BA Graphic and Media Design
My name is Yueran Li, a student who studies Graphic and Media Design at LCC, now is interning at Wieden+Kennedy London office. When spoken of how do you think of anti-design, it reminds me of the common way of how does advertising creative agency challenges people and make them think differently about something or some problems in advertising industry. For example, in an advertisement of Apple Pay, they didn’t say how good and how convenient about using electronic money, they flipped it to tell audience how dirty the cash is to encourage people using Apple Pay. In the same way, Anti-design is a good flip to make people rethink about design and embrace them thinking of design differently. What is anti-design? The opposite of conventional design, which challenges privilege aesthetic, good taste and constrained rules.
Most of the people know The London Design Festival, but do you know there is a festival called “Anti Design Festival”? The Anti Design Festival was launched in September 2010. It was created initially as a direct response to the pretty commerciality of the London Design Festival. the London Design Festival was launched in 2003, the founder of the ADF thinks that it’s time for a change. More broadly, the ADF is a response to the cultural deep freeze in the UK which has been last for 25 years. "It will attempt to unlock creative fires and ideas, exploring space hitherto deemed out-of-bounds by a purely commercial criteria." said by the site of Anti Design Festival.
The founder of ADF, Neville Brody said “We have forgotten why we are here. We have lost touch with what makes us tick, what drives us. That fire of creative possibility has started to die, and it is time to re-light it. The Anti Design Festival was born out of a need for change. A need for something new, ugly, scary and dangerous. We welcome no_use, no_function and no_fear. We welcome anarchy, without the stereotypical.”
The discussion of design and anti-design is just like the discussion of beauty and ugliness. How to define what is beauty and what is ugliness? This question was addressed as early as 1993 in an article called Cult of the ugly, it claimed that: “For the moment, let us say that ugly decision, as opposed to classical design (where adherence to the golden mean and a preference for balance and harmony serve as the foundation for even the most unconventional compositions) is the layering of unharmonious graphic forms in a way that results in confusing messages.” Talking about the ugliness in graphic design, it reminds me of a new emerging graphic design trend called “New Ugly”. The Japanese graphic designer Yui Takada is an excellent representative. Takada’s work is totally different from traditional Japanese graphic design, such as the minimalist, which shows the characteristics of leisure, elegance and simplicity. These characteristics make Japanese design not only minimalist, but also contains Japan's unique and fascinating poetic realm.
However, when you first saw Takada’s work, you will feel the aesthetic shock. Chaos, sloppy typography, crude graphics, strange colour schemes and careless layout do not connect Takada with Japanese design in the usual sense. However, there is no doubt that Takada's design is like an urchin challenging the traditional aesthetic system for the current graphic design.
Left: Swimming Graphic (2015) Right: Yui Takada Exhibition: ding-dong bling-bling (2018)
For the creation of Takada’s work, Takada found that the small advertisements on the street and the signs on the road have no sense of design at all, but are made purely for the purpose of "conveying" information, which makes him have to think about the idea of "whether I am too limited in pursuing neat things". There are too many people who just make things beautiful. So he wanted to explore a way to make the design more vivid. What he is seeking is ugliness itself, it is error itself. In order to promote people to rethink the aesthetic equality and tolerance of individual things.
Above : Exhibition by Yui Takada, 2018
Below: Small advertisement on motorcycle fender and advertisement signs in China
In Takada’s point, design is not only the pursuit of beauty in the world, a person who has not experienced formal design education and is not familiar with various design tools will sometimes make things more expressive, because their efforts to convey their ideas is beautiful in itself.
As I digging Takada’s work deeper, it seems like there is another really meaningful motivation behind Takata’s creation. In an interview, Takada mentioned that there was 30,000 suicides in Japan every year and he thought it was because of the unnatural way of working versus the way of thinking. It is a tendency among young people today to not fit in with the social rules created by adults. These things cannot be represented in images, but Takada wants to teach young people not to force themselves into society, but to be themselves.
For a designer who wants to push graphic design forward, to kill individuality is to kill the greatest value.
Alex Bec. (2010) Neville Brody: The Anti-Design Festival. Available at: https://www.itsnicethat.com/articles/2931-neville-brody-the-anti-design-festival/
Cult of the ugly (1993). Available at: https://www.eyemagazine.com/feature/article/cult-of-the-ugly
Justin Zhang (2018) Lesson in the "New Ugly School” of Design. Available at: https://eyeondesign.aiga.org/schooled-in-the-new-ugly-lessons-from-darius-ous-autotypography/
Ruth Jamieson. (2016) The New Wave of Anti-design Magazines Will Question Your Sense of Taste- and That’s A Good Thing. Available at: https://eyeondesign.aiga.org/the-new-wave-of-anti-design-magazines-will-question-your-sense-of-taste-and-thats-a-good-thing/
TDCDAY2020: Yui Takada / Presentation, Chiharu Watabe / Message (2020). Available at: