Design by: Tadashi Ohashi

category: > Features, > Graphic Design, > Illustration, < Design By:

written by: Jaap Proost

IT is not uncommon that a graphic designer forms a close relationship with one company. Japanese designer Tadashi Ohashi hooked up with Kikkoman Shoyu, a leading manufacturer of soy sauce. But working for a company in the food industry has its limitations.  Ohashi choose to focus on illustrating ingredients that could use the flavor of soy sauce, like fish, but above all, vegetables. It became his trademark.


Ohashi (1916-1998) worked as freelancer and other companies also used his talents. For instance, from 1952 until 1973 he did work for Meiji bakeries. But he made his name designing for Kikkoman. In 1950 he started to work for the soy manufacturer. Ohashi not only draw illustrations and made the lay out for the advertisements, he also created a complete design policy for Kikkoman. In the sixties Ohashi made his best work for the company. His unique and individual style contributed greatly to the image and success of Kikkoman. The secret of this success lays perhaps in the fact that his style had a Japanese touch, not a common thing in Japanese graphic design during the sixties.

In the first years after WWII Japan was rebuilding itself. The advertising industry suffered because of the war and the economic decline that followed. In the late fifties the lines in the economic diagrams started to rise and so did the advertising industry. A decade later Japan stood second after the USA in spending funds for advertising. Needless to say is that also graphic design benefited from that development. Especially the generation that grown up after the war took an interest in design. But they were heavily influenced by the western world.


‘Young designers are easily influenced’, one of the leading designers Yusaku Kamekura said in 1968 in Graphis Magazine. ‘They are proud to be in what they think is the most fashionable profession today. This, I think, is a symbol of a developing country energetically forging ahead.’ Everybody was in a hurry and a lot of graphic designers could not resist the temptation to copy the work of their colleagues in the West. When pop art was in fashion, Japanese versions at once appeared.


Born in 1916, Kamekura was already in his late forties when graphic design became ‘a fashionable profession’. Because of his long career he had already developed an own style. His work had a Japanese feeling. A critic once noted that his simple, condensed style had a direct connection with tradition of the Japanese family insignia.


Ohashi is best known for the series of advertisements for Kikkoman in which a vegetable is portrayed. The natural forms impressed him. ‘When I draw vegetables or fish, I always place actual models in front of me. Looking at them, I am surprised by the flowing lines of their veins and the mystery of their shining colors. I draw them, although I am moved and realize that it is almost impossible to compete with nature’, Ohashi once stated.










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