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Anatomy of Design by Mirko Ilic, Steven Heller

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32
ANATOMY OF DESIGN
Psychedelic design was one of the first indigenous American graphic design
mannerisms. Born of LSD and marijuana drug crazes in the late 1960s, it was
the language of the alternative rock-and-roll scene. It was also a code
designed to appeal initially to those exponents of the youth culture, but it
quickly spread like a virus into the mainstream of popular culture, where it
lost much of its contraband aura.
Tadanori Yokoo, one of Japan’s leading designers, was smitten by
psychedelia’s vibrating colors, free-form images, and quirky perspectives and
introduced Japan to his own brand of psychedelic style. In turn, he influenced
the postmodern sensibility in America with his blends of controlled anarchy,
brilliant palette, neo-surrealist compositions, and graphic wit. Being immersed in
the chromatic woodcuts and linear virtuosity of Utamaro, Toyohara, Utagawa,
and Hokusai further contributed to Yokoo’s distinctiveness. But he also owes
much to the eclecticism of Push Pin Studios, which itself took influential cues
from Japanese woodcuts and then influenced leading psychedelic designers.
Yokoo’s diverse appropriations of cultural imagery are not typically Japanese, so
in that sense he has made his own niche.
But back to psychedelics. By the 1970s the psychedelic style had been
completely co-opted and, therefore, was on the wane in America, yet Yokoo so
deftly and seamlessly incorporated certain of its underlying traits into his own
personal style that it never went out of fashion in his hands. Despite his
frequent recycling of graphic tropes and conceits, his work has always
expressed his artistic integrity. So as late as 1997, when he designed this
poster for the luminescent violinist, American-born Andre Kohji Taylor, Yokoo
drew on psychedelic color combinations, Indian mandalas, and kaleidoscopic
optical effects to create an image both timely and unmistakably his own. The
poster is both advertisement for Kohji Taylor and timeless art.
Yokoo’s design is the design of illusion and delusion. He roots much of
his work, and this poster in particular, on deceiving the eye while embedding
memorable images on the conscious and subconscious. Here the deception
relates to optical illusions practiced by many contemporaries and ancestors. He
draws on M. C. Escher’s blinkered perspectives as much as on Milton Glaser’s
playful eye/mind exercises. Yokoo’s visual games are spellbinding, and by
placing a demonic-looking Kohji Taylor with hypnotic eyes as the bull’s-eye of
the composition, he hopes to mesmerize his viewer just as the violinist
controls his audience.
Similarly, the kaleidoscopic sensibility is used to great effect by framing
Kohji Taylor while giving the viewer considerably more visual information
designed to allure. In general, kaleidoscopic images are hard to ignore. The
perfectly symmetrical repetitions and circular rhythms have a curiously soothing
emotional and visceral effect on the senses. With this poster, the repetitive
violins framing Kohji Taylor trigger a smile in the eye.
Most of Yokoo’s work is based on the conventions of collage, the
controlled (yet often surprising) juxtaposition of disparate and discordant
pictorial elements creating new and unexpected images. Yokoo has long
perpetuated those collage experiments initiated by cubists, Dadaists, surrealists,
and Pop artists who reconstructed new reality as well as peeled away layers
of visual matter to create new surreality. This poster exemplifies Yokoo’s
mastery of combining fantasy and reality into a single, unique expressive work.
Andrew Kohji Taylor
Designer: Tadanori Yokoo
1997 Andrew Kohji Taylor poster
ad,d: Tadanori Yokoo s: Studio Magic c: Wea International
Poster done in a psychedelic manner for a young violinist.
Central gravity
Mandala spirals
Collage
1960 Liquid Carbonic—Medical Gases
poster
d:Eric Nitsche
c:General Dynamics
1966 #12 Captain Midnight poster
d:Peter Max
BC Ancient Greek Mosaic
National Archeological Museum fo Athens.
late 14th C Raktayamari Mandala
This is a tangka: a painting on cloth that
could be rolled up and transported. It aided
in picturing every detail of Raktayamari's
realm in the most effective way during
meditation. Most likely from the Tsang region
of Tibet.
1938 Untitled collage
a:Karel Teige, Prague
1956 Just What Is It That Makes Today's
Homes So Different, So Appealing? collage
a:Richard Hamilton
1919 Da-Dandy photomontage
d:Hannah Hoch
1934 ”Dr Goebbels, the Faith Healer” 60
Million Fall in to Chant!
magazine cover
a:John Hartfield
Cover for AIZ 13, No. 20, 17 May 1934.
1923 ABCD collage
d:Raoul Hausmann
1939 Fortune magazine cover
d:Antonio Petruccelli
1954 Jonah Jones album cover
d,i:Burt Goldblatt c:Bethlehem Records
1969 Unicef poster
d:Jukka Veistola
1965 Gostomski-Hasior, Galeria
Wspolczesna
gallery poster
d:Roman Cieslewicz
BC Medusa's Head mosaic
Roman mosaic from Tunisia
.
Courtesy of Sousse Museum, Tunisia.
16 C Kalender calendar
d:Jacob Kobel, Oppenheim
Calendar created in circle partly to associate
with the heliocentric model of the solar
system and the heavens.

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