Designing For Japan

Features Trends Trends & Culture - April 11th, 2011
WK_japan

Global creators doing good.

It’s easy for rock stars. When disaster strikes and they feel the urge to help, they can grab a guitar or call a few friends and within hours make a sure-fire hit, or put on a headline-making concert—as Paul Weller, Beady Eye, and Richard Ashcroft did in London last week—instantly raising funds for charity. The rest of us can easily feel overwhelmed by the terrible images on 24 hour news channels. What can we do to help? Many of us have given clothes and food, blogged and tweeted (see page 25) but we are still completely disconnected from those who need help.

For designers and artists, the urge to be pick up a pen, click a mouse and just—create is automatic. Recent efforts from around the world have resulted in some incredibly striking work, in an graphic attempt to communicate the plight of those in dire need.


In Tokyo a group of friends dubbed ‘Tomodachi Calling’ spontaneously collaborated on an aid project ”Most of us were in Tokyo at the time the big earthquake hit northeast Japan on Friday March 11, 2011, 14:46 JST. The unfolding events in the minutes, hours and days following the quake left us in a state of shock and terror. It made us feel helpless. So instead of hoping and waiting, we decided to combine and to act,” says Sebastian Mayer of the Tomodachi Calling team.  “We are asking friends (tomodachi) to contribute designs for our charity-webshop, focusing on artists whose works we admire and creative people we like.”

Award-winning advertising agency Wieden+Kennedy produced a beautifully simple poster for the Japanese Red Cross. W+K’s Rebecca Groff says “Upon learning of the devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami that struck Japan on March 11 we felt a helplessness that compelled us to do something.” Designers at the Portland office in the U.S. screenprinted a poster—a Japanese flag combined with a cross; the power of such a simple expression is undeniable. “We quickly designed this poster and offered it as a thanks for anyone donating at least $25 to the relief effort through our site www.wkstudio.bigcartel.com. We’ll be donating the net proceeds to the Red Cross,” Groff says.

Design consultancy Landor Associates, one of the world’s first ‘branding’ firms, tranformed their company website into an interactive photo-wall. “We dream about Japan. We have friends in Japan. We ache for Japan. We live and breathe Japan. We have boundless hope for Japan.” the website www.landor.com reads.

London based architect John Pawson created a subtle Japan-inspired white ribbon completed by an understated red dot. A electronic version is available as a free download from his website www.johnpawson.com. Visitors are encouraged to attach it to e-mails as a simple reminder of the tragedy, speaking instantly for the thousands who can’t.

Charity Initiatives for Japan, Architecture for Humanity

In Paris, artists Jean-David Morvan and Sylvain Runberg, together with comic book writers and illustrators from all around the world, rallied to form the ‘Tsunami initiative’ www.cfsl.net/tsunami. Jean-David Morvan says “We want to collect lots of quality drawings in order to hold a fund-raising auction on April 30th at Galerie Arludik in Paris. All the money we’ll raise will go to the earthquake’s victims. The auction will be followed by an exhibition and a book titled ‘Magnitude 9’ due for release on September 8th.”

Architecture For Humanity, an organization key in rebuilding Haiti in 2010, sparked a burst of creativity when they teamed up with volunteering website www.dosomething.org. Children in Haiti, who survived a devastating earthquake firsthand, folded thousands of symbolic origami cranes, raising awareness of the Japanese disaster. “DoSomething.org started ‘Paper Cranes for Japan’ as a way for all young people who want to help to do so without a car, an adult, or money. With this partnership, their wishes of support will now translate into funding to rebuild schools and communities,” says DoSomething.org Editor-in-Chief Betsy Fast.

Separately, a group of British graphic designers and illustrators created an online gallery of charity posters available for sale in the UK via their website www.designersforjapan.com.

Back in Japan, Tomodachi Calling are still adding to their project. “We will continually upload new artists and artworks on the charity webshop and blog,” Mayer says “This is only the beginning.” www.cafepress.com/tomodachicalling