Gurafiku is destined to become your next favorite bookmark. This is why!
Some days are better than others. Some do have a special Japanese vibe to them. This is exactly what happened when on a Sunday morning we stumbled upon Gurafiku. Created by Ryan Hageman, graphic designer at the Art Institute of Chicago, it is literally a typographic treasure. A highly curated collection of Japanese graphic design, one stunning source for inspiration and a very personal research project of his, dedicated to collecting examples of Japanese graphic design history including posters, prints, book covers, advertisements and flyers spanning the 1800s to today. Through Gurafiku (Japanese for “graphic”), Hageman’s communicative investigation “at the intersections of language and culture”, he aims to remove the linguistic barriers that keep international audiences from a rich vein of visual culture.
It all started during his days at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD). Initially interested in modernist graphic design and the Bauhaus theorists, Hageman eventually came across the works of Yusaku Kamakura and Ikko Tanaka. These Japanese designers (prominent in the 50s and 60s) inspired and impressed him. In an interview with Jessica Barrett Sattell for F Newsmagazine, he states “I found what they were doing to be warm, colorful, and playful. I wanted to learn more about those two, and then I started to find other Japanese designers”. “I was impressed with their dynamic compositions, as well as the look of the Japanese letterform and the way it was used”.
Gurafiku is his way to collect and share the work he admires. Spending a semester at Sozosha College of Design in Osaka back in 2010 helped him to delve even more into what has become a passion of his. A blogger by nature (“Whenever I’m interested in something, I’ll make a blog about it” he explains), this Chicago native created a way to study Japanese language and culture through a design perspective. “(Gurafiku) is an excuse for me to learn more Japanese. The more language I learn, the more design I can find and it becomes easier to identify designers and all of the characteristics of these works” he comments.
“When thinking about the aesthetic characteristics of Japanese graphic design, it’s difficult to select a specific set of attributes that define it as a whole” he told to The Doq’s Tomoko Miyake. “If anything, Japanese design is defined by its sheer diversity and the variety of styles and approaches it encompasses. Although, what makes it unique in comparison to the design of Europe, the United States, and elsewhere, is its use of non-roman characters. The Japanese written language has its own unique rhythm and designers work with the characters to stunning effect”.