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  • The 1968 Social Uprising and Advertising Design in Japan:The Work of Ishioka Eiko and Suzuki Hachirō
  • Ory Bartal (bio)

1968 was a turning point in Japanese postwar history: that year, Japan achieved the distinction of becoming the second-largest economy in the world, a feat that was perceived as close to a miracle by economists in Japan and around the world. Moreover, the new status of Japan in the international arena following the 1964 Tokyo Olympics – as it looked toward Osaka Expo '70 – instilled many urbanites, members of the civil service, and white collar workers with a sense of optimism and a strengthened desire to forget, repress, and leave behind the traumas of war. However, that same year, violent student and counterculture riots that began on university campuses spread, sparking nationwide social protests, and the Diet building, the prime minister's office, and the American embassy were surrounded each day by thousands of demonstrators who opposed and challenged Japan's democratic institutions. Questioning and reassessing Japan's national identity at a time of political and economic change seemed fitting in a year that marked the centennial of the Meiji restoration. The aim of this paper is to present the influence of these social, economic, and political events on the work of key figures within advertising design in Japan in the late 1960s and 1970s by examining the new types of messages that were imbued in the form of branding techniques that appeared in advertising posters.1

The Fuji-Xerox Campaign

Against the background of these formative and decisive developments that peaked in 1968, Fuji-Xerox launched a new advertising campaign in 1969 inserting the Fuji-Xerox logo into Japan Railway's "Discover Japan" posters. This campaign was ineffective because target audiences did not understand whether the slogan and the images presented were related to Japan Railway or to Fuji-Xerox. To plan a new advertising campaign, Kobayashi Yōtaro, the first president of Fuji-Xerox, approached Suzuki Hachirō, a graphic designer who had graduated from the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music the previous [End Page 177] year and would go on to become one of Japan's most famous independent art directors in the following decades. The revolutionary campaign that Suzuki created for Fuji-Xerox's copy-machines was launched in 1970 and represented the start of a new era in corporate branding and the aesthetics of visual communications.2 The campaign, known as "Xerox Beautiful," consisted of 10 newspaper advertisements, 15 street posters, 1 television commercial, and stickers that carried the word "beautiful." Print advertisements were published in the Asahi and Nikkei newspapers from May until December 1970 (9 times for each), the stickers were distributed to pedestrians in the Shinjuku area, and the television commercials were broadcasted on JNN News.3 In order to market an American product to a nation that was actively protesting Japan's subordination to the United States and the American presence in Japan, Suzuki linked the product with an internal anti-American social protest that prevailed at the time in the United States. In one of the ads, which depicts black and white as opposites via the faces of a black man and a white woman, the black male face is presented as a realistic three-dimensional image that looks straight at the camera, while the face of the white woman is depicted in profile, as a flat, almost stencil-like cutout that extends the white space of the ad's margins. The image is followed by the slogan "Black is beautiful, white is beautiful," echoing the ideas of the American civil rights movement, while simultaneously alluding to the black and white of Fuji-Xerox photocopies.4 The political, avant-garde idea of black and white is reiterated by the subversive style, which seems to have been influenced by the contemporaneous revolutionary photography of Hosoe Eikoh.

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"Women should be mad at advertisements of photocopy machines that show only female models." Advertisement by Suzuki Hachirō for Fuji-Xerox, 1970.

Other Fuji-Xerox ads by Suzuki address feminist ideas. One ad portrays a man washing dishes with the slogan "25% of men...


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pp. 177-197
Launched on MUSE
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