Paul Nicholson aka