Tokyo, the host city for the 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics, unveiled its logos for the games recently. Designed by Tokyo-based Kenjiro Sano, founder of Mr. Design Inc., the logos are not merely pleasing graphics; according to the Olympics press release, they were intended to convey a deeper meaning. The Olympic mark has a large black and gold “T”, which we are told represent “Tokyo, Tomorrow and Team.” The red circle, which looks like the red sun on the Japanese national flag, is described instead as a symbol of “inclusiveness and the power of a beating heart.” The same graphic elements are used for the Paralympic games, but the gold and silver shapes are placed within parallel bars to form the universal symbol of equality. The “beating red heart” is placed within one of the bars. The meaning attributed to the graphic elements is poetic, but not immediately apparent to anyone seeing the logos for the first time. The fact that the symbolism has to be explained to be understood makes it seem contrived by a public relations committee, trying to read more into a nice-looking logo than is actually there. That’s totally unnecessary. The logos are graphically compelling on their own.
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Editor’s excuse: Let me be frank; mistakes were made. In my defense I think that the misunderstanding proves my main point — i.e., this Pizza Hut ad campaign is very much aimed at consumers in Japan. However, according to my Japanese authority whose credentials are that she grew up in Tokyo and is Japanese, the concept is based on a well-known Japanese idiom, “I’m so busy there are not enough hours in a day. I’d even ask a cat to lend me a hand.” Neko no te mo karetai. Of course, cats are notorious for not doing your bidding. You know the American saying: “Dogs have owners; cats have staff.” Another translation error is that “Pizza Boss” Tencho was born on a riverbank, not under a bridge, and he wasn’t adopted by a poor loving family, but is now part of a poor but loving family. My authority also advised me that as a rule, advertising marketing messages in Japan are less direct than in the U.S., and the Pizza Cat-o commercials are very well conceived, very funny, and everyone in Japan gets it. Below is the post as I first wrote it:
“Aim global, market local” is probably this Japanese Pizza Hut campaign’s takeaway lesson to ad creatives everywhere. Those of us outside of Japan find that not only is the text in a foreign language, so is the humor. Cats dressed in Pizza Hut uniforms are cute, but the link to pizza is baffling. The cats in the commercials were not given people-like traits nor were their movements animated with motion graphics. They just did catlike things, and mostly seemed bored and oblivious to being in a pizza kitchen.
In some ways, these fanciful bus stop shelters in Krumbach, a tiny village in Austria’s Bregenzerwald (hunchbacked world) region, look like an architect’s idea of three-dimensional doodling, but they have managed to make the town a tourist attraction by boasting the world’s most unusual bus stops. Krumbach, which has a population of about 1,000 people spread across acres of scenic farmland, recently formed an association to promote itself as a cultural destination. To foster an international exchange of ideas, it unabashedly invited seven world-renowned architects from Japan, China, Norway, Spain, Belgium, Chile and Russia to each design one bus stop in the village.
“The aim of this project is to link design achievements of international architecture with the know-how and skills of local handcraft-based businesses in Bregenzerwald,” one organizer explained. “This is made possible by involving regional architects as a kind of mediator between foreign creative work and the abilities of our craftspeople.” Although the selected architects were used to being commissioned to design mega-million dollar buildings with doors and windows, they accepted the humble assignment. In lieu of money, the architects were offered a free holiday in Krumbach’s 11th century castle-turned-hotel. The bus shelters were unveiled to the public last May. Without doubt, they put Krumbach on the cultural map. Finding Krumbach’s newest art installations is easy; just hop a bus and get off at the stop.
The massive earthquake and tsunami that struck northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011, made funerals an all too frequent occurrence, draping the country in the black and white colors of grief. The Nishinihon Tenrei Funeral Parlor in Japan sought to soften the somber mood and turned to I&S/BBDO in Tokyo for a respectful advertisement that would remind people of the beauty of life. The agency created a full-size human skeleton out of pressed flowers and reprinted it as a poster with the message “Life Is Endless”. The poster was unveiled at a funeral trade show.
This skit from “Burnistoun,” the comedy sketch show broadcast by BBC Scotland, reminds me of all the devices that, at first, seem like marvelous inventions, but still need work. An example is a recent exchange with that annoying automated iPhone twit, Siri. She keeps calling me “Del-fiend-E,” even though I’ve corrected her multiple times. Last week I asked Siri for the cross street of Gump’s, San Francisco’s venerable luxury home décor and jewelry store. Everybody in the Bay Area knows the 150-year-old Gump’s — except Siri. She said, “There are three dumps in San Francisco, which one do you want?” I enunciated more slowly, spelling out G-u-m-p-’s. She ignored me and started telling me the addresses of the local dumps. I finally asked a passerby for directions.
Argentine architect Andrea Stinga and Colombian graphic designer Federico Gonzalez put together this animated video of globally renowned architects and their most notable work. The minute-and-a-half long video manages to squeeze in a lot of information, including architects and landmarks from around the world. Still, art director Gonzalez apologizes that some legends had to be left out because they only needed one architect per letter of the alphabet. Stinga is a principal in Ombu Architecture, based in Barcelona, Spain. The music soundtrack is “The Butterfly” by Eugene C. Rose and George Ruble.
