 friends set out on a hunt to capture, fontify, and give something back to the community.
Obtaining permission from the store owners (many of whom have no graphic design background but were heavily involved in the creation of their unique fonts), Rintaro Shimohama, Naoki Nishimura and Shinya Wakaoka recreated the fonts and have made them available for download. The resulting project was titled Noramoji, a combination of the words nora (meaning stray) and moji (text).
All proceeds from the Noramoji project are given back to the store owners.
December 2, 2013 3 Comments
Preliminary results from the 2013 Good Design Awards were announced last week. I’ve stated how I feel about the awards (spoiler: they’re overly dispensed) many times in the past so I won’t bother you with that. Instead, I’m going to dive right in showcasing some of my favorites.
Ehime Prefecture is one of the largest producers of mikans in the country. Just 2nd to Wakayama, the Southern prefecture supplies Japan with roughly 20% of all their succulent supply. Their prefecture flower is that of the mikan and they even have their own state-funded mikan laboratory. But there’s a problem – the average age of mikan farmers are now over 65, meaning that they are a dying breed.
To appeal to a younger generation of consumers, but also potential producers, a local company unveiled a major overhaul of their visual identity. A collaboration between Upsetters Architects and Artless, the modern, simple and elegant new look was applied to their product linup, 10 Mikan, but also to their shop in Ehime.
this post is part of our review of the 2013 Good Design Awards. Click here to view the full series.
October 14, 2013 1 Comment
A single pine tree became a symbol of hope after the March 11th tsunami wiped away 70,000 pine trees in its path. The 88ft tall “miracle pine” survived for nearly 18 months before its roots died from high levels of saline. However, donations from across the country and world raised enough funds for experts to preserve the tree by inserting a metal skeleton into its trunk and adding replica branches.
Now the pine tree is being immortalized in a different way. Brooklyn-based designer Kota Kobayashi created a minimal yet elegant packaging design for Ipponmatsu Beer. “This beer’s design represents charity and hope, says Kobayashi. “A scroll-like, handwritten label seals the top with the story of Ippon Matsu written on the inside. The front label is a solitary pine made of three triangles that are facing up, symbolizing the wish for progress towards Japan’s brighter future.” Ipponmatsu means one pine tree.
The beer, which comes in 2 flavors, is all hand-brewn by Kobayashi and his friends. They are donating all profits to the recovery effort in ravaged Rikuzentakata. For now the beer has yet to make its way into shelves but Kobayashi is currently looking for a brewery to help expand his charity brew.
September 16, 2013 Comments Off
Australia based designers Saori Kajiwara and Matt Innes have been collaborating together on a series of furniture inspired by Japanese and English typography. From the far east the collection aptly features the character 香 (kaori; scent) as an incense holder, while the characters 東西 (tozai; east and west) work as standalone tables. “The concept for this project is to explore the idea of Japanese typographic forms as furniture,” they say.
Meanwhile, their western counterparts include Table for Two (Ampersand Table)and is “an homage to the beautiful 1970s type designs of Herb Lubalin.”
Saori Kajiwara is from Shizuoka Japan. She studied art and design in Tokyo before traveling to Melbourne, Australia, where she
completed a degree in communication design at Swinburne University of Technology. Matt Innes is an Australian native obsessed by simple bicycles and Japanese motorbikes & scooters. The two are currently establishing a design office together.
Source: The Fox Is Black
September 10, 2013 Comments Off
We all now know that trainspotting is a legitimate and acceptable hobby in Japan where, on any given day, it’s not unlikely to see the hobbyists in the wild, snapping pictures of incoming trains. The railway fans or, more pejoratively, densha otaku, exist in a variety of sub-genres that range from “toritetsu” (obsessed with taking pictures) and “ototetsu” (obsessed with recording sounds) to “ekibentetsu” (obsessed with station box lunches). But now there’s another way to show your love: through the near-extinct method of snail mail.
Yuruliku Design, who are known for making stationary sexy again, have designed a set of train postcards (368 yen) using 4 of the major train lines in Tokyo. The illustrations are adorable and I love how they’re actually shaped like trains, rather than your typical 3” x 5”. And for those who find nostalgia in the pre-redesigned trains, the flipside of each postcard reveals the old design.
