‘Hideki Nakajima: Made in Japan’ – Exhibition opens at the Sheffield Institute of Arts on 23 April 2019

Banner image for Hideki Nakajima exhibition at the SIA

Hideki Nakajima: Made in Japan
Sheffield Institute of Arts at the Old Head Post Office, Sheffield
Tuesday 23 April 2019 – Saturday 18 May 2019
Special event on Thursday 09 May 2019, 6PM – 8PM – please RSVP on Eventbrite here.

With an introduction by designer, writer and publisher Adrian Shaughnessy.

A retrospective of the hugely influential Japanese graphic designer

Hideki Nakajima (born 1961, Saitama Prefecture, Japan) is an art director and graphic designer with over three decades of experience. Originally aiming to be an illustrator, British designer Peter Saville inspired him to change direction. Over the course of his career, Nakajima’s work has constantly challenged creative boundaries and questioned the role and place of the designer in the corporate and creative role. He has set out to become, not simply a mediator of the marketer’s message but client, collaborator and agent of change. He says, “No matter for designers in Japan or all around the world, I believe design gives the power to change one’s life. It’s not only about fulfilling myself, but also inspiring others, and I think that’s very important[i].

Nakajima’s career began as the ‘Bubble Period’ in Japan (the economic boom of 1986-1991) ended. He says “Everything was crazy during the Bubble Period! I only graduated from high school. The whole world was always lit up like Christmas. When the bubble burst, everyone went from waving a 10,000 Yen notes to not even having pocket money. Less luxurious forms of entertainment became popular, and more magazines and popular music came out. That was the time I started at Cut magazine and began designing CD covers. I was quite lucky. I used to live like a mole, in a place even without a bathroom. I always worked ’til 4am.

Image for Hideki Nakajima exhibition at the SIA

Alongside hard work, Nakajima’s philosophy is also one of making opportunities and change happen “I tend to go from top to bottom, like a waterfall, like water, rather than climbing up a staircase from the bottom. I have put this top-down approach into practice ever since my debut, even when it’s something that may be difficult to ask for“.

His work on the legendary Cut magazine, from its first publication in 1989 (becoming art director three years later) demonstrates Nakajima’s approach, where the whole magazine was conceived a designed object, not individual pages. Direct, powerful images and clear easy to read text, according to Nakajima’s motto that “it’s important to have great content first.” and Nakajima’s design and art direction works to heighten the impact of this – Cut not only had to look beautiful, but also had to sell.

Since then, and particularly after setting up his own firm in 1995, Nakajima has worked with some of the most celebrated and interesting creatives in the world.  His major works include record and CD sleeve design for musician Ryuichi Sakamoto and editorial and book cover design for Ryumei Yoshimoto, Banana Yoshimoto, Masachi Ohsawa and Kodansha Gendai Shinsho, art direction for cultural magazine Cut. He has worked with fashion and beauty brands such as ISSEY MIYAKE, YOHJI YAMAMOTO, shu uemura, matsuda, VIA BUS STOP and more. Equally important have been his many and varied collaborations with artists and creatives as varied as Nobuyoshi Araki, ISHIUCHI MIYAKO, Nan Goldin, Wolfgang Tillmanns, Richard Prince, Jack Piason and Chikashi Suzuki. He has designed photo books, exhibition catalogue and posters for Yayoi Kusama, Nobuyoshi Araki, Kishin Shinoyama, Daido Moriyama, Yoko Ono, Tadanori Yokoo, Kengo Kuma, Wang Chuanfeng, Zaha Hadid, Jun Aoki, David Bowie, Seiichi Furuya, Yoshihiko Ueda, Yoshitomo Nara, Antoine d’ Agata, SHIMABUKU, NOGUCHI RIKA, Rinko Kawauchi and Sofia Coppola. Campaign design works for TAG Heuer, SEIKO and Marginal Glamor.

Alongside all of this Nakajima actively creates his own personal artwork, with twelve solo exhibitions to date, including ggg (Ginza Graphic Gallery / Tokyo), Daiwa Press Viewing Room (Hiroshima), The OCT Art & Design (China). He has published 12 books and his works are in the collections of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Centre Pompidou, Bibliothéque Nationale de France, Paris, The Museum Of Modern Art, New York and the British Museum, London.

Nakajima has won many design awards both in Japan and is a five-time winner of the New York Art Directors Club Gold Medal, as well as Tokyo Art Directors Club, Tokyo Type Directors Club Grand Prix, and New York Type Directors Club awards.

This exhibition is broad retrospective of Nakajima’s work, with the earliest works going back to the mid- 1990s. It includes books, CDs, records, posters as well as Nakajima’s personal work.

A touring exhibition by Nakajima Design in association with Sheffield Institute of Arts and HAWK University, Germany.

[i] Nakajima quotes cited from Dialogue on Design in Japan & Hong Kong – Hideki Nakajima, interview by Tommy Li, HK Public Museums, available here [accessed 19 March 2019].