“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.

I started studying design when I entered IAMAS (International Academy of Media Arts and Sciences, Gifu) after graduating from Doshisha University's Faculty of Engineering. I really don't have any particular impressive "encounter with a poster" since I didn’t have a love and admiration for graphic design from my childhood. However, it was not a poster, but the X CD jacket I bought when I was in junior high school was designed by Mr. Masayoshi Nakajo. I found out about it much later, because I had no way of knowing it at that time, but I think that's what graphic design is all about. Unlike paintings, which you have to go to a museum to encounter, graphic design has unexpected connections in our daily lives. Because it is applied to things that are consumed. I find it interesting that even though I grew up in a middle-class family and had almost nothing to do with art and design, I inadvertently encountered them without realizing it.

CD jacket of X "Blue Blood" by Masayoshi Nakajo (1989)

After graduating from Doshisha University, where I majored in physical chemistry, I went on to IAMAS, which had just been established as a specialized school for media arts. At the time, the word "multimedia" was popular and digital media was beginning to attract attention. IAMAS was attracting people who wanted to do new things. Although this school was located in Gifu Prefecture and surrounded by nothing but rice paddies, I became absorbed in design and expressive activities using computers, which were still rare at that time.

After graduating from IAMAS, I worked for several years at a web production company before establishing Semi Transparent Design as an independent web designer. 2009 was a turning point in my career when I did the solo exhibition at YCAM (Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media). The exhibition brought together recent web projects, centered around the "tFont/fTime" installation, which was based on the theme of "time" and “font". As for myself, I thought I was doing something quite advanced with digital media, and I was secretly hoping that I could be a hero in the digital world (laughs). However, the people who actually talked about my work were graphic designers rather than digital artists. Moreover, G8 (Creation Gallery G8) approached me and we decided to hold an exhibition with the same content in the following year.

Semitra Installation Exhibition "tFont/fTime" at Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media (2009)

The digital industry has just been created and new technologies are constantly emerging. I felt that people were under the illusion that they were creating something new just by trying on to new technologies. I wanted to create works that would remain despite of the newness of the technology, so I think my stance was similar to that of graphic designers. Graphic design also needs to be reduced to a printed dot and in the end, digital design is also a communication using numbers and symbols. Perhaps it was this understanding of the principles and thinking about what kind of expression could be achieved within that context that caught my interest.

I myself thought that the world of graphic design was a massive world with a long history. I thought it was a world dominated by rules and restrictions. However, the exhibition at G8 led me to interact with people in the graphic industry, and I became aware of the innovative works of people like Mr. Kaoru Kasai and Mr. Kazunari Hattori. They are always trying to do something new within the fixed means of printing on paper. The attitude of abandoning what was once established and thinking about what comes next gave me a sense of freedom and flexibility beyond that of the digital industry. This was a great source of inspiration.

Poster for "Semitra Exhibition: Design Born from the Web (Creation Gallery G8)" (2010)

Since then, my production area has expanded , and I am increasingly involved in designing posters and other paper media. There are many fierce competitors around me, so I place importance on incorporating digital media methodologies in my own way.

It was interesting to think about how to create a poster for "POSTERS". It should function in a room as interior decoration. When people own a poster, they do not just want to display it in their homes, but they also want to show it off to others. Instead of having the owner transmit the information on social media, I wondered if the artwork could have that functionality, and came up with the idea of using a Google spreadsheet to create a list of buyers of the artwork and publish it on the Web. Furthermore, the spreadsheet list itself also serves as the design of the poster, making the work a combination of design and mechanism.

This piece is a guesswork aspect to NFT(non-fungible token). In my profession, I am often asked about NFT, and I feel both good and bad about it. I agree with the idea of managing the work and guaranteeing the value of the work, but I am not comfortable with being too dependent on some platforms. If the author is able to manage the buyers by himself, it would be the same structure as NFT, and I think it is important to have a direct connection between the creator and the buyer in such a way.

From left to right: "blank/105", "blank/99", "blank/96" Ryoji Tanaka (2022)
The design is directly based on the format of a control chart produced in Google Spreadsheet, which notes the names of purchasers and their output sizes. The list of purchasers can also be viewed by accessing the URL listed at the bottom of the poster.

At the "Graphic Trial," where I also participated this year, a light box was placed under the poster. It is an attempt of an expression that puts light on the print. The random looking line drawings is shielded from light, and only the line which transmits light, glows like a neon tube. The motif of this work, "5 sisters," are the five sisters in Sofia Coppola's film "Virgin Suicides," who all committed suicide. The blue line represents the outline of the sisters' faces, the red represents their ages, and the green represents their names, and the light from the light box is attached in the order of their birth and repeatedly extinguished in the order of their suicides.

This work was inspired by the graphic trial rule of creating five posters. I didn't want to make it just as a glowing entertainment, so I added the context of life being turned on and off. The number "5" also inspired the idea of the Jackson Five, but I felt that it was too scruffy, and the same expression of life and death, like the "Last Supper" quoted in paintings, didn’t feel realistic to me. Finally, it became a subculture content. I have the sense that graphic design is somehow familiar to me, just as I first encountered Mr. Nakajo's designs on an X CD when I was in junior high school. I think I like the fragility of something more mundane than high culture.

5 sisters" by Ryoji Tanaka (2022)

* On exhibit at "Graphic Trial 2022 -CHANGE-" until July 23, 2022. ( https://www.toppan.co.jp/biz/gainfo/graphictrial/2022/ )
See the poster of Ryoji Tanaka