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Friday, Nov. 12, 2010


Designer retrospective tracks the zeitgeist

Staff writer

The best thing about graphic design is how closely it traces the mood of the day. If Japan over the last decade has been characterized by wishy-washy men who don't eat meat and a kind of wobbly-legged indecisiveness in response to the rise of China, then the graphic designer who has best catered to — and, inevitably, encouraged — that mindset is 45-year-old Kazunari Hattori.

News photo
Taku Kuno

For a print advertisement for a low-fat mayonnaise, he threw a cake up in the air and photographed it, slightly blurry in flight, against a wide blue sky. For the cover of a French-Japanese dictionary he forwent the usual authoritarianism of a heavy serif font, replacing it instead with a fine black text so wispy that the "s" in "Francais" is almost straight.

But, there's one thing that can be said for all this airiness: It feels great. Clean, liberating and delightfully artistic, Hattori's designs for advertisements give us airborne cakes where in the 1990s we would have been shown a plain old salad coupled with some thick-set catch-copy.

Hattori is now the subject of a retrospective at Tokyo's Ginza Graphic Gallery. If you'd like to get a feel for the times, this is a guaranteed shortcut.

"Kazunari Hattori: November 2010" continues at Ginza Graphic Gallery until Nov. 27. For details, visit www.dnp.co.jp/foundation

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