Ikko Tanaka Jan 1,1930 – January 10,2002 Ikko Tanaka, the Japanese graphic designer whose fusion of Japanese tradition and the International Style contributed a modern sensibility to Japanese poster and publication design.
When Mr. Tanaka began working in the late 1950's, contemporary Japanese designers were trying to balance respect for the past with the imperatives of a commercially driven industrial society. Mr. Tanaka succeeded in marrying past and present in graphic compositions that were strong and clean, colorful and playful and unerringly precise. He borrowed the simple shapes and patterns of ancient arts and incorporated them into designs that were definitely of his time and place.
His best-known poster, conceived in 1981 for the dance troupe Nihon Buyo Performance and reused for various purposes, features an abstract version of a geisha. Rather than a classic realistic rendering, Mr. Tanaka created the head and shoulders out of stark geometric forms on a grid: squares and rectangles make up the hair and face. It is typical of Japanese decorative simplicity but surprisingly novel in its reductive angularity. Mr. Tanaka's palette, a vibrant combination of pastels and primaries, was also a synthesis of old and new.
'His work is completely modern yet deeply influenced by Japanese culture,'' said Paul Davis, the poster artist. ''He was a master of the fine art of Japanese calligraphy and an expert with Western typography, which made him unique among his colleagues.''
Tanaka was free to experiment with color and form. Black and white had been the dominant aesthetic: clean, cool, simple, refined. With his bold use of color, Tanaka expanded the possibilities of Japanese graphic design. His ultimate mission was beauty. Tanaka retains a Japanese elegance and simplicity through a strict adherence to basic geometric form. The characteristic of his designs is a blending of deeply rooted Japanese traditions with western modernism to produce contemporary visual expression.Graphic design, by its very nature, demands that its practitioners be prescient. As a driving force of minimalism, Tanaka is a master of rendering the complex simple. He has received both the New York and Tokyo ADC Member's Grand Prize.