Definition of Terms and their Influence of Contemporary Western Design

Japan helped western artists to fully break away from classicism, paving the way for modern innovations. Japanese art was seen as a model of “economy, simplicity and fucntionality”. Later the West started to use these principles in their advertising materials to make them more effective. These principles have become increasingly global in its reach. For instance Japanese contemporary art takes many forms such as: architecture, advertising, video games etc. The Japanese art and design is very urban and offbeat. That is why they have such an immense influence and contribution in design and modern art in general throughout the world. Many of the design work in Japan is sleek, futuristic and very minimal. Also on another level, are many of their designs super cute, childish and wacky. All of these aspects mentioned is clearly noticed in Western contemporary design.

When you look at anime today, it is everywhere and is enjoyed by many. It is not only directed to children but to teens and adults as well. Even the advertisements on television has become more animated. Not only is the audience for anime very wide spread, but for manga as well. Comic books, graphic novels etc. has become a global phenomenon under a large number of people from different ages. People collect them and see them as prized items/collectors items. There are even limited editions of certain titles that people would do anything for. The style of these novels is very simplistic and has an easy to read layout.

When we look at kawaii, there is no doubt that it has influenced the Western design. Look at the toys and games that are manufactured. Everything has this “cute” aspect to them. This style is also seen within advertisments, magazine layouts and especially posters.

Definition and History of ANIME

This is an animation style that originated in Japan. The style is characterized by colorful graphics which depicts vibrant characters in action-filled plots. The themes that are used, often include fantasy or futuristic elements.

Anime began at the start of the 20th century. The animation techniques that were being explored in the West got the Japanese filmmakers interested and they started to explore this style. Astro Boy (1963) was one of the first and popular anime series created by Osamu Tezuka. The Japanese developed this style further and another genre known as mecha was created/developed.

Anime Examples:

Definition and History of MANGA

Manga is a Japanese word that means “comics” or “cartoons”. Manga has a very definite look to it and sometimes it is referred to as “Manga Style”.

Opposite of traditional American books, Japanese Manga has to be read from the right to the left. This style is very distinctive because of its many characteristics. The characters of Manga art is what Manga is most known for. They usually or almost always have large eyes, small mouths and usually have abnormal hair color. Because of these characteristics the characters have a very Western feel/look to them. These characters are also illustrated with over exaggerated emotions.

Over the centuries it has been part of the Japanese culture to tell stories using images that are displayed in a certain order (sequence). This style also became very popular during the 20th century. These illustrations were made on wood block. By using various gray tone techniques very detailed illustrations could be made. And to tell a story more efficiently, they started to use words (Combining images with words). Manga characters also became more expressive and displaying their emotions with style.

Manga Examples:

Definition of OTAKU

Otaku is a term that is used to describe fans of anime, manga, etc. These fans can be seen as strange, unkempt (Having an untidy appearance) and very obsessive. Within this otaku group/fanbase social networks are formed and goods and information is traded. These trades are short-lived and businesslike.

Otaku has been stereotyped by saying that these people/fans rarely leave their homes. They isolate themselves from the world outside and is very antisocial. But if you look at it this way, these people have to leave their homes to make these trades and gather these items/products.

Otaku Examples:

Definition and History of KAWAII

“Cute” is what this Japanese term means. Within Japanese society and pop culture cuteness seems to be a highly valued aesthetic quality. THis word is also used to describe men who have a “cute” personality. Cuteness is accepted as a part of Japanese culture and national identity, this has become a phenomenon within their culture. Hello Kitty and Doraemon are popular examples of the kawaii-style. Tomoyuki Sugiyama says that the Japanese embrace “kawaii” due to their love of harmony.

The term Kawaii emerged in the 1970’s when Japanese teenagers, mainly female, began using an informal and “cute” styel of writing. Left-to-right writing format was used as well as many English terms. This style was more Westernized than other traditioinal Japanese styles. The writing included hearts, happy faces and multiple exclamation marks. Later this writing style got banned in some schools because it was seen as a rebellion against traditional Japanese culture. The Kawaii-style gained popularity again in the 1980’s and dominated the Japanese pop culture.

Images of Hello Kitty and Doraemon

Kawaii Examples:

It is clear to me that every country and culture with their history and way of life influences other countries. Not all the elements found in a culture’s designs are found in other cultures/countries but the influences made are obvious to see. It is like a language, an identity which is very beautiful and enigmatic.


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