Sunday, November 23, 2008

[Designer] Sato Koichi

Sato Koichi was born in Takasaki city, Japan, in 1944, one year before the end of the Second Great War. Sato Koichi enjoyed his career as a free-lancer designer from 1971 after a period he worked for Shiseido Co., Ltd (Masanori U., 2008).He made his graduation from the Department of Industrial Arts, which can be considered as a Design Department, and the Tokyo National of Fine Arts and Music.

Sato Koichi, Graphic designer
Photo A. Sang-Soo 2004

“A graphic Designer with a scientist’s mind, he visually questions and defines his nation’s and humanity’s place in the world”
(Robert K.)

In 1995 Sato became a professor in Tama University of Art. And he’s also known as a director of JAGDA (Japanese Graphic Designers Association), and an important part of AIG (Alliance Gaphique Internationale), Japan Design Community, and other design associations working in inside and outside Japan (Masanori U., 2008).

Sato’s works appeared eight times in Colorado International Invitational Poster Exhibition, which is held each two years by the Colorado Sate University Department of Art (Colorado State University, 2007). And in the 1997 exhibition, he won the Award Winner. Besides, Sato was awarded in many poster exhibitions like Grand Prix (Tokyo ADC 1985), First Prize (MOMA Poster Competition 1988), so on, and the latest award is Golden Bee in International Biennale of Graphic Design (Moscow) (Colorado State University, 2008)

In addition, Koichi Sato is a graphic designer working on Computer Graphic, Line Art, Photographs, and Wet media.

Poster for a musical play

Sato Koichi designed this poster, named ‘Ongakuza’, in 1988 for a theatrical performance (Colorado State University, 2004). And this poster can be represented his talent of using typography, lines, shapes, and color to create humanity in his poster.

Poster for a musical play, 1988,
Offset lithographs

Firstly, looking at the poster viewers will quickly catch and generate an illusion of a human’s hand in their brain. It’s easy to understand his skill here. The closure concept in Gestalts theory can be used to explain how Sato can link six different organic shapes into a form of a hand.

Looking at the color scheme, analogous, he used in this poster, it’s really brilliant. The violet-contours of shapes and the pale blue shade around those shapes have set up a story for this poster. It seems like some one trying to press drastically his/her hand on the surface of a glass on the opposite side with viewers. So how does it make sense? In a movie scene, this action seems to be dramatic and strong enough to catch everybody’s attention into what will happen then. And this poster did the same thing, catching cleverly people’s attention and touching them.

Take attention to other stuffs, there is an image of the universe, which is shaped following the shape of a hand. Is it a metaphor here? With the black color, it’s creates depth and take our eyes going deeply into the poster. And the similarity is also created here, when images of the universe of each shape (six shapes) want to tell the viewers that they belong to a unique group.

Sato decided to use Japanese calligraphy in this poster (texts on the upper right hand side). Although we can’t understand exactly what this Japanese sentences mean, but we can tell that they are really human.

By using different proportion between the image of a hand and texts, Sato cleverly leads our eyes from dominant element, shape of hand, to sub-dominant one, Japanese calligraphy, and subordinate one, small text about information of the musical play in the bottom. Actually this poster is horizontal symmetry, but the placement of the calligraphy break the symmetry. However this makes the poster more attractive.
With a hand and traditional calligraphy, this poster expresses humanity’s place which Sato always want to represent in his works. And these make everything in this poster become unique.

Plakate aus Japan: Kirei, 1993

This poster is produced for the Vintage & Modern Posters Exhibition in 1993 (International Poster Gallery, 2008).

Poster for Vintage & Modern Poster Exhibition, 1993,

Using red color for circle, which can be understood as a sun, leads our eyes focusing on big red spot firstly and going into the center of the poster. With another white layer above the red circle and dividing it a half has created a scene of sunset, which is easily seen in Japan.

In fact, the big red circle makes the middle of the poster become dominant element. Besides, small red rectangles on the top make words, ‘Plakate’, ‘aus’, ‘Japan’, sub-dominant elements. And the white thin line on the right side cleverly leads the viewers’ eyes across the Japanese calligraphy, and then to the information in the bottom, which can be considered as subordinate element in this poster.

It is an example of Sato’s posters showing his idea about Japanese place in the world. Organic shapes and lines and humanistic Japanese calligraphy in works might become Sato’s characteristics. And once again he used all of those things in this poster, but on another idea.

New Music Media Poster, 1974

With another poster, it’s clearly to see that Sato Koichi always want to show aspects of real life and being in his poster. There is not much more about information about this poster, but it was designed in 1974 by Sato.

New Media Poster, 1974

‘Less is more’, the important principle of modern graphic design is well applied on this poster. White and clean background made its elements more dominant. And the asymmetrical balance makes the poster look more interesting and energy, although it also breaks the stability.

Looking firstly at the dominant element in this poster, there is a box which has a living fish inside. It might be a dead fish; however the water around it has created the living in this poster. It’s hard to say that he used all the organic line in this poster, when we can see it easily the box made by geometric lines; it sounds like the living is really powerful and attractive.

Once again, he used Japanese calligraphy in this poster. Combining with the organic fish and the artificial box, Sato might want to describe his idea about living.
Using not much color, monochromatic scheme, Sato cleaverly linked all elements to make the poster become a unity.

With a talent in graphic design, Koichi Sate created different meanings when he brought ideas of living, his ideas of Japan, and humanity in his works

. Ahn Sang-Soo (2004) ‘Koichi.Sato’ [image online], available: [accessed on 15 July 2008]
. Colorado State University 2007, ‘Colorado International Invitational Poster Exhibition’, Colorado State University [online], available:
[accessed 17 July 2008]
. Colorado State University 2008, ‘Koichi Sato’, Libraries, available: [accessed 20 July 2008]
. Colorado State University 2004, ‘[Ongazuka]’, Library [online], available: [accessed 20 July 2008]
. International Poster Gallery 2008, ‘Plakate aus Japan:Kirei’ [online], available: [accessed 18 July 2008]
. International Poster Gallery 2008, ‘Plakate aus Japan:Kirei’ [image online], available: [accessed 18 July 2008]
. Klanten, R., ‘Book Reviews’, Art Magazine [online], available: [accessed 20 July 2008]
. Tokyo Art Director Club, ‘Ongakuza’ [image online], available: [accessed 8 July 2008]
. Tokyo Art Director Club, ‘New Music Media’ [image online], available: [accessed 8 July 2008]
. Umeda, M., ‘Koichi Sato’, MaruTomi Project [online], available: [accessed 15 July 2008]