In a recent personal project that follows the popular '36 Days of Type', Japanese graphic designer Yurie Takashima turned to the ancient art Ukiyo-e as inspiration. Her resulting letterforms not only appeal to those of us who love woodblock prints and painting but also hint at her passion for wanting to bring the world together through visual design.
Born in Japan, Yurie has travelled the world since moving to America in 2003 to study architecture at Oklahoma State University. After graduating during the 2008 financial crash, she struggled to get a job and later realised a career in graphic design was more to her liking. "I loved some parts of architecture," she tells Creative Boom, "but I always felt like I wasn't passionate enough about it during my school years. Maybe because of the structural engineering involved and the fact that it's less tangible for the majority of people."
In the years that followed, she moved to Sydney and worked in project management, amongst many other things. Later, she relocated to Amsterdam in 2017, where she secured an internship at Metabolic before working at other design agencies in the Dutch capital. Since then, she has gone freelance, specialising in brand identity, strategy and typography. Type happens to be one of Yurie's biggest passions which is why she dived into her first 36 Days of Type. "I decided to go with the visual style loosely based on Ukiyo-e," she says. "I always want to and try to incorporate the Japanese culture in my personal work whenever I can."
She continues: "I see more and more Japanese-inspired art and design by non-Japanese creatives nowadays, and they turn the traditional culture into something new and fresh, and that inspires me. At the same time, every time I see wrongly-written Japanese characters, it makes me smile and realise how important it is for me to speak up and make Japanese-themed designs from the Japanese point of view. They wanted to use Japanese culture as their theme bad enough to make it without knowing the language, then why don't I, right?"
Yurie tells us she wanted to add more modern abstract shapes into the Ukiyo-e theme to give herself more of a challenge. "I wanted to be able to deal with the randomness of it all rather than making every visual element mean something which I often tend to do. I also incorporated the Blend tool because using this tool always gives me a good 'flow' state. In the end, I could achieve a good balance of challenges to grow and joyful comforts this way."
On choosing favourite letters, Yurie believes the 'D' character stands out because of its shapes, lines and colours working well together. It was also the one to be chosen by the official 36 Days of Type account on Instagram. Other than that, Yurie also loves the letter 'Y' and the number '7' for how "satisfying the layers are" and for their line curves. "There's also something special about 'G'," she says. "I think it's because the colour scheme is very traditional of Ukiyo-e art, so it works as a good contrast to the modern geometric shapes."
In other works by Yurie, we see a fair amount of mixed media at play with messages often accompanying images, surrounded by bright and bold colours. "Typography has a huge role in conveying the messages, and I also like using craft elements like texture, collage of images, or hand-drawn lettering," she explains. The recurring theme tends to be on women's empowerment or other issues like climate change, racism or voicing inequality. "I also talk a lot about design how-to and creative process to connect with other creatives," she says.