The most powerful force in Japanese design.

–Ivan Chermayeff

Japan is starving.

In 1947, after the Japanese surrended in World War II, American forces occupied a defeated and starving Japan. As American troops attempted to reconstruct Japanese society, the Japanese faced mixed emotions. Resentment mingled with hope. Shame mixed with optimism. Bleakness juxtaposed comraderie. Themes of tensions between the East and West would later manifest in the work of Japanese graphic designer Ikko Tanaka, who was 17 years old at the time.

Unbeknownst to him then, Tanaka would later become revered for his ability to marry traditions of his Japanese heritage to principles of European modernist design (“Ikko Tanaka,” Design is History). Along with designers such as Kazumasa Nagai, Mitsuo Katsui, and Shigeo Fukuda, Tanaka would breathe life back into Japanese design from the postwar ruins of the nation.