Some of you know that seven years ago I wrote a book called “The Art of Gaman: Arts and Crafts from the Japanese American Internment Camps, 1942-1946,” published by Ten Speed Press/Random House. As usual, it was designed by Kit Hinrichs (Kit’s origami flag assemblage below) and photographed by Terry Heffernan. After more than 30 years as a corporate writer, I suddenly found myself propelled in another direction and immersed in a subject that I largely avoided my entire life. Although I had no thought that it would make a good art exhibition, I began receiving requests from museums across the U.S. and the array of objects made from scrap and found materials by people imprisoned in the camps were exhibited in some of the nation’s most prestigious institutions, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery in Washington D.C. and the International Folk Art Museum of Santa Fe. Today it opens at the University Art Museum (Geidai) in Tokyo to kick off a one-year tour of Japanese cities. If you are in Japan, I hope you’ll take the time to see it. I’ll be back in my San Francisco office next week with more new posts. — Delphine
The opening of a new location in Osaka, Japan, was occasion for luxury retailer Louis Vuitton to ask Italian design studio Happycentro to produce an appropriately elegant invitation card.The result was a printing and folding tour de force involving offset printing, transparent, silver mat, pearl and rainbow foils, dry embossing, silkscreen and die-cuts. As if that wasn’t complicated enough, the square sheet was precisely folded by hand origami-style 34 ways. One has to believe that the designer Federico Galvani has a fiendishly clever mind to devise something that tested the skills of printers and origami artists alike, but the team pulled it off and the result is lovely and unique.
With London-based Israeli illustrator Noma Bar, viewers have to look at his work at least twice — once to see the image in the positive space and again to see how the shape of the negative space creates a whole other picture. That’s the way Bar likes it. “Most of my images are not immediately obvious to readers. Most of them require a second reading or take a minute to interpret.” Irresistibly drawn to making viewers do double-takes, Bar extended this approach in another direction on the cover of Wallpaper* magazine, painting in 3-D and incorporating real objects.
Bar was commissioned by Wallpaper* , an international authority on cutting-edge design and style, to create eight newsstand covers for its Global Design issue, one for each of the world’s top design territories –Germany, the U.S., France, Italy, Spain, Japan, Belgium and Scandinavia (Norway, Sweden and Denmark). Tony Chambers, Wallpaper* editor-in-chief, says, “Bar entered a new dimension just for us. His cover designs are, in fact, room sets, painted in a three-dimensional studio space and integrating actual products from each of the territories.”
What better way to showcase the newly released Eames Century Modern font collection than to print each letterform on a Mid-Century Modern LTR (Low Table Rod) table designed by Charles Eames? A collaboration between type designer House Industries and Herman Miller Japan, the Eames alphabet table is a limited edition series of 80 tables adorned with A to Z letters, numbers and ornaments from the Eames Century Modern font. House hand-printed each tabletop at its Grand Rapids, Michigan, factory and then returned the tops to Herman Miller for attachment onto the metal rod base and packaging in a special House-designed wooden crate. House owner Andy Cruz says, “As with most House Industries projects, I tried my best to make the packaging for this limited edition something you wouldn’t throw away once the table was removed. Who doesn’t like a printed wooden crate that can do double duty as a storage container?” Good point.
Now for the bad news. The custom Eames LTR tables are probably sold out by now, since only 80 tables were made in total. Forty were offered at the Herman Miller Reach Exhibition in Hong Kong in September and the other 40 at the HM Tokyo Showroom in October. If there are any leftover crates, I’d be willing to settle for one of them.
This Japanese television commercial for Wacoal LaLan bras is a fascinating departure from the usual approach to selling intimate apparel in Western cultures. No sultry bedroom eyes, no come-hither looks, no languorous poses. Victoria’s Secret models they are not. The contrast is stark between the lingerie ads in the U.S. that imply that the right underwear will make you sexy and desirable, and this Japanese ad featuring young women doing a surreal and zany dance. What’s even more interesting is that Wacoal, a company headquartered in Kyoto, Japan, employs the sexy underwear strategy in ads that it runs in many other countries.
It was bound to happen. Publisher Shogakukan in Japan has just issued the second of two manga Twitter comic books, explaining the benefits of social media. Drawn by cartoonist Yoko Gendai, the first Twitter manga called “Mitaka no Chushin de Nau wo Tsubuyaku” – or “I Tweeted Now at Mitaka” – depicts in manga cartoons the artist’s experience in registering with Twitter and mastering Twitter protocol. The second manga Twitter book, released September 25, called “Koma de Tanoshimu Tonari no Twitter” – or “Twitter – Joy of Twitter in 4-Frame Cartoon” – is drawn by Ajiko Kojima and relates amusing incidents that Twitter users face regularly. These two manga Twitter books follow on the heels of a Twitter novel called “Twitter Shousetsu – 140 ji no Monogatan” – or “Twitter Novels – 140 Letters Stories,” published by Discover Twenty-One. It features very very short 140 letter stories by ten established Japanese authors. One reviewer pointed out, however, that Japanese characters can convey roughly double the information possible in equivalent 140 English letters, so maybe that isn’t as impressive as composing a Twitter novel in English. Then again, the Japanese invented the 17-syllable haiku and the 35-syllable tanka poetic forms, so literary brevity is an inherent part of the culture.
The e-mook has become all the rage in Japan. An enhanced version of a mook (cross between a magazine and a book), the e-mook, published by Takarajimasha, expands the hybrid concept a step further by including a premium gift inserted in a box attached to every mook. Typically focused on a single trendy fashion label, e-mooks are brand specific, containing articles about the designer, manufacturing process, celebrity customers and a catalog of the latest collection.