Taking up an Influential pursuit: Study Graphic Design in Japan


Who wouldn’t recognize the prevalence of graphic designs nowadays? The emergence of multimedia arts allowed the entry of various discourse when it came to arts like graphic design. The existing graphic design culture in Japan is competitive and maintaining that level is attributed to its fine educational institutions.

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Rise of Graphic Design in Japan

Many have come to know Japan through the media industry. With the prevalence of anime, manga, and other Japanese media consumed globally, a lot of people became fascinated and drawn to Japanese culture. This traffic in consumption further motivated its already bustling creative industry and likewise, serves as an invitation to many foreign artists and professionals in the field to kick-start their careers in the country. But what is in Japan’s creative industry that makes it highly marketable and tasteful to the masses? The secret lies in the Japanese concept of design.

Graphic design in Japan traces as far back as the Edo period in the advent of ukiyo-e prints. When woodblock printing came to Japan, it was initially used to produce books, but over time, it became a medium for artists to release commercial prints that seek to cater to the masses. Ukiyo-e prints are characterized by their vibrant use of color, two-dimensionality, bold lines, and subjects that showcase the common life in Japan, including landscapes and figures from Japanese literature.

These aspects carried over to the schools of Japanese painting during the period, such as Rimpa, which was dedicated to revitalizing the classical Japanese art style and Kano, which influenced the current Japanese graphic design trends. However, it wasn’t until the Showa period that graphic design was accepted as a discipline of its own. 

Moreover, with Western influence entering Japanese society, it pushed for several changes in style. Trends started to come up interweaving with the principles of balance, expression, and function inherent in Japanese art, thus, giving birth to the contemporary style and elements used by professionals in the industry today, such as script-mixing, custom typographies and the like.

Graphic Design Education in Japan

There are things in Japan that you can only see in Japan. This is one of the reasons why tourists flock the country every year. From vending machines to kawaii fashion, there is not a lack of creativity, imagination, and efficiency in the Japanese way of things, which makes the country the perfect place to get your graphic design education. 

Several institutions in Japan offer graphic design programs where you will be able to improve your art and engage in business with clients to prepare you in pursuing your career should you choose to work in design firms or go freelance.

Note: While all of the following schools have English websites and take international students, all of the following require at least an N2 level of Japanese proficiency and the ability to take and understand classes in Japanese as there is no English-language program.

1. Kyoto Seika University

Kyoto Seika University offers a variety of programs for promising graphic designers. The university’s Visual Design Department features a graphic design course and a digital creation course. The curriculum is unique because it has an integrated system of learning. Students from both programs can study together during their first and third years and give them a chance to collaborate on lessons and projects. Education in SEIKA’s Department of Visual Design focuses on the balance between text, image, and communication to create maximum impact on students’ outputs. Thus, the university highlights courses such as calligraphy and typography to help students master these aspects in design. 

Suppose you want to focus on one particular aspect of graphic design. In that case, however, the university also has an exclusive department for Illustration, which focuses on communication design, as well as a Manga department where you can train to become a professional mangaka. 

Kyoto Seika University

2. Tama Art University

With its aim to create professionals who are adept at communication and planning while exercising creativity, the Graphic Design Department of Tama Art University trains its students to create products and outputs that communicate with their target audience through creative manipulation of art elements. Students learn from a variety of courses going beyond graphic design such as web design, animation, character design, game software, and computer graphics, to name a few.

The curriculum is systematic, which means that students take foundational courses in their first two years and, later on, choose a specialization in their third year. Students can choose from either Advertising, Communication, or Expression as a specialized course. If location is a big determining factor in taking your education, Tama Art University can be a good choice as it is located in Tokyo.

Tama Art University

3. Nippon Designers School

Located in Shibuya, studying in Nippon Designers School (NDS) not only exposes you to the rush of city life in Japan, but it also allows you to stay updated to the newest trends in the country meanwhile taking your education. The school offers graphic design programs, visual design, illustration, comic design, and manga with 2-3 year curriculums at best depending on the program. Education in NDS seeks to develop its students’ skills in design, management, and communication. Moreover, it strives to hone each student’s individuality and maximize their creative potential as designers through individualized teaching.

The school also boasts a 90% job offer rate with its extensive affiliations to various companies and career orientation and support to its graduates, which in turn, gave way to some of them becoming known figures in their industries.

Nippon Designers School

4. Seian University of Arts and Design

If you are seeking a more relaxed environment, away from the bustles of Tokyo while still ensuring to get quality education, Seian University of Arts and Design might be a good option. Located in the Shiga Prefecture, Seian University of Arts and Design provides a space for studying art in close proximity to nature where students can find comfort as well as enjoy taking up their programs in the institution. 

Three objectives guide Seia University in their delivery of education: to guide each and every student in pursuing their careers, to provide students the necessary tools and expertise in the field, and to support its graduates in their creative endeavors as professionals.

The university has a Media Design Department where the graphic design course falls under as well as an Illustration Department. It offers an illustration course and an array of specialized courses such as digital illustration, comic and picture book course, animation, 3DCG course, and landscape illustration course. 

Seian University of Art and Design

Graphic Design as a Profession in Japan

The graphic design industry in Japan is competitive, but due to the breadth of industries where professional graphic design applies, there is much room for you to explore until you find what works the best for you. You can choose to work for various companies like design studios, ad agencies, or manufacturing companies. If you want flexibility in your work schedule and be your own boss, you can also pursue freelancing and create a clientele of your own.

On that note, while you’re still studying, take advantage of the career support and internships offered by your university and its affiliated companies as it will help you gain experience and build your portfolio. Likewise, when you choose to pursue freelancing, create your network of potential clients as early as possible, and build rapport. Also, practice and learn the language as it would help you a lot in communicating in the workplace and with your clients. Most importantly, don’t forget to enjoy your education amongst other driven students.

To read more about graphic design jobs, check out our article. 

Materialize Art; Graphic Design Jobs in Japan

To sum it up

The creative industry in Japan continues to be vibrant. With the bustling industry comes an array of opportunities for both students and artists who wish to study and pursue professional graphic design in the country. Japan has many institutions that offer extensive graphic design programs that will not only train you in art but also in doing business. These institutions usually have a pool of companies affiliated to them that will help you establish your career in Japan, so make sure never to let those chances of gaining experience pass up. On that note, ganbatte! Do your best!


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