comment on «Nobuyoshi Kikuchi & Takashi Hiraide»,
an exhibit in the exhibition «TAKASHI HIRAIDE—-AIRPOST POETRY» 2016 at the Japan Foundation Toronto
Nobuyoshi Kikuchi (1942- ) is a prominent book designer who, since making his debut in mid-1970s, has been bringing new meaning to book design for literary works. His method involves aligning himself with the author’s consciousness by deeply reading the literary text, exploiting diverse image combinations and experimental typographical techniques, even incorporating producing, which used be the job of a publisher, into the design cycle. In the sense that he actively endeavours to identify with the author’s thought process, he sometimes exercises more of an editorial and critical eye than actual editors and critics, and continues to exert a powerful influence on succeeding generations of book designers.
In 1974, Kikuchi, who had worked as an editor shortly before making his debut as a book designer, encountered the student poet Takashi Hiraide (1950- ), who was about to publish his first book of poems. After the publication of that first book, Kikuchi designed Hiraide’s subsequent poetry books and provided him with powerful encouragement through his “Design as Critique.” Thus, Kikuchi’s courageous design theory stood alongside the development of Hiraide’s writing as well as his own work as a designer, and even played a part in establishing its direction.
Hiraide, who worked at a publisher from 1976-1987, commissioned Kikuchi to design the book covers of works of authors Hiraide admired, a process through which he naturally learnt Kikuchi’s methodology. Meanwhile, Kikuchi lauded Hiraide’s book design for works such as the mini magazine Shoki=ki, stylus and Collected Works of Seihaku Irako.
Their relationship entered a new phase when Hiraide handled the book design for his own work, via wwalnuts, in 2010. The two separated into different dimensions: Kikuchi, a book designer who insisted that authors could not achieve the perspective necessary to create a true design for their own text; and Hiraide, an author who understood the meaning of that assertion in principle, but nevertheless embarked on designing his own books.
This demonstrates that Hiraide’s innovations in book production are driven by his willingness to boldly step outside of his relationship with the first-class book designer – one of happy collaborations and reciprocal influence – into new territory.