Contemporary Japanese Graphic Design – A Guide


Japan has a long history of having a unique art culture, and traditional art forms have included ink painting, calligraphy, and painting on silks. Modern graphic design in Japan still includes traditional styles, but there is also a focus on other forms, such as advertising, video games, and manga.

With city streets bursting with color, areas dedicating to gaming, and even cafes where you can be waited upon by waitresses dressed as anime characters, Japanese graphic design has a life of its own. This guide gives you an overview of some of the contemporary graphic design forms that have become part of Japanese culture.


Walking down a city street, one is likely to be amazed by the amount of advertising displayed. In Tokyo in particular, there are large billboards that compete for space, each one brighter and bolder than the next in the effort to get the message across to passers-by.

Japanese art forms also lend itself well to bold poster prints, flyer design, leaflet design, magazines. Flyers can be used to advertise anything from sushi restaurants to social events, and often incorporate bold colors, images, and calligraphy.

Anime means ‘animation,’ and this is a huge part of Japanese graphic design. It includes computer and hand-drawn animation and is often used in advertising. An example is the popular Hello Kitty character, used to advertise numerous products in Japan.

Tokyo is one anime hotspot that fans flock to, to immerse themselves in this unique art form. There is also an annual anime fair, one of the largest animation tradeshows in the world.


Video Games

Video gaming is big in Japan, and some of the most popular games we all know were created by Japanese developers. From adventure games to racing and role play, there is something for everyone. Retro games like Super Mario Brothers, Pokémon, Sonic the Hedgehog and games on the Nintendo Wii are bright, bold and fun, and this is a theme that runs throughout much of the modern Japanese video games too. Games like Monster Hunter have Japanese style boldness and artwork that run throughout, and this unique style makes them a popular video games worldwide.


Manga is Japanese comic book art and is a unique style of drawing that lends itself to different purposes including comics and graphic novels. While in the West, comic strips are read from left to right, whereas stories told in manga style are the opposite, right to left, in action.

Like most modern Japanese graphic design, Manga is colorful and uses strong images. Manga characters often have large eyes, with spiky or long hair, anatomy is often clearly defined, and outlines are bold.


Japanese graphic design is a booming industry and has its own set of characteristics that make it unique. With bold, strong colors and outlines, whether it is printing for advertising purposes, video making for anime, or drawing for manga novels, Japanese graphic design is an art form that creates an impression and has a far-reaching influence.

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