The World is a Circle


Last week, we started working with a new client who demanded that Noreen be at every meeting. Now, I’m used to this. When I come into a meeting and throw a chair, or urinate in the corner, clients are disturbed. In reality, we’re both quite polite and friendly. The only time I ever became angry during a meeting was 15 years ago, when a young architect stopped me and said, “I’d like to give you some basic rules about composition.” To which, I replied, “I don’t know how to respond to that… Noreen?”

Initially, some clients do a little racial profiling. Noreen is Asian and a woman, so she must be mysterious, exotic, and deeply creative. I’m a WASP and a man, so I must be logical, dull, and handle the bookkeeping. At AdamsMorioka, our roles are well defined; Noreen is in charge of all client relations, I’m in charge of creative. This doesn’t mean that we don’t voice opinions, or have debates about creative or business issues. In the end, I have final call on a creative issue; Noreen has final call on a client issue.

We do, however, have divergent cultural backgrounds, and this makes the work better. We often design the poster when we do a speaking engagement. I’ve had the most fun designing posters that speak to this juxtaposition of Asian and Western influences. I designed a poster for a DSVC lecture takes one of my favorite posters by Yusaku Kamekura and re-purposes it. I know the difference between an homage and piracy. I credit Kamekura on the poster.

Yusaku Kamekura is one of the “first generation” of great Japanese designers. In 1951 he helped establish the Japan Advertising Arts Club, and took part in the ‘Graphic ’55’ exhibition with Paul Rand and other international designers. In 1978, he became chairman of the Japan Graphic Designers Association. This is a big deal. Noreen mentions often that she’d like to be invited by JAGDA to be a member (note to JGDA members reading this). His posters merge Swiss modernism with a Japanese aesthetic and usage of space. The primary 1964 Tokyo Olympics poster is magnificent in its simplicity.  Kamekura uses the golden section and repeating circles to create harmony. On the surface, nothing could be more obvious: Japanese flag and Olympic rings. “And?” you may be asking, “So what? That’s too easy.” This is similar to someone looking at a Picasso and saying, “I could have drawn that.”  My response, “But you didn’t.”