對於評論設計作品，我完全不知道當中的方法。然而，我仍然會被中島英樹吸引，是因為他的設計作品彷彿建立了一條直通作品核心的通道，然後以高超的技藝將這條秘道掩藏起來。正如中島自己所言的，「迷霧中清晰」（CLEAR in the FOG），把多餘事物削減後，只呈現一些記號，一道半打開的玻璃窗户，一道被風吹起的窗紗。從殘餘下來的表象中，以「退後一步」的姿態，感受到藏起來的、巨大的、無法以語言傳遞的本質。
經常聽說，設計是一種溝通。但對我來說，中島英樹的溝通並不是傳達內容，而是透過視覺語言的排列，呈現出圖像、文字也無法傳達的內容。坂本龍一的《Out Of Noise》是我很喜歡的一張CD，中島英樹在封套上呈現了Out、Of、nOise三個詞的O，再在正下方劃了一個形狀完美，但線條有深有淺，彷彿由一隻機械手臂依據神秘頻率畫下的圓形。最後，是一片劃著凌亂線條，令人聯想到風，或是枝葉的冰原。
坂本龍一受關注環境組織Cape Farewell邀請，到訪格陵蘭參與關注全球暖化活動時，寫下了《Out of Noise》這張唱片。他使用水聽器，錄下水底的聲音。「水底是很噪雜的，」坂本龍一說：「你永遠不會知道那一片聲音包含了什麼——水流、鯨魚、人類尚未知道的事物。在這次聆聽大自然的體驗中，我重新找到創造音樂的意義。」而中島英樹的設計，則以視覺語言極其精準地暗示了一種藝術家重新回到人類起源，透過個人的技藝，創造出一種全新觀看地球的目光，一種「新人類」的聽覺。
In February this year, graphic designer Hideki Nakajima passed away from cerebral infarction, he was 62.
Perhaps owing to the difference in how we feel the world, I have never had the urge to understand graphic designers deeply and systematically. But at a time when I could not stop collecting CDs and concert posters, through some of Ryuichi Sakamoto’s CD album covers, and their visual language that was so consistently and aptly free, quiet and uninhibited, I learned about the master that is Hideki Nakajima.
In July 2021, Hideki Nakajima funded and published his retrospective HIDEKI NAKAJIMA: MADE in JAPAN. Why did he edit, fund and publish this book all by himself? This was his answer, “To organise, arrange and filter past works, in order to holistically present my imaginations and expressions towards print. I hope this book will be the vision that I leave behind.”
Only 1500 copies of HIDEKI NAKAJIMA: MADE in JAPAN were printed, and I ordered it as soon as it was published. But the first time I opened it was already when news of Hideki Nakajima’s passing came through. It was only half a year’s time between the book’s publishing and his passing.
Hideki Nakajima was born in 1961. At 18, he encountered by chance British designer Peter Saville’s artwork for the album sleeve of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. “Since that moment,” he said, “all I wanted to be was a designer.” When he was 26, Rockin’on and Shimizu Masami Design Office hired him to be the artistic director of the nascent CUT magazine. This was officially his first job as a designer.
Rockin’on published CUT with the intention to create a world class visual magazine in a Japanese society where traditional styles of editing and reportage still dominated. Under tight resources and schedules, Hideki Nakajima nonetheless made heaps of typographical and visual experimentations. Twice did he work without sleep for 5 days straight. “90% of all magazines are destined to be thrown into the bin; But if even 10% remain, I hope they don’t get thrown away when moving; It would be great if 0.1% appear in old book shops 20 years later, this is my greatest goal.” He recalled that while designing for CUT‘s Issue 0, for just the spreads, he had designed 50 types of entirely different flows.
5 years later, he officially established Nakajima Design inc., he was 34.
As far as critiquing design works goes, I am completely clueless about the methodologies therein. However, I am compelled by Hideki Nakajima all the same because it is as if his design holds up a tunnel straight into the work’s core, and then, through superior artistry, shrouds that secret tunnel. As he once said, “CLEAR in the FOG”, when redundant matters are reduced, only a few signs are depicted, a glass window opened ajar, a window curtain suspended in the wind. In the imagery that survives, one adopts a “taking a step back” attitude, and senses an obscure, immense essence that cannot be conveyed through language.
It is often said that design is a form of communication. To me, however, Hideki Nakajima’s communication is not an imparting of content, but an arrangement through the visual language to present contents that even images or letters cannot convey. Ryuichi Sakamoto’s Out Of Noise is a CD that I like a lot. On the album cover, Hideki Nakajima brought out the “O”s in the three words “Out”, “Of”, “nOise”, to be followed right below by a perfectly formed circle with lines of varying hardness, as if drawn by a mechanical arm tuned to a mysterious frequency. At the back is a field of disheveled lines, bringing to mind wind or an ice field of leaves and branches.
During the time that Ryuichi Sakamoto, invited by the environmental organisation Cape Farewell, visited Greenland for an event about global warming, he wrote the album Out Of Noise. Using a hydrophone, he recorded sounds underwater. “The water below is quite noisy.” said Ryuichi Sakamoto, “You never know what that range of sounds encompass – the current, whales, things beyond human understanding. In this experience of listening to nature, I rediscovered the meaning of creating music.” As for Hideki Nakajima’s design, through the visual language and with exceptional precision, it alludes to the eyes of an artist who, in returning to the origin of mankind and using his craftsmanship, created an entirely new way of seeing the earth, the hearing of a “new mankind”.
Hideki Nakajima had always insisted that he did not know the meaning of design. Designers always thought it was merely a wiser way of phrasing a “design methodology” that breaks conventions. But, to me, his quote reflects deep down his disregard for methodologies. Almost as if he “just so happened to have chosen” the visual language, and thus kept with the same language to express the deeper undercurrents of life.
Experimentation and creation are the pair of terms frequently used to describe Hideki Nakajima. To him, however, it was more important to maintain an incomplete state. Concerning the world we live in that pursues precision, automation and systematisation, Hideki Nakajima said, “What is called perfection also brings the end.”
Therefore, to keep creating works is to keep the wound fresh.
As for making a retrospective, that is when it is time for the wound to heal.