Shigeo Fukuda, a visual prankster (1932 – 2009)

“A playful heart requires no translation” (Paul Rand of Shigeo Fukuda)

Shigeo Fukuda was born into a Japanese toy-making family, and graduated from the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts in his early 20’s. He had a keen interest in Swiss design principles, and his work is known for its simplicity, illusion and graphic wit. “His spare style was universal, his symbolism bridging cultural divides “(Steven Heller obituary, 2009). (

Shigeo Fukuda image 1

The Kyoto art gallery eloquently described Fukuda’s powerful influence when presenting their exhibition ‘Visual Jumping’. The title refers to an anecdote about Shigeo Fukuda who used to leap up from his chair, exclaiming “That’s it!” when inspired.  “And so is his visual language — leaping to the eyes. Using optical illusions and strong colors, he concisely conveys even complex messages, like disarmament and peace-keeping, in a striking and powerful way”. (

Shigeo Fukuda image 2

Fukuda’s work was highly recognised  within his lifetime, and amongst other acclaim he became first Japanese designer inducted into the New York Art Directors Club Hall of Fame His work ‘Victory 1945’ won him grand prize at the Warsaw Poster Contest in 1975, a competitionwhose proceeds helped fun the Peace Fund Movement. (

I believe that his unique ability to convey poignant issues such as  social justice through playful and witty graphics is best summed up by his famous quote to Idea Magazine: “I believe that in design, 30 percent dignity, 20 percent beauty and 50 percent absurdity are necessary”.

References and Links

Shigeo Fukuda image 5

Shigeo Fukuda image 3



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