Design is the craft of persuasion through visual means. All designers--whether graphic, fashion, theater sets or lighting, designers of commercials or publications or books--are trying to persuade an audience to think or act. But who are the designers, and what makes them think and act? It delights me to delineate the designer through his life and his work, and introduce him to the reader in his entirety.

Japanese Design

12 Japanese Masters


Mitsuo Katsui

Channeling Ikizama
Graphis #336, Nov/Dec 2001

Every designer relates to the tools of his trade, but Katsui pursues, studies and applies them until he achieves a "genuine dialogue" with each one. He is a master of all mediums and a pioneer in computer graphics, harnessing the capacity of technology to reveal the power of life.

Ken Miki

Bringing Depth to Design

Graphis #335, Sept/Oct 2001

Japan has nearly every amenity that technology can provide. Yet most people feel curiously empty and robbed of direct experience. How can a designer reach people, and make them feel whole again? With thoughtful, literal and often tactile work, Ken Miki leads them back to earth.

Kazumasa Nagai


Graphis #325, Jan/Feb 2000

For 40 years the Japanese graphic master has harnessed a ferocious inner tension that's created a mysterious body of work many find difficult to categorize. Design or fine art? Both or neither?

Yusaku Kamekura


Graphis #312, Nov/Dec 1997

Kemekura founded the first active society of graphic designers and the first agency linking designers and their corporate clients. He introduced Japanese designers to the world. And while there was no official design consortium, there was surely an unofficial one leader.

Hajime Tachibana

Putting Typography on Tour

Graphis #305, Sept/Oct 1996

Hajime Tachibana is pretty sober for a 1990s media idol. And maybe that¹s as it should be. In his pristine three-story studio/shelter, he seems serious about everything: typography, computers, the Net, and the individual's place in the digital onslaught. He recently finished APPLICATION TOUR, his CD-ROM-as interactive-art, and he was overdue for a rest.

Takaaki Bando

Western Principles Prompt Critical View

Graphis #294 Nov/Dec 1994

Takaaki Bando admits that his work, although based on the concept of universalism, is "a kind of terrorist graphic design. But if even a small message comes across, then I've succeeded. I want it to be said that this, too, is design."

Issey Miyake

The Ordinary That Surprises

Graphis #280 Jul/Aug 1992

Since 1971 he has presented his own collections around the world. This makes him a professional fashion designer, but what he has done outside therealm of fashion makes him a designer in a broader sense of the word. Most people call Issey Miyake an artist, and some call him a genius. I've met him and I would avoid labels altogether, especially those that connote uniqueness. More than anything else, he wants to be perceived as ordinary.

Takenobu Igarashi

Something to Declare

Graphis #277 Jan/Feb 1992

"For the past twenty years, I've done whatever roused my curiosity: alphabet sculptures, architectural graphics, environmental graphics, product design...Finally, bit by bit, I've started to realize what I really want to do. Maybe I¹m a little slow." Igarashi believes it is time business and design made close friends and advisors of one another, and the consumer was given a chance to experience good design daily. Since 1988, Igarashi has spent half of his time "designing and making things that...have an actual function: elements for our environment that represent good design."

Kenya Hara

Praise the Gap

Graphis #340 Jul/Aug 2002

Representing a new generation of designers in Japan, Kenya Hara pays tribute to his mentors, using long overlooked Japanese icons and images in much of his work, while helping his colleagues rediscover their imaginations.

Portrait by Tamotsu Fujii

Akio Okumura

All of Life in a Box

Graphis # 337 Jan/Feb 2002

Since WWII, the Japanese have had a passion for package design, often for the sake of design alone. Today, in a sinking economy, retailers have tried to teach designers how to attract consumers. But Akio Okumura, principal at Osaka's Packaging Create, remains wiser than the wisest of marketers. He constantly educates himself people who make it go round with their money.

Calligraphy (Life in a box) by Karun Malhotra

The Tokyo ADC

The Tokyo ADC and the Decline of Pure Design

Graphis #324 Nov/Dec 1999

The time a campaign is given to prove itself has shrunk from a leisurely two years to three months. This unforgiving attention to the bottom line, driven by Japan's worst recession since the end of World War II, is decidedly not what graphic designers have grown up with. The freedom they were allowed in the past both inspired creativity and rewarded star designers with a position of privilege that will never exist again.

Ikko Tanaka

Once in a Lifetime

Graphis #321 May/June 1999

One of the founding fathers of Japanese design, he has spent a lifetime using traditional customs and rituals to produce startling contemporary images.

