Nihon Buyo
A tribute poster celebrating Ikko Tanaka (1930-2002),
a revered master of Japanese graphic design.
Nihon Buyo
A tribute poster celebrating Ikko Tanaka (1930-2002), a revered master of Japanese graphic design.
nihon buyo manifesto
Nihon Buyo
Poster, 100×70 cm

2019 © Nicola-Matteo Munari
nihon buyo danza
Ph. © Tokyo Bling
nihon buyo manifesto
Ph. © Nicola-Matteo Munari
ikko tanaka
Ph. © Tutti i diritti riservati
A master of Japanese graphics

In 2014 the Museum für Gestaltung of Zurich promoted the design of a tribute poster celebrating the master of Japanese graphics Ikko Tanaka (1930-2002), the first art director of Muji and author of many extraordinary graphic artworks.

Tanaka, who was able to bring Japanese aesthetic tradition into modern graphics, is mostly known because of his figurative posters made of flat-coloured shapes.
ikko tanaka nihon buyo
Nihon Buyo
Poster, 100×70 cm
Designed by Ikko Tanaka in 1981.

1981 © Ikko Tanaka
ikko tanaka nihon buyo
The modular layout made of 12 squares with the second row from the top split in two halves.

2014 © Nicola-Matteo Munari
The hidden geometry

Although in the public perception Tanaka is mostly associated with colours and figures, geometry is also a constant feature of his work that has an essential importance.

The tribute poster, therefore, emphasises this overlooked feature by bringing to light the structure of one of his most beautiful posters, Nihon Buyo (1981).

Originally designed to promote a theatre play organised by UCLA Asian Performing Arts Institute of Los Angeles, the poster is now part of the collection of New York’s MoMA, Victoria & Albert Museum of London, and the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.
danza nihon buyo
Ph. © Tokyo Bling
nihon buyo schizzo
Preliminary sketch of the poster, revealing its geometric structure.

2014 © Nicola-Matteo Munari
 The poster suggests the idea of Japanese dance — nihon buyo — in
an essential way, which is made of pure graphic poetry.
 The poster suggests the idea of Japanese dance — nihon buyo — in an essential way, which is made of pure graphic poetry.
The modular structure

By removing all the figures and colours from the original poster, the basic geometric structure that lied behind clearly revealed itself.

The linear grid that emerged is evocative of the modularity which is typical to the Japanese tradition in both horizontal surfaces (tatami, the straw flooring) and vertical surfaces (shoji, the paper doors).
nihon buyo manifesto
Ph. © Nicola-Matteo Munari
A graphic dance

Even if transformed, the tribute poster shares the same essence of Tanaka’s original poster and both enhances his sensibility and rigorous design rationality.

Through geometry and typographic composition, the poster essentially suggests the theme of Japanese dance (nihon buyo), that here founds an original interpretation through the poetics of the graphics expression.

Client
Museum für Gestaltung,
Zurich

Design
Nicola-Matteo Munari

Year
2014