Encounter the beauty of a poster / YOSHIE WATANABE

“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.

The first book I bought was when I was still a college student at Yamaguchi University. It was a special issue of the IDEA magazine called “Biennale of Graphic Design Brno”. I already had experiences, with oil painting, ceramics, prints and mobile structures due to my faculty of art education (junior high school), but didn’t had the opportunity to study design professionally. I always had a huge passion for drawing, so when I found this book, it evokes emotions inside me. Spending 4500 Yen was a bit pricey for me as a student, but it was totally worth it. I mean, my apartment rent was at this time 12000 yen.
Back then I had no Idea about Design but the works of Czech Republic, Brno’s exhibition inspired me. Each artist was exhibiting his/her work based on a free theme. The main reason why this book was so impressive were the many illustrations inside. I couldn’t say which one I like most, I just loved it to leaf through the pages.

the IDEA magazine called “Biennale of Graphic Design Brno”(1981)

Instead of becoming a school teacher after graduating high school, I decided to go to Tokyo for challenging myself as designer. We went to Mashiko (a town in Tochigi prefecture) at my first company trip, I was first employed. On its way back I decided to visit the Tsukuba Museum of Photography (permanently closed). I was totally impressed of a poster by the photo magazine called “Zoom”. Afterwards I saw those photos in a commercial photo and found in the credits area the “Satoru Miyata Design Office” which got renamed to DRAFT since 1989. The connection to DRAFT starts with when I decided to write a letter to this office.

Zoom Poster of the “Satoru Miyata Design Office”(1985)

Since I entered DRAFT, I have been involved in various poster work, but the one that left an impression on me was a poster of an underwear brand called “une nana cool”. For literally 16 years I was designing posters for their seasonal campaigns twice a year. I’ve been always working together with Ryosuke Uehara as art directors. Before we present my rough sketches to the clients, Satoru Miyata, the creative director did the check up. It was better to visualize the ideas for a briefing because the chances of getting accepted by the clients were higher. By doing this, year by year my drawing skills improved. (*laugh*) During the shooting, the photographer always tried to convert my rough sketches as close as possible. But he said that my sketches were already too precise, means it was difficult for him to differ the concept. He wondered why I want it to photograph and not let it illustrated. I got the advice that a sketch should be a sketch and not a master work (*laugh*).
“Pan-Tsu-Maru-Mie” was a project in my second year since I cooperate with une nana cool. The weather in Tokyo was rainy on the shooting day, so we kept driving until Fukushima when we finally saw a blue sky. The result was as I imagined and we decided to use this kind of concept for une nana cool.

une nana cool Poster Draft(2002)

When I won the Yusaku Kamekura award (A Design Award established to honor achievements of the late graphic designer Yusaku Kamerkura) I got asked which work I like or got me most inspired. I couldn’t decide. In the end I chose Kamekura’s Tokyo Olympics 1964 poster. The composition with the Japanese flag reminded me the beauty of this country. 1964 was the year when Japan was united toward the Olympics and Expo. Honestly, I don’t remember the Olympics from that year but therefore the Osaka Expo. At my first family trip when I was a 4th grade elementary school student, we traveled from Yamaguchi to Osaka by car. On a public holiday we went to the mountain, cut a bamboo and hung the Japanese flag. Those nostalgic memories are also one of my reasons why I chose this poster of Kamekura as my most inspiring work.

In 2020, I made a poster for Hiroshima Appeals. ("Hiroshima Appeals" is a poster series produced by the Japan Graphic Designers Association (JAGDA), the Hiroshima Peace Creation Fund and the Hiroshima International Cultural Foundation to keep the memory of the first atomic bombing on mankind alive, and to bring the appeal for world peace to a mass audience.)
Honestly, when I got this offer, I was not sure to accept it. It was at the beginning of the pandemic, when I start drawing it. My concerns were that the global society becomes more and more complicated which turns to communication or an economic warfare. That’s why I was not sure if it is the right moment to create a poster with a peaceful meaning. At that time, I heard about Mr. Kamekura’s expressions and feelings for the Hiroshima Appeals:

“In JAGDA’s eyes, a poster that visually combines prayers for peace with beauty and dignity, is not what the citizens of Hiroshima are looking for. At the same time it is also difficult for designers to find the right balance in expression. So the Hiroshima Appeals poster is made in a purely neutral position, transcending all politics, ideas and religions. It purposely wanted to express peace in a new perspective, means not showing the sadness about historical incidents like the Hiroshima atomic bomb or the official anti-war movement..”

The words are wonderful, and while reflecting on it a little, I decided to draw it in my own way. I rather wanted to draw the face of a girl who lives strongly even in such a difficult situation, than a poster praying for peace. When I draw human faces, I prefer drawing in a less realistic way. But this time I wanted to express a strong Japanese girl, so I drew it more realistic than usual.

Hiroshima Appeals Yoshie Watanabe(2020)

See Posters of Yoshie Watanabe