This post is part of week-long series on trains in Japan. The complete series can be found here.
August 16, 2013 Comments Off
Have you heard of train station stamps? These stamps can often be seen at major sightseeing spots as a way for people to commemorate their visit — but it’s not just tourist sites, you know. Regular stations also have these stamps.
Even though you may use a station every day as part of your commute to work or school, it’s likely you have no idea where the stamp is located. But go and take a look at the stamp in your local station and you’ll likely find it more interesting than you might think.
On the 400th anniversary of the Edo Shogunate in 2003, the stamps were expanded to all seventy-seven stations in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Not surprisingly, the theme for a lot of them is Edo-era Tokyo and the stamps often depict places connected to the station’s locale from that period in history.
Well, it’s also the fiftieth anniversary of the JR Yamanote Line this year and, given that PingMag’s offices are only a stone’s throw from Uguisudani Station, we decided to take a trip on the line, doing a complete loop and collecting the stamps at every stop.
We first got our hands on this rather retro and cute “My Trip Stamp Notebook” to record our stamp rally.
The name for this station derives from the nightingales (uguisu) that were brought here from Kyoto. Unfortunately you won’t be able to hear any nightingales in Uguisudani today, though the rather gaudy decoration on the table with the stamp at the station is pretty striking.
The stamp shows the Seven Gods of Fortune, which isn’t so surprising when we consider that Nippori lies between Tabata and Ueno, where there are seven temples enshrined with the gods. Give your stamp a firm press to make the gods’ jolly features really stand out.
Nishi-Nippori is the newest station on the Yamanote Line. The stamp shows the view from Suwa promontory, as featured in Utagawa Hiroshige’s famed ukiyoe woodblock print series, ‘One Hundred Famous Views of Edo’. Apparently you could have seen the distant Mt. Tsukuba from the precincts of Suwa Shrine.
Tabata is where the Shinkansen trains “live” and from station you can take a look at the carriages being loaded and unloaded from the yard. The stamp shows the station building at the north entrance, which opened in 2008. It’s fun to spot the details to — look at how the station sign in the bottom right is perfectly rendered.
The azaleas at Rikugi-en (the gardens located at Komagome) are just like the ones that were popular in the Edo era, and are at their best from the second half of April to late May. Oh, and the station “melody” (all JR Yamanote Line stations have different melodies to announce that trains are about to depart) is a famous nursery rhyme.
Sugamo, the Harajuku for grannies. The stamp shows a special statue of the Kannon Buddhist deity that if you wipe with a wet towel in a place that needs curing, it might just yield results.
The stamp shows the Toden Arakawa Line, the only streetcar that runs in Tokyo. The Otsuka Station building was also a rare example of a wooden structure on the Yamanote Line but sadly was dismantled in 2008, and the stamp shows the new Otsuka Station. For some reason or other Otsuka was also the only station on the line with black ink for the stamps. Perhaps this has some sort of meaning…
Susuki Mimizuku was an old folk toy from Toshima ward, an owl made from pampas grass. The stamp is detailed, even showing the workmanship on the toy.
Here you can see the station building on the stamp, Mejiro’s third. The stained glass tower was designed to match the graceful feel of the area. Also, the table with the stamp tells you where to find the corresponding stamps in the next two stations (Ikebukuro and Takadanobaba).
The characters in the stamp spell “Yabusame“, the traditional form of Japanese mounted archery, where the rider has to shoot a series of targets some five meters away. During the Edo period the Takadanobaba area was a training ground for equestrianism and Yabusame, hence its name (baba means “hippodrome”).
The stamp gives a real sense of the impressive horsemanship in the station’s history.
The scene here is of a Edo Bakufu riflemen regiment festival that happens every two years at the Kaichu Inari Shrine, west of Shin-Okubo Station. The festival uses arquebus with actual gunpowder and takes place every year in late September.
Shinjuku — used daily by 3.26 million passengers, recognized by the Guinness World Records as the busiest station on the globe. Covering an area so vast it is at times more like a fortress than a railway terminus, the image of the station on the stamp is utterly unrecognizable to Shinjuku today.
