Design Feature #60

Naonori Yago on Graphic Design in Japan : It’s in the DNA

Text: TL ling
Translated by: Joel Wong
Image: PMQ

Naonori Yago, the 2023 Japan Graphic Design Association (JAGDA) Newcomer Award winner, has always been fueled by an unwavering passion and dedication to his childhood dream of becoming a designer. His journey started during high school when he immersed himself in a textbook on the history of world design. His early love for drawing and his teacher's support propelled him towards his path as a graphic designer. However, it is uncertain whether primary school students in Hong Kong are introduced to the graphic design profession by their teachers.

Yago believes that Japan's love for printed matter, such as newspapers and magazines, which are full of graphic designs, has contributed to the Japanese people's better appreciation of design, making it a part of their DNA due to the country's long history in design.

Nurturing and inspiring younger designers

Yago is now a father and still vividly remembers the world design history textbook he read in high school. It covered the history of design around the world, such as Bauhaus and different acts related to the Arts, and introduced him to design in different fields, such as architecture and products. This sparked his interest in pursuing a career in design.

Significant contributions have highlighted Yago's journey in the design industry. From his early days at an advertising firm to his current roles as art director and graphic designer at SIX, a renowned Japanese creative agency, his work has left such a legacy. His recent win of the JAGDA Newcomer Award, after a decade of experience, is a milestone in his talent and dedication. Yet, his true joy lies in nurturing and inspiring younger designers, a commitment he upholds.

JAGDA is a prestigious award in the Japanese graphic design industry. Many aspiring designers hope to win this award someday, but it is challenging and discouraging for some young designers. It took him around ten years to win the prize.

“I hope that this award can motivate young designers,” Says Yago. In today's age of the internet, it is possible to gain popularity and recognition by publishing design works on social media platforms like Instagram. “However, industry awards like JAGDA serve as a testament to the historical development of Japanese graphic design and can inspire designers to create innovative works that lead us toward the future,” he continues.

Graphic Design in Japan 2023 (Hong Kong Edition) exhibition is now at PMQ.

Naonori Yago appeared at the exhibition to meet with local designers and visitors.

From kids’ stuff to award-winning design

The PMQ currently hosts the Graphic Design in Japan 2023 (Hong Kong Edition) exhibition, which showcases over 300 works from professional Japanese designers selected for inclusion in the 2023 JAGDA design yearbook, Graphic Design in Japan, featured works include Yago's award-winning pieces, including two large posters he created for the HOPE - The Shape of Hope Make a Wish exhibition in Taiwan back in 2022.

The Bureau of Cultural Affairs of the Kaohsiung City Government jointly organized the exhibition. It invited 27 Taiwanese and Japanese creators to present their unique interpretation of the theme of "hope" through the ongoing global pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine conflict. When asked about his inspiration for the posters, Yago shared that he initially thought of using visual elements such as doves and the sun, which are commonly associated with hope, but decided against it as he felt it would be too cliché.

Yago and his three-year-old daughter often drew and scribbled together for fun, and soon, he realized that his daughter was his hope and future. He decided to scan her drawings, trace what she had drawn, and then use dots to present it. Yago believes that by changing the form of the painting through design, a new value can be created. “As graphic designers, we should be able to bring out new values through our work,” Yago notes.

The poster Yago designed for HOPE—The Shape of Hope Make a Wish. (Image:JAGDA Facebook / JAGDA Instagram

The poster Yago designed for HOPE—The Shape of Hope Make a Wish. (Image:JAGDA Facebook / JAGDA Instagram

The Social Responsibilities Of Designers

He used the same technique to create the poster for HOPE—The Shape of Hope Make a Wish to design his daughter's stories and paintings into his picture book. With this work, he won the JAGDA Newcomer Award. He beamed joyfully when talking about his daughter: "She gave me a lot of inspiration. She wrote the story The Kitten is Coming, but no cat is in the plot! It's exciting. This picture book is my creation, but only ten copies have been printed."

Yago's commitment to social responsibility is evident in his design projects. One such project is the 'casa tree,' an environmentally friendly Christmas tree initiative. Yago sells small trees with roots and unique Christmas ornaments he designed. After the festive season, customers can return the trees to the casa tree team, who will plant them on the farm. This project was born from Yago's disdain for the European Christmas culture that discards trees without roots after the festival. He believes that designers should pass on good social values through their work, which is our social responsibility.

The environmentally friendly casa Christmas tree initiative. (Image: casatree_project Instagram )

A unique Christmas ornament designed by Yago came with the purchase of the casa tree. (Image: casatree_project Instagram )

《Graphic Design in Japan 2023(Hong Kong Edition)》Exhibition

10 April 2024 (Wednesday) – 5 May 2024 (Sunday) (11:00 - 19:00)

PMQ SG03 – SG07, Staunton, G/F

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