Graphic design, by its very nature, demands that its practitioners be prescient. As a driving force of minimalism, Tanaka is a master of rendering the complex simply. Tanaka retains a Japanese elegance and simplicity through a strict adherence to basic geometric form.
It is the poster that forms the focal point of his work, mostly these are for cultural events, theater and dance performances (with Japanese Noh theater playing a particular role), concerts and art exhibitions etc. As well as for type manufacturers and fashion designers, and even depicting social and environmental topics. His stylistic range undulates between unconstrained gestural strokes of the brush and geometrical stringency, bright colors and laconism in black and white.
Bold aesthetics from the world of tea ceremonies.
His most famous poster, for the dance troupe Nihon Buyo and reused for various purposes, features a uniquely abstract take on the geisha. Instead of the classic realistic rendering, typical to Japanese art, Tanaka created the head and shoulders out of stark geometric forms on a grid. Squares and rectangles make up the hair and face. This is typical of Japanese decorative simplicity but surprisingly novel in its reductive angularity. Tanaka's palette, a vibrant combination of pastels and primaries, was also a synthesis of old and new.
With nothing to prove, Tanaka was free to experiment with color and form. Black and white had been the dominant aesthetic: clean, cool, simple, refined. With his bold use of color, Tanaka expanded the possibilities of Japanese graphic design.
His ultimate mission - beauty.