The Korea Herald


Korea, Japan reconnect through graphic design

A joint exhibition shows transition of graphic design in Korea and Japan over 50 years

By 이우영

Published : Aug. 19, 2015 - 17:50

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Posters, logos, advertisements and infographic images created by Korean and Japanese designers are on view at an exhibition in Seoul that shows the transition of graphic design trends in both countries over the last 50 years.

The exhibition, being held at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art brings together 400 works of graphic design of 112 Korean and Japanese designers, ranging from first-generation graphic designers to emerging young designers.

Viewers can find early design works such as the official posters of the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games and the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games and some later works, including UNIQLO logos and Issey Miyake’s “Pleats Please” poster series. 
Exhibition view of “Graphic Symphonia” at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea (MMCA) Exhibition view of “Graphic Symphonia” at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea (MMCA)

“The exhibition introduces the unique artistic world of graphic design and social and cultural messages they convey,” said Kim Kyung-kyun, design professor at Korea National University of Arts and one of the curators of the exhibition, at a news conference last week in Seoul.

The exhibition, planned by six veteran designers from Korea and Japan -- including Kenya Hara, former art director of MUJI -- is an extensive guide to the past and the present of graphic designs of Korea and Japan.

The original poster for the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games is one of the highlights in the first part of the exhibition that showcases representative works of first-generation graphic designers. The dynamic movements of athletes are captured in then rare color-printed photos. The gold paint used to write the title still radiates the brilliance of the color. 
Poster for 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games (MMCA) Poster for 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games (MMCA)

Olympic Games posters highlight economic prosperity and energy in the 1960s of Japan and in the 1980s of Korea. The official poster for the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games was the first design work created by computer graphics that signaled the onset of contemporary design in the country.
Poster for 1988 Seoul Olympic Games (MMCA) Poster for 1988 Seoul Olympic Games (MMCA)

Titled “Graphic Symphonia,” the exhibition was prepared with hopes of reconnecting cultural ties through design as this year marks the 50th anniversary of the normalization of South Korea-Japan diplomatic relations. Designers from the two countries have created 10 different versions of the exhibition’s official poster.

“Many say that the relations between Korea and Japan are not good. But I think we need to exclude that matter when it comes to culture. I hope the two countries foster and share culture together. Although there is still a political wall between both countries, culture will be a medium that connects people’s hearts,” said Nobuo Nakagaki, at the news conference. 

“Pleats Please” poster by Sato Taku “Pleats Please” poster by Sato Taku
Despite a chill in political relations between Korea and Japan, there have been collaborations and exchanges in the field of design.

Kenya Hara of Musashino Art University and Kim of the KNUA jointly conducted a design project called “Ex-formation Seoul-Tokyo” that explored shapes and characteristics of diverse objects from different perspectives.

The “Ex-formation” program, a unique academic program of the Japanese university that looks into core concepts of objects, invited Korean students to share the program and reinterpret diverse objects surrounding them using the concept of “Ex-information.”

The exhibition runs through Oct. 18 at the Seoul Museum of the MMCA in Samcheong-ro, Seoul. For more information, visit

By Lee Woo-young (