Monday, 26 April 2010

Using ALL the design space

So you believe Japanese design is subtle, quiet, clean? Think anything from subtle colour shifts in kimono design, to shoji paper windows and tatami floors, to classic scroll-painting with large "empty" spaces or Tanizaki's essay In Praise of Shadows etc. Think again: think most commercial television, those photos of Tokyo or otaku rooms, of course… or the ads in the subways for Shukan Bunshun. Here's one from this week:

(I guess there's a crossover somewhere between the "classic" and the crowded. More on that in future posts…)

I presume the idea behind Shukan Bunshun advertising is a) telling someone as much about what's inside as possible is the best way to get a sale, and b) giving someone on a long train commute into the city something to idly read will also more likely get a sale. It seemingly works: the weekly – a tabloid news, politics, entertainment and gossip magazine – is a big seller.

But is this one of the most unenviable jobs in layout there is? There's quite some work – and both copywriting and design skill – in getting it to hold together. It's a pity it's not used as an intro to the articles on the magazine's website where, in fact, the layout reverts to normal style – and indeed is pretty "quiet" for Japanese web layout. (You can, however, click to see advertising posters for each current issue.)

By the way, it's not a design restricted to Shukan Bunshun, but a favoured design of the weekly tabloid news mags. Below are the Shukan Post, Shukan Shincho, and Shukan Asahi ads all for the same, current, week. (And below them, a layout I did a couple of years back for the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan in-house magazine of an interview with the editor of Shukan Shincho in which I made the illustration using the editor's photo in the style of the tabloid Shincho's layout. And here is the interview text.)

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