Data + Design Project

Bold Typography in Vintage Japanese Newspapers

Wednesday 12.05.2012 , Posted by
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As a designer, it’s easy to get stuck in the style trends of today… so here’s some typographic inspiration from vintage Japan. Coming from a large collection of 3000 ads from the years 1891 – 1945 (put together by the University of Tokyo), these vintage newspaper pages feature a bold style we don’t frequently see today. Huge glyphs boldly displayed in neat blocks. The emphasis here is often on the arrangement of elements, rather than a reliance on imagery… something to which the both vertically and horizontally orientable Japanese characters lend themselves well.

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Not everything in the collection is attractive, nor stylish. There are many examples of advertising which points to a quickly westernizing nation, with quite a few featuring men who have donned the popular double breasted suits of the day. Other ads are downright funny, like the anti-gas advert you’ll find below. For more from this interesting collection head to um.u-tokyo.ac.jp.

The Ise-Shimbun, No. 6985, p. 5, 27 May 1902

The Osaka-Asahi-Shimbun, No. 9612, p. 4, 11 December 1908, Osaka, Osaka-Asahi-Shimbun-Sha

The Hochi-Shimbun, No. 17878, p. 8, 1 November 1926, Tokyo, Hochi-Shimbun-Sha

The Tokyo-Asahi-Shimbun, No. 18048, p. 8, 13 July 1936, Tokyo, Tokyo-Asahi-Shimbun-sha

The Tokyo-Asahi-Shimbun, No. 17722, p. 10, 19 August 1935, Tokyo, Asahi-Shimbun-sha

The Tokyo-Asahi-Shimbun, No. 15421, p. 5, 13 April 1929, Tokyo, Tokyo-Asahi-Shimbun-Sha

The Takaoka-Shimbun, No. 13515, p. 4, 24 May 1932, Takaoka, Takaoka-Shimbun-Sha

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Benjamin Starr

Written by Benjamin Starr



Known in some circles as the most amazing man in the universe, he once saved an entire family of muskrats from a sinking, fire engulfed steamboat while recovering from two broken arms relating to a botched no-chute wingsuit landing in North Korea. When not impressing people with his humbling humility, he can be found freelance writing, finding shiny objects on the internet, enjoying the company of much-appreciated friends and living out his nomadic nature. He is Managing Editor of Visual News. Follow his movements on Twitter:

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