Yusaku Kamekura

Yusaku Kamekura quickly became one of the leading designers in the post World War Two graphic design scene, and one of the pioneers of Japanese graphic design. Kamekura successfully blends both Western and Eastern design techniques, demonstrated through the rational design principles and traditional Japanese elements in his work. To this day, Kamekura is still one of the biggest names in graphic design, and his works are still among some of the most famous designs in Japanese as well as global history. 

On April 6, 1915, in the Niigata prefecture of Japan, the graphic designer was born. Kamekura’s educational background is one that is especially interesting. After graduating high school, he attended the Institute of New Architecture and Industrial Arts in Tokyo. The institution, run by Renschichiro Kawakita, focused curriculum around constructivist principles and worked to bring Bauhaus design to a country it had never seen before and this is reflected in Kamekura’s works. Growing up in a post-war era of the world, Kamekura faced influence from both Eastern and Western design cultures and is “most known for his use of uncluttered, solid shapes in an elementally sparse plane…” (“Yusaku Kamekura.”). In 1935, after his graduation from the Institute of New Architecture and Industrial Arts, Kamekura landed his first job as an art director at Nippon magazine. He would go on to work for other similar publications before working as a corporate designer for Nikon. At the corporation, Kamekura designed Nikon’s logos, posters, and packaging, and additionally assisted in designing Nikon’s iconic pyramid-shaped viewfinder (“The Secret Story behind the Nikon F .”). When it came to his own artistic identity while designing for corporate clients, Kamekura stated that “No matter how much money I am offered, I will not do work that I am not convinced is right.… I simply cannot get inspiration to do work that does not seem worthwhile and of interest to me…” (“Yusaku Kamekura.”). The designer carried this ideology for the entirety of his life, and in 1962 Kamekura officially became a freelance designer. Kamekura’s fame arguably lies in his iconic freelance work, where he produced his own designs in projects such as “Hiroshima Appeals”, and worked designing for the 1964 Olympics and the Japan EXPO ‘70. 

Aside from his physical work as a graphic designer, Kamekura also paved the way for many other artists in the field of graphic design with his involvement in the graphic design scene. Kamekura participated in establishing the Japan Advertising Artists Club (JAAC) and the Nippon Design Center, as well as served as the president of the Japan Graphic Designers Association (JAGDA). Later in life, the Japanese government awarded the artist with a Medal of Honor with Purple Ribbon amongst other awards including being named a person of cultural merit (“Yusaku Kamekura.”). Kamekura’s impact was not only recognized by the Japanese government, but additionally recognized worldwide, and in 1993 he was inducted into the New York ADC Hall of Fame. Kamekura’s artistic identity is one that blends East and West, modernity and traditionalism, as well as simplicity and chaos. Even after his death in 1997, Yusaku Kamekura remains one of the most prominent figures in graphic design. 

Works Cited

“Graphis.” Graphis Portfolios, www.graphis.com/bio/yusaku-kamekura/.

“The Secret Story behind the Nikon F .” Nikon, www.nikon.com/about/corporate/history/oneminutestory/1959_nikonf/index.htm.

“Yusaku Kamekura.” ADC, adcglobal.org/hall-of-fame/yusaku-kamekura/.