Academic conferences are important, because they bring together a lot of smart people to talk about intriguing ideas or pressing issues which face the world today. Unfortunately, they can also be poorly publicized and, frankly, boring, so most of the people whom the answers would help don’t really know the discussion has even taken place. Recognizing this problem, Shinko Kagaya brought us on board to provide a cohesive narrative and compelling visual branding for a series of talks she hoped to host on modernization in Japan, and the effect it has on the country’s place in the world. We came up with a title and image for the event as a whole, and also created some text to accompany images which related to individual talks. The end result struck that perfect, successful balance between clean, provocative, and informative.
How do you encapsulate modern Japan? Its multifaceted cultural heritage incorporates the relics of imperialism, the reality redefining awareness of Zen, and the pop charm of anime consumerism. This cover art reflects all of that, packaging it in the tidy, alluring, slightly quirky gestalt which we in the West have taken to be a given whenever we confront our neighbors to the East.
Silence: Scorsese shot. Silence: monastic vow. The silence of a swamp, personified and activated against us. Gritty shadows and shifty underpasses encourage – or, rather, discourage – us to see parallels of hostility in the face of our own culture. At the same time, the gangland motif serves to denigrate the Japanese rulers, who were no more than thugs. We may lament the decline of Tokugawa ideals, but can just as easily wonder where older noble Christian aspirations can be found in the mean streets of urban sprawl.
The creepy face, the face which stares forever. This is Asahara of Aum Shinrikyo. He is under and above the ground. He shakes up the earth, and even the sky warps in his wake. But he is simple, built up from bold lines and primary colors. Other people, people from the rest of the world, are content to watch him. Everybody talks, nobody notices before the media. This is also the face of the cult members, tipped over and resigned, but still rooted in his image.