The station was completed in 1885, when initially it saw a much more modest fifty passengers per day.
The tower defining the stamp design here is the NTT Docomo Yoyogi Building. Yoyogi Station is the closest station to Meiji Shrine’s Jingukitasando, but Meiji Shrine in fact is so large there are two other stations (Harajuku, Sangubashi) closer to different parts.
This district is the center of youth fashion in Tokyo. The motif on the stamp is the wooden station building, but unlike Otsuka, Harajuku’s structure still stands. It was completed in 1924 and it the oldest station building in Tokyo.
Here we can see Konno Hachimangu Shrine, five minutes’ walk from Shibuya Station’s east exit and the oldest wooden building in Shibuya ward.
The station name comes from Yebisu Beer, made and sold by Japan Beer Brewery Company (now merged with Sapporo Beer), and the stamp shows the statue of the god Ebisu that you can find just outside the station’s west entrance. Be sure to stamp your pass properly so Ebisu looks nice and dignified!
Gotanda’s stamp changed in 2011 to mark the station’s centenary. The cars on the roads look like Microcars! There was also a special centenary stamp so we stamped both!
In contrast to Meguro’s pastoral scene, Ozaki’s stamp is super modern. Wow, you can see how the times change. You won’t find this at Ozaki itself, though, since it’s actually Palette Town in Odaiba, the Tokyo Bay development that you can get to from Ozaki.
Oh, and Ozaki Station also had a special 111th anniversary stamp so we included that too.
Shingawa is again not, as you might think, in Shinagawa ward, but actually lies in Minato ward. Shinagawa-juku was one of the stopping points on the fifty-three stations of the Tokaido Highway, so the stamp features a scene from the famous Hiroshige woodcut print series.
It was here that Kaishu Katsu and Saigo Takamori met and agreed on the unconditional (and bloodless) surrender of Edo during the Meiji Restoration. The stamp shows the monument to this epoch-making event.
Tower Tokyo may well these days be languishing in the shadow of the newer Tokyo Sky Tree, but in this stamp at least the symbol of the city still looks very impressive.
Japan’s first railway started running from here back in 1872. And you can’t think of Shimbashi without thinking of the locomotive that sits in the plaza in front of the station.
Here we have not the station but the Kabuki-za theatre, which was re-built for the fifth time and opened again this spring. Unlike the new architecture with its office complex integrated into the theatre, this image nostalgically indulges us with the older version.
This is the famous Nijubashi bridge at the Imperial Palace, near to Tokyo Station. See how it is reflected picturesquely in the water of the moat. If you apply in advance you can go across the bridge.
The Kanda Matsuri is one of the three great festivals of Tokyo and also one for the three greatest matsuri in all Japan. In the stamp you can feel the energy of the festival crowds.
Akihabara is a place that attracts many visitors for its unique culture. Some people might find it a bit of a mess, but we think there’s some nice symmetry here, with the parapets of the bridge lighting up the Denki-gai electronics market.
Walk eight minutes from the north exit of this station and you come to Yushima Tenjin, the shrine we see here. It is dedicated to the god of scholarship, the poet and courtier Michizane Sugawara. It gets packed with students during the exams season.
Our last stop. We wondered if the stamp would be cherry blossoms (Ueno Park is famous for cherry blossom viewing) or a panda (Ueno Zoo, natch). Actually the stamp is rather detailed and shows how the station looked when it first opened in 1883. We’re curious about all the flags and think it makes an interesting comparison with the Shimbashi stamp.
Journey’s end. This year it’s the fiftieth anniversary of the Yamanote Line so while you do your own circuit to collect the stamps, you might also be lucky enough to see one of the special anniversary trains running along the tracks.
This post is part of week-long series on trains in Japan. The complete series can be found here.
August 12, 2013 1 Comment
Back in May of this year, Eisuke Tachikawa walked up onto the stage of TedxTokyo with a large “EXIT” sign. He propped it up, only to push it down, startling audience members as it crashed to the floor. The designer, who runs a Japan-based design firm called Nosigner, was making a point about aesthetics, but also about harmony. “Japan is a beautiful country, don’t you think?” he said, beginning his talk. “But it’s not because Japan designs beautiful things. I think it’s because Japan designs harmony amongst those things.”
