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?
Foreword: The Japanese Sempai (or Elder) Tradition
Graphis #356, 2018
Japanese society, grounded in the feudal system, makes much of hierarchy. But beginning with Yusaku Kamekura in the mid-20th century, designers themselves created their field, refusing government support (control) and liberating modern, post-WWII design and its creativity from the nations rigid mega-hierarchy. In 1960, Kazumasa Nagai, then 31, joined Kamekura in founding Nippon Design Center, uniquely facilitating corporation-designer collaboration, effectively declaring independence. Nagai went on to direct NDC until 2001. In his words, all design work must “profoundly link to an expression of the designer’s total personality.” lModern design culture in Japan is founded on this ethos. SO aside from adhering to chronological hierarchy--in which the late Kamekura is the grandfather of design and Nagai the reigning father--designers today revere Nagai for steadfastly and unapologetically imbuing all his work, corporate and otherwise, with his individuality.
“I love design. I love my workplace and I am very lucky to have these great mentors and friends. I think these are my greatest professional achievements.” --Kazumasa Nagai, Master Graphic Designer