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The 66th DNP Graphic Design Archives Collection VI: Katsumi Asaba Poster Archives

June 13, 2015 - September 13, 2015

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Katsumi Asaba (b. 1940) has been one of Japan's foremost art directors and graphic designers ever since he garnered great notice in the 1970s for his corporate advertising posters and commercial work. The serial work he performed for such prominent clients as the Seibu Department Stores ("Delicious Life" advertising campaign) and Suntory (Suntory Old Whisky) played a major role in the development and blossoming of Japan's advertising culture during the 1980s, and it also had a significant influence on the subsequent generation of designers.

Katsumi Asaba has also contributed dramatically to the development of type design in Japan, as demonstrated by his establishment of the Tokyo Typodirectors Club (now, the Tokyo Type Directors Club) in 1987. More recently he is known for his investigations into the relationship between the written word and visual expression through his fieldwork in Asian writing systems, most notably his studies on Dongba script, a pictographic writing system unique to the Naxi minority tribe of China.

Among the vast body of work Katsumi Asaba has created throughout his career, this exhibition will focus on his posters, a core area of his prolific output. On exhibit will be some 140 of his representative productions spanning from his early days as a designer through to the present, plus auxiliary items including the diary he has written over a span of many years. Together these exhibits will provide insight into how "Asaba Design" has developed through the years.


Biographical Notes

Katsumi Asaba was born in Kanagawa Prefecture in 1940. After graduating from Kuwasawa Design School and initially working at the Keinosuke Sato Typography Studio and Light Publicity, he established the Katsumi Asaba Design Studio in 1975. As art director, he has consistently played a leading role in the history of advertising design in Japan. His major clients (and the products he has worked on) to date include Takeda Pharmaceutical (Alinamin A), Suntory, Seibu Department Stores, Nissin Foods (Cup Noodle), Misawa Homes and Kirin Beverage ("Genmai" Japanese tea). In 1987 he established the Tokyo Typodirectors Club (now, Tokyo Type Directors Club). Mr. Asaba has long focused on the diversity of Asia's writing systems and continues to investigate the relationship between their written forms and visual expressions. At his first solo exhibition in 1990, he showed new works incorporating Dongba, a pictographic script used by China's Naxi minority tribe; subsequently his endeavors of this kind have expanded to include such writing systems as Arabic, Devanagari (India) and Thai. In 1995 he performed production design for a film ("Sharaku") for the first time. Mr. Asaba has received numerous awards, including: the Japan Advertising Artists Club Special Prize, Mainichi Design Prize, Japan Advertising Awards Yamana Prize, Japan Academy Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction, Tokyo Art Directors Club Grand Prix, and, from the Japanese Government, a Medal of Honor with Purple Ribbon and the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette. He presently serves as chairman of the Tokyo Type Directors Club, committee member of the Tokyo Art Directors Club, president of the Japan Graphic Designers Association (JAGDA), Japan representative in Alliance Graphique Internationale, and (10th) president of Kuwasawa Design School. He holds a 6th rank (dan) of proficiency in table tennis.