By “harmony” Tachikawa was referring to Japan’s mighty ability to combine different values, different mediums, different points of view, and different positions, and unite them on a higher level. However, as he went on to argue in his talk titled “Take back the aesthetics of Japan,” this harmony has been disrupted. Some of Japan’s most beautiful landmarks have been disrupted – ruined, even – by ugly and unnecessary signage. “Harmony is to be valued” (和を以て貴しとなす) he said, invoking a phrase from the Seventeen-Article Constitution set forth by Prince Shōtoku in the 7th century.
This is a sign pointing to the tombstone of the great Oda Nobunaga, who single-handedly unified Japan under the shogunate in the late 16th century. “I think this would call for seppuku!”
On the beautiful site of this ancient temple, the only thing that our generation made was this dingy sign, Tachikawa pointed out. “Are we ok with this?”
“I understand they’re doing construction, but is this really necessary?”
“What are we trying to show here,” he asked in exasperation. “Isn’t it the castle??”
Amongst all this disharmony, Tachikawa identified an opportunity. “We need to take back what our ancestors left us.”
Two months later he was in Shodoshima, a small island in the Seto Inland Sea, for a project he called “Signage for Heritage.” Invited on a residency program, the staff of Nosigner were there on a mission. For 10 days they stayed there, working with the priests and keepers of three different shrines to come up with better solutions and restore some of the beauty that had been lost. “In thinking about harmony on this holy site,” they wrote, “we want to discuss with you how we can create a better environment to connect people with the space.”
Below are some progress shots, which I think look amazing. You can see more before/after shots and observe their progress over on their tumblr.
August 8, 2013 1 Comment
If you’ve ever used public transit in Japan you’ve surely encountered Suica Penguin, the adorable mascot character that appears on the front of the smart card. Designed by illustrator Chiharu Sakazaki, Suica Penguin got it’s name from the onomatopoeic phrase sui-sui, meaning to glide smoothly (through the turnstile).
Now a new set of stickers are giving straphangers a way to personalize their commuter companion. Currently available in 3 categories – wear, music and art – ic Card Wear lets you dress up Suica Penguin. Available in 15 variations (735 yen each) there’s something for everybody including art enthusiasts, revolutionaries and skaters.
left: che guevara suica pengion | right: knight suica penguing
left: skater suica pengion | right: statue of liberty suica penguing
August 5, 2013 Comments Off
Katsuhiro Otomo is a world-renown manga artist best known as the creator of Akira. But did you know that he has a son who is also an amazing artist in his own right? Shohei, as he simply calls himself (perhaps to escape from the hegemony of the Otomo name), creates dauntingly dense and bold illustrations using just 1 tool – a ball point pen. Having started out doodling by pencil, Shohei eventually migrated to ballpoint pen. “I realized that ballpoints are cheap, so I’ve been using them for a while now. I also like drawing bit by bit, and ballpoints are perfect for that.”
Shohei often depicts furyo, or Japanese delinquents. “Their style is so uniquely Japanese,” he explains. “Japanese people can do the “uncool” thing really well. We have the originality of an insular country.”
If you want to see Shohei in action, check out the latest tie-up he did with Pilot, the Japanese stationary company, creating an portrait of epic proportions using only their Justus fountain pen.
August 1, 2013 3 Comments
Each year since 1990 Takeo Paper, a major Japanese paper manufacturer, has hosted a paper art exhibition to select awesomeness in paper. The most recent winner was paper craft artist Makoto Sasao, who wowed the judges with his prize winning entry titled “Togari Hiragana.” Meaning pointed hiragana, Sasao used a single piece of paper to create a 3D representation of each hiragana character that stands up in the shape of a pyramid or cone.
When viewed from the side the objects merely look like paper cut-outs. But when the vantage point is shifted to a birds-eye view, the characters are revealed. “I wanted to create a code,” Sasao said in an interview. “A secret code that looks like nothing but when you follow specific instructions the message is revealed.”
Check out other cool ways people have reinterpreted hiragana.
source: takeo paper
July 31, 2013 1 Comment