José Maria Neves
Published on May 13, 2015
Ukiyo-e exists as a small bridge between the Ocident and the Orient. We use two artists who obviously kept a close focus on what was going on in each other’s countries and the world, and became widely relevant in the history of Graphic Design in order to illustrate our point. Here, the aim is to try and fill a piece of the gap Orientalism and Ocidental overvalue has created in western culture towards the world. Paul Rand changed the way the USA viewed and perceived graphic design, Yusaku Kamekura introduced the notion of graphic design in Japan, while alerting the world for what was going on in the Orient. They were both driven by Bauhaus and Constructivism, and rather simillar in approach to the subject of design. In A Designer’s Art Paul Rand stated that “(...) the experienced designer does not begin with some preconceived idea. Rather, the idea is (or should be) the result of careful observation, and the design a product of that idea.” 1, which brought a certain naturality and simplicity to the design practice Rand and Kamekura developed through their careers. In here we try to put them in dialogue, while drawing a comparison between each other’s perspectives in life and work. Whereas Paul Rand was brought to the world in the Occident, with the focus of design upon him, living at the same time of America’s greatest names like Milton Glaser and Saul Bass, Kamekura started his graphic design in Japan, where the notion of design was still only applied to traditional art, and was not seen as an actual professional activity. Despite doing some corporate work throughout their careers, they never went into political or religious grounds, always remaining faithful to the laws and principles of Modernism, like integrity and honesty. In the field of editorial design, Kamekura had his very own peculiar project, Creation. Since 1989, Kamekura had been the mastermind and editor of Creation Magazine, a series of publications limited to twenty issues which focus on international graphic design, art, and illustration work by a variety of artists.2 Despite the success, Kamekura did actually shut down the magazine after the 20th issue. Rand produced a multiplicity of editorial works throug his career. Books were always very dear to him. I did the book because I am a very practical guy, and I knew this was one way to have all your work in one place, so if you ever run into a fire you don’t have to worry about your samples.3 Identity was probably what brought a shinning light upon design in the corporate world. Kamekura kept his designs clean and simple, working for some brands like Shell and Corona. On the other hand, Paul Rand is responsible for designing some of the most timeless logos like ABC, Next and IBM. According to Onofrio Paccione, Paul was the creative revolution. He was the guy who started this whole thing, and people forget that! It was like Cézanne; and after Cezánne came Braque and Picasso, and they went on to [invent] Cubism. But it all originated with Cézanne. We [art directors in the 1950’s] took a lot of the things Rand did, because he brought ideas and intelligence to advertising where before him there was no semblance of thought.4 Boundaries in the advertising posters world were broke by the two. While thinking about Kamekura we could never leave out the 1964 Olympic Games posters, which mark a turning point for japanese graphic design in the world’s history, or the Expo70 typically modernist posters, or even the Hiroshima Appeals in 1983. When in comes to Paul Rand and his timeless posters we could easily talk about one hundred of them. Either be it the UCLA posters, the IBM or the Frazer, every designer or design student could easily recognise any of them as product of Rand’s work. Overall, we believe it’s safe to say that Rand is undoubtedly a mark in western design, the same way Kamekura is in the eastern. Through the confront of the works of these two great designers we hope to give some focus to a matter that despite being talked a lot is often forgotten: how the past influences the present and how our notions of “global” need to be expanded in order to contain the biggest number of influences possible, not only the Occidental names we’ve been trained to study and memorize, but also those that have been almost forgotten and are not included in the American / European design student book.