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April 16, 2006


Michael Chui

Every student of design should take a study trip to Japan for a month or a year.

I was in Shanghai years ago, taking a tour of China, and I think that statement applies equally to China.


Since I've never been to Japan, I have to wonder if what we westerners see as noise is actually functional for a Japanese audience. Does the "noise" obscure information or does it actually communicate something else that we westerners just don't get?

A lot of American humor is based on the absurd and the ironic. These don't translate to other cultures, even when the language itself it understood. I wonder if Japan's noise aesthetic (writing that reminds me of all the Japanese noise bands I don't like) is like irony in that it just doesn't translate for cultural outsiders no matter how well they've acclimated.


Wow, I lived in Japan for 6 months, and I thought those refrigerators were just bags of snacks until I read the article!

Of course, I probably would have realized it if I were looking at the pictures closer -- not because I identified them as refridgerators, but because of the little (Y)147,800 in the middle!


Yes, culture *is* an important consideration. The often cited "High Uncertainty Avoidance" concept is useful perhaps for understanding why we feel compelled in Japan to include more rather than less in slides for example. Rather than "risk" leaving anything out, one may choose to sacrifice simplicity (and clarity?) for the sake of insuring that the boss does not "yell at me for leaving something out."


I had no idea what those boxes of stickers were until I read your post!

What an amazing contrast, isn't it? Japan, the land where we get the art of Zen simplicity, banged up next to the horribly trashy and flashy.


I love the "design-by-committee" sample. I think everyone can imagine how that would look even worse if it was done by a governement....!

JF Quirk

I lived in Japan for 2 years and spent a lot of time in the Shinjuku area which is just saturated with this sort of thing.
A couple of things always struck me:
1)I was always amazed by the actual data density (as in Tufte data density)and how much could be figured out even if you could not read the Kanji once you understood the way the information was presented or the "Visual Jargon"
2) That the style of the information presentation was an excellent metaphor for Japan especially Tokyo with so much crammed into such a small place.
3) The efficiency of allowing virtually every question to be answered by the attached labels so you only had to approach a salesperson once you had decided to purchase an item.
In this case maybe comprehensive trumps visual impact sometimes you just need all the data.
The color scheme well that’s another matter

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