Shigeo Fukuda Master of Illusion

I believe that in design, 30 percent dignity, 20 percent beauty and 50 percent absurdity are necessary Shigeo Fukuda

Fukuda was born in 1932 in Tokyo, Japan to a family primarily employed as toy makers. Early in his adulthood he had an interest in the principles of Swiss design and starting in 1956 he attended the Tokyo University of Fine Arts and Music. The first Japanese designer to be inducted into the New York Art Directors Club Hall of Fame, his work is recognizable for its simplicity and use of visual illusions.

One of his most famous works is entitled Victory 1945 and it won him a grand prize at the Warsaw Poster Contest in 1975, a competition whose proceeds helped fun the Peace Fund Movement. Much of his work was designed to make a social impact rather than a commercial one and he was a strong advocate for pacifism and environmentalism.

His work is highly inspired by a pioneer in modem Japanese graphic design, Takashi Kohno. Kohno was assumed first Japanese designer possessing a curious personality, a combination of objectivity and creativity. The posters he designed heralded a new era of visual expressionism. Although controversial in nature, Kohno’s work was always highly regarded for its visually inspiring quality. He was the precursor to Fukuda’s own imprint on communication design.

Fukuda’s inspiring work dramatically collapses all cultural and linguistic barriers with his universally recognizable style. He firmly believed in sense of high moral responsibility as a graphic designer and the worldly causes his work mirrored and embraced is the testament of that.

Long before Noma Bar cut out his first silhouette, Japanese designer Shigeo Fukuda was creating startlingly bare poster designs of logo-like simplicity, often bitingly satirical in their content and always expertly composed. Like Escher before him, Fukuda’s work experiments boldly with perspective, negative space and the visual and geometric interplay between elements on the page, often disorientating the viewer with its constructed depth and irregular visual planes. Unlike Escher however, his creations utilise a minimal, considered line occasionally punctuated with infill.

Fukuda’s trademark style developed from an early interest in Swiss graphic design and its stark contrast to contemporary Japanese work. The limited colour palettes and reductive line work remained at the heart of his work until his death in 2009.

Macao Art Gallery Shigeo Fukuda
Anti War Posters Shigeo Fukuda
Design in History Shigeo Fukuda
New York Times
Macao Art Gallery Shigeo Fukuda Article

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