Encounter the beauty of a poster / ATSUKI KIKUCHI
“Encounter the beauty of a poster” is a theme for the graphic designers who are a part of the project “POSTERS” . A journey about how they start paying attention to posters and its graphic, follow up to the works and projects that influenced them when they were young, until to their success and how they find their own way in creating.
My prep school was in graphic design but I went on to study sculpture at university. While making sculptures, I also took part at graphic design competitions. At that time (mid 90’s), it was the last period when such public exhibitions had vitality, and it functioned as a unique place to present works, where art, design, and illustration got all combined into one. I always feel the need to do something different. When the bubble economy was beginning to burst, I wanted to work on a more personal work, different from the glamorous world of advertising posters in the 1970s and 1980s. I always loved art, and I made sculptures at university, so it felt right to me.
When I was a freshman in college, I won a prize in "The Choice Exhibition" sponsored by Illustration Magazine, and the judge at that time was Masayoshi Nakajo. Nakajo had created the promotion poster for "The Choice Grand Prize Exhibition" the previous year, which was just so cool. I admired him so much until I thought Graphic Design could be also an option. At the time, I was more attracted by the coolness of the form than by the meaning of the work.
When I was running sculpture and graphics side by side, I realized that the art industry was not as big as it is today. I honestly didn't find it very attractive. In contrast, the print media was very attractive to me because magazines were really popular. I won few prizes in graphic design competitions, which gave me also slightly too much confident. (laughs). This was one of the reasons for me to enter the field of graphic design. In my second year of college, I started a design office with friends and participated in an artist-run space called "Studio Shokudo" . So I was floundering around in a mix of design and art fields. In the end, I dropped out of college before my junior year.
The Mac and Internet, which fell suddenly from the heavens, also gave me a boost. I felt invincible, as if I had a terrible weapon in my hands. (laughs) I began by creating a website for my office by hand, but at the time, there were very few graphic designers who owned a website, so our page came up at the top of the search results. There was still a lot of open space in this area for getting recognized easier. (laughs). In the mid-90s, the activities of upcoming digital artists were increasingly becoming a new subculture trend. Artists like Hajime Tachibana and Gento Matsumoto were standing in the spot light. So for me, a poster is the most realistic medium to output digital expressions.
Another major encounter for me was with Issay Kitagawa of GRAPH. In 1999, I was a curator of Sagacho Exhibit Space and asked Kitagawa to do the graphics. I was shocked by the printing expressions, such as the special printing, combination of offset and silk printing, and other techniques. He taught me a lot about the possibilities of what I could do with printing.
With the shift from block printing to desktop publishing, I felt a lack of the quality of the printing process. I had always created analog works, such as paintings and sculptures, that’s why I wanted to make printing more materially expressive. At the time, the brands I was working on graphics for, such as Mina (the predecessor of Mina Perhonen) and Sally Scott, were also brands that valued heavy, craft-like expression, so I was particular about printing expression, using mostly spot colors for the posters I made in the 2000s. However, I gradually became embarrassed by my particularity, so I have become more and more easy going over the past 10 years. Now I feel the advantages of 4-color shading and am impressed by the excellence of coated paper.
A memorable poster of my own work was for the Laforet music event commissioned by musician Shuta Hasunuma – a fun project to participate in. Since the event was organized by the musician himself, he didn’t give me any restrictions how to design. This kind of freedom was for me like I was standing next to the musicians participating in the live performance. (laughs) I felt as if I was standing side by side with them, and I was able to express myself however I wanted. In the first place, I don’t feel like trying to visually consolidate the images of the other party's brand. Designers nowadays have the role of creating symbolic objects for other people's brands in the name of branding. Personally, I feel that this is unjustified. I would like to have a relationship with them that is more like a collaboration, if it’s possible.
In that sense, Sally Scott was a job that I could have worked on in that relationship. Unfortunately, since February 2022, new collections will be no longer presented. But over the 20 years since the brand's inception in 2002, I have created about 60 posters for each seasonal collection. I believe that in a long-term project, there needs to be a part that remains consistent and a part that is new and different each time. I think it doesn't have to be a hit with everyone every time. It's okay to have a reaction like "maybe I don't like it so much this time." It's more like something new and different that makes you say, "What's this?" I think it is important to build a relationship with customers by triggering their curiosities and sense of unfamiliarity. It is hard work, to come up with new techniques and themes every year, but it is worthwhile.
In the past, printed materials had the image of being mass-produced and infinitely producible. Nowadays, we got used to the unlimited photocopying of data and scalable images such as vector data with no size limit. For better or worse I feel the finiteness of printing, gives me a somewhat craft-like feeling. Posters, which used to convey information and images and be discarded after a certain period of time, are now more and more treated as "objects". I still do a lot of work on paper, and my opportunities to make book bindings, flyers, and posters are increasing. Sometimes I wonder if this is really necessary in this day and age. I keep watching how the meaning of printing materials will develop in the future.