“Society’s need for graphic design is expanding. The demands of design are even higher than ever for corporations, municipalities, and the government. High-quality design is very important. If the design is very high quality, it can create a better world.”
Kazumasa Nagai is a multiple-award-winning graphic designer whose works are exhibited in many museums, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo. His style has evolved from abstract formulations to organic ones; animals and plants have become frequent subjects. His vibrant posters often contain symbolic meanings and references to traditions in Japanese art.
Here’s a snippet from Kazumasa Nagai’s interview:
What were some of the most difficult challenges you’ve had to overcome in your long career?
I began using a very abstract composition in my design. After I switched my design philosophy dramatically to use figurative design, I was very worried and anxious, but being acknowledged by (and winning) the Grand Prix in the world poster biennial allowed me to regain my confidence.
What are the most important ingredients you require from a client to do successful work?
After the client briefing, I carefully analyze the facts and meaning of words to completely understand the product and messaging. Until I come up with a solution and the vision becomes completely mine – or, in other words, until the briefing is completely inside me, I will continue to polish my inspiration so I can express it creatively. I think that the first inspiration is the most important.
Where do you seek inspiration?
I come up with ideas while sketching on the table or sometimes while walking.
What do you value most?
I value helping people and society through my design.
What is a philosophical message you would like to offer to young people starting out in design?
Young designers are always making designs by computer. I am fascinated by how we are always developing new digital techniques. You can learn a great amount from computers, but I want young people to reach out to nature and polish their five senses: touch, smell, taste, sight, and hearing. I want them to also occasionally do some sketches.
What would you like your legacy to be?
Society’s need for graphic design is expanding. The demands of design are even higher than ever for corporations, municipalities, and the government. High-quality design is very important. If the design is very high quality, it can create a better world.
What do you feel is your greatest professional achievement?
I am so lucky. I love design. I love my workplace and I am very lucky to have great mentors and friends. I think these are my greatest professional achievements.
Read more of Kazumasa Nagai’s interview and discover other great artists and educators in Graphis Journal #356, which you can purchase online at graphis.com.