- Interview with Sugiura Kōhei (2013)
Your design work for magazines in the 1960s, especially for architectural magazines, has been discussed in a variety of media and interviews, in particular in the 2004 study of your career and works, Gale and Thunderclap (Hayate jinrai).1 Today, I would like to ask you about your awareness of the contemporary contexts of graphic design and architecture in which your work matured.
While attending university I studied architecture, which certainly gave me a different perspective from how book making and magazines have been conceived in the past. Scale and how it unites the whole, the particularities of materials and techniques … you could say that I first approached the methods of graphic design from these elements, which are the first things you become aware of in architectural training. Furthermore, when architecture students learn basic drawing they study projective techniques of shading, in which adding shadows erects a third dimension of information onto a two-dimensional surface. Through noise and patterns of self-proliferation, this can also be linked to the syntax of magazine design.2
So this meant disassembling the book as a format and reassembling it as a three-dimensional space of information.
There was one more experiment that catalyzed my work in magazine design. This was designing the dorsum of the journal as a three-dimensional object. The idea was to place a cross section of the table of contents on the magazine's "spine," giving it an independent existence from the "body's" pages of accumulated text. In the architecture magazine SD,3 I contrasted large 24-point font with a 2-column 8-point font for the main text to create a depth of space rustling with information. In Toshi jūtaku (Urban Housing),4 [End Page 289] the back was prepared with six columns, and depending on the featured content I gave each an appropriate depth. This kind of design hadn't existed before then. Later on I deepened the impression of space even more for the magazines Ginka (Silver Leaf) and Yū (Play).5
Beginning with the iconic World Design Conference of 1960 and leading up to Expo '70 in Osaka,6 the 1960s showed a huge surge in ideas about radical architecture. What kind of awareness did you have about such trends in architecture?
At the World Design Conference in 1960, both domestic and foreign designers were brought together in the same hall for the first time. It was a great opportunity for architects, designers, and the world of industry to create various networks. My developing interest in architectural magazines also emerged from this union of many different people. This union between fields extended into music, art, and literature—after all, a strong tendency to cut across fields was the essence of the times. And such a tendency did not simply arise from previously shared ideological or philosophical sympathies either.
Looking back on postwar design, it's often thought that there is a significant gap between the theory of your design and the context of earlier Japanese graphic design. Were you at the time aware of ideas or models that informed your practice?
That would have been information theory and spatial theory. Concepts such as "cybernetics," advocated by Norbert Wiener, or the anthropologist Edward Hall's "proxemics" had a particularly strong influence on me.7 For example, in the case of proxemics, the analysis of how perception and behavior change according to spatial relationships, and furthermore, how they differ according to culture, was very fresh. I didn't make direct reference to dedicated theories of architecture.
At the time, the alternative architecture scene widely experimented with the method of expressing ideas visually by the sequencing and collaging of icons, much like Archigram's drawings and printed matter, but how was it that you came across such methods in the first place?8
That technique really inspired me, but I don't think I incorporated it directly into my design language. But I did often look at international architecture journals, such as France's L'architecture d'aujourd'hui. Once every...