Ikko Tanaka is often fondly cited as the Father of Japanese Graphic Design. Tanaka’s upbringing in the imperial city of Nara, Japan, coupled with an opportunity to begin his career in Osaka, a place of art commerce, gave Tanaka roots of his style in logo design, which has been described as a harmony of Eastern meets Western aesthetic.
“Tanaka’s being stands at the point where the meridian of time and the latitude of East and West cross their ways.” Kazuko Koike
Ikko Tanaka’s designs actively aimed to transcend disparate times, cultures and their challenges through universal aesthetic values. Kazuko Koike points out that Ikko Tanaka brought playfulness, colour and light into the greyness of post war Japan.
The official logo of Osaka University, the Ginkgo leaf logo, was created by Tanaka for Osaka University’s 60th anniversary in 1991. The classic simplicity of the design belies the fact that it can be viewed at several levels. First, the three arcs in its structure come from a combination of three O’s, the first letter of “Osaka.” Additionally, as a university with a long history, these three O’s represent the historical links and concerted efforts, between three groups; the school, the students, and the citizens of Osaka.
Finally, the motif of a ginkgo tree leaf can be traced back to the roots of the Faculty of Medicine, to Osaka Temporary Hospital and Osaka Medical School, the latter which also used the ginkgo leaf in its flag.
Establishing the Tokyo-based Ikko Tanaka Design Studio in 1963, Tanaka created and contributed logos to various national projects such as the Tokyo Olympics in 1964. In 1975 he designed the symbols for Expo 1985 in Tsukuba and World City Expo Tokyo 1996. He worked for such illustrious clients as the Selbu Saison Group, The International Garden and Greenery Exposition, Hanae Mori, Issey Miyake, and the Mazda Corporation.