Shigeo Fukuda

The Solitary Prankster

Graphis #317 Sept/Oct 1998

He is an intellectual schemer, a psychological trickster. A seat that doesn¹t stand up, a coffee cup with a handle on the inside, a two-headed screw, three-bladed scissors let people rest with their mistaken visual assumptions, Fukuda has made a place for himself in the design scene on which no one seems especially inclined to infringe.

Tadanori Yokoo

Mother Nature's Son

Graphis #315 May/June 1998

When I met with him in his huge, hangar-like Tokyo Studio last fall, I asked him how he not only confronted, but accepted all of the fantastic experiences and chances that he had been granted throughout his career, some of which might have stunned a lesser man into inactivity. His explanation was free of egoism: "I'm afraid of participating, but just as afraid of running away. In the end, I give in." More...

Koichi Sato

Mr. Sandman

Graphis #313 Jan/Feb 1998

Although Koichi Sato came of age as a designer just as the airbrush was meeting the California style, and is identified with gradation, stylization, and extraterrestrial motifs elusive. Nor is it facetious, or light, though it is filled with light.

Hideya Kawakita

The Power of the Bottle

Graphis #311 Sept/Oct 1997

Huge billboards appear each months in train stations. They show Ferris wheels and wheat fields and flowers and trees and amid the quaint, unspoiled splendor imagine weary Japanese commuters, pressed chest to chest, peering out at a bewildering array of ads, searching for that familiar bottle, dreaming perhaps of a simpler time.


Renowned designer Takenobu Igarashi asked me to write the story of his work with some of Japan's oldest local industrial workshops in 1990. I was interviewing him for a Graphis profile, and felt I ought to decline, since I was pregnant with my first child. Months later, when I was in the US, just a short while after giving birth to Hannah Jane, he called me and asked me once again if I would travel around Japan meeting and interviewing the CEOs of small but hopeful companies whose traditional markets-for lacquerware, cast iron, stainless steel and ceramics--had dried up in Japan's continuing Westernization. And so Hannah and I discovered the countryside of Japan, and the great time-warp between it and the cities. More...

International Design


More Than Satisfied

Graphis #331 Jan/Feb 2001

Breathe in, breathe out. In French, inspiration means inhaling, and Gwenael Nicolas, the head of Curiosity firm themselves are not what inspire him. What makes him draw breath are outrageously successful individuals. Nicolas has not yet proven whether his regimen of inhaling the essence of success and exhaling a slew of diverse designs can, in practice, produce a consistently successful designer, but he has shown himself to be an agile and nimble student. As the leader of Curiosity, he has already mastered the basics of his design course: casting, marketing and pragmatism, and this in itself is quite an accomplishment.

Image: Packages for Issey Miyake (1998)

Art Director and Designer: Gwenael Nicolas;

Client: Issey Miyake.

Lanny & Kristin Sommese

Sommese's Recipe for Design

Graphis #332 March/April 2001

As leading graphic design professors at Penn State University, Lanny and Kristin Sommese teach their students how to succeed by first divining the fundamentals. For example: Design is not a noun, but a verb. Design is not inspired by other design. Good designers have an idea of how they'll solve a client's problem by the time they leave the first meeting. "If you listen to us, and your asses off, I can ...guarantee you're going to be very good."

Portrait by Marc Hessel

Liu Kai

Coming Soon...


New Life Fest

Coming Soon...

Ahn Sang-Soo

Going Home

Graphis #327 May/June 2000

As a leader in his nation¹s typography and graphic design, Ahn is showing his students and the world how the fonts he creates in Korean are about more than just improving readability: They¹re about real cultural power.

Hangul typefaces are difficult to set; There are 11,172 possible combinations, each nearly original, composed according to a basic rule, but refined by arbitrary aesthetics. Through his typography, Ahn is opening the eyes of the non-designing public to the inherent possibilities in their language: By his estimate, he¹s influenced five to ten percent of the Korean typography published today.

Image: Module of Ahn-Che

Designer: Ahn Sang-Soo


Functionally Sublime

Metropolis February 2003

Traditional handmade washi (Japanese paper) attached to a velvet base with synthetic glue. Or Okinawan banana fiber-coated cottons chemically reprocessed. How about yarn maid of stainless steel wire woven with cotton in a 60:40 ratio? It sounds as if Nuno's "techno-textiles", interweaving art and craft, tradition and technology, might have some shock value or importance as conceptual art, but would hardly be beautiful. And yet they are. More...