Tokyo-based Tadashi Ueda’s posters are the graphic art equivalent of a haiku: like these little poems, his work is concise and draws poetic meaning from observations of the everyday.

Born in 1988 in Nara and graduating from the Kuwasawa Design School in 2012, Ueda now works primarily as a commercial graphic designer, though most of his Tumblr is filled with fanciful posters knocked together in his spare time. These little “picture poems” are fleeting observations of daily life, depicting everything from a boxy passing car to the flowing form of a tissue as it peeks from its box.

“I sometimes draw a rough sketch, but mostly I do not draw at all and create what I see in my mind directly on the screen,” says Ueda.

Whether designing for a mass-market Japanese clothing store, collaborating with a fellow illustrator, or creating posters for a niche graphic design exhibition, Ueda approaches all his work with an emphasis on storytelling and simplicity. Today, the designer talks us through five of his most recent favorite posters.

Rising From A Night’s Sleep for Gurafiku

“I was first introduced to Gurafiku, a blog of Japanese graphic design from the United States, when my work was featured on it. For a Gurafiku exhibition in the U.S., I was commissioned to create a poster and came up with a fictional story for it: I imagined that there was an American who loves Japan so much that he has socks with Japanese flags on them. He learns that there’s going to be an exhibition called Gurafiku tomorrow, so he washes his socks, thinking the whole time of all the Japanese graphic design he is going to see. The next day, he takes his socks down from the washing line and wears them as he goes to the exhibition.”

Collaboration between Tadashi Ueda and Alexander Medel Calderón, 2016.

A collaboration with Alexander Medel Calderón

“This poster was a collaboration with the Santiago de Chile-based illustrator and designer Alexander Medel Calderón, who is known for his playful, bold imagery and lives ‘across the pond’ from me. The poster itself is about collaboration and coming together: we decided that because collaboration always starts with a handshake, that’s what the poster’s concept should be. Alexander drew a face, and I drew shaking hands. I like to warp and stretch, so I added my taste to his illustration by stretching it.”

Kuwasawa Design School Graduation Exhibition

“These two figures are original characters that I created specifically for the poster. They aren’t particularly related to the Kuwasawa Design School, but they really love the Kuwasawa Design School. I imagine that they’re in a hurry as they head to the graduation exhibition, and they’re hurrying so fast that their hair is blowing in the wind. I used gold and silver so that the image would be bright and noticeable. Posters were handed out to visitors and school graduates; for the grads, I used congratulatory colors, and the rest of the guests had multiple other color options.”

NEWoMan sale advertisement

“This was an ad for a big sale event at the NEWoMan shop in Shinjuku. It was used mainly in the Shinjuhu station on digital signage, so it has a horizontal as well as vertical option. As it’s a sale, customers buy a lot of merch, so I created an illustration of a big shopping bag that becomes swollen with goods.”

Tadashi Ueda, Tai Pei, 2016.

Tai Pei, Poster Exhibition

“This was designed specifically for a poster exhibition in Taiwan.‘Tai Pei’ is spelled ‘Taipei’, and when writing it in Kanji, it’s ‘台北’, so I designed the poster using these simple figures as the basis. I thought it wasn’t fun to create something that not everyone could read, so I mixed in elements that were difficult for everyone to understand, and other elements that people would be able to recognize.”