The IDEA magazine that was published in November 2000 used an unusually thin type of paper for the first 48 pages. The IDEA magazine is always particular about printing and the choice of paper, so as to manifest the color in the most vivid way. Rather contradictorily, the type of paper used for that issue was rather reluctant to demonstrate color in full. The person in charge of that issue must have spent a great effort to have the images printed so clearly on the paper. This person was in fact the one featured on that issue’s cover, the graphic designer/artist Fumio Tachibana.
Works of Fumio Tachibana always appears so down-to-earth. Many designers of the digital era would make use of the texture of paper or techniques like letterpress printing to bring more layers to their work. Tachibana, however, has a different approach. He is surprisingly open to the choice of paper. “The types of paper that I like to use have stopped being manufactured. In recent years, I would simply use paper that is lying around, or those that I have cropped before for my design. This is sort of a way to help to eliminate my stock. I am, therefore, not so picky when it comes to the choice of paper. Of course, I would not deny the importance of striking a balance among paper, ink and the content to be printed,” says Tachibana in a dialogue with another designer, Kaoru Kasai. Although Tachibana says he is not particular about the choice of paper, his preference is nevertheless obvious in the books he designed. For instance, the cheap looking, insubstantial paper used in the IDEA magazine, or to print his own book Kurara Yosai Kenkyujo (Clara Dressmaking Institute) with the kraft paper, which is usually used for wrapping industrial product.
Tachibana has an obsession with collecting paper. He jokingly said, every time wandering on the street, he could hear phantom voice of the waste paper mumbling to stop him, saying, “do you want to pick me up?” In Leaves: Fumio Tachibana, the diary entries he wrote in India were all related to paper. At a roadside stall that sells notepads, he would ask to buy the torn one that was used to test new pen; he would glue cardboard and scrap paper together to make postcards. Seeing shabby newspaper lying on the street, he would pick them up before flattening them; while doing so, a man standing next to him handed to him a clean and intact pile of newspaper, he took it reluctantly, but soon find out the pile of paper was filled with the man’s sketches and notes which he received in delight. While collecting scrap paper, Tachibana is as well collecting words.
Apart from designing books and posters, Tachibana also creates installation art. Regardless of the variety of media, the majority of his works use text and paper as the key elements. From 2005 to 2006, Tachibana has created for Shiseido Paris an installation art called The Forest is Visible Within the Trees. The work features everyday life materials that can easily remind people of trees — stacked up chairs, a pile of books that resembles the shape of a Christmas tree, and crumpled paper with text unevenly printed on them. The art piece looks like the character “wood” flying in the wind which reminds viewers a forest as suggested by the title.
In 2007, Fumio Tachibana published a magazine called Kyutai (Sphere), which he was solely responsible for editing and design. The debut issue was themed “The Story of Words”, although it featured images instead of text. In the prologue of this issue that is full of images of trees, bridges, buildings and other objects, Tachibana wrote, “I believe human already had a concept of words before the birth of a language. Staring at mountains and valleys, the constantly flowing rivers, the boundless sky, the floating clouds, the traces of moon, sunlight… These are all words that appeared before words.” Admiring the caption-less photos, readers are invited to observe what Tachibana observed and imagine the words he saw from these sceneries.
Reflecting on the criticism saying images in the first few issues of Sphere are difficult to conceive, Tachibana believed it was attributed to the readers’ declining literacy; people would only glance at the image and reject the ones that do not carry an obvious meaning. “I wish people could try harder to go beyond the superficial message and seek for the actual implication with a curious mind.” Exploring the unknown and interpret things based on our imagination and experience is the greatest joy when we read and play as a kid. I wish we would never forget about the pleasure of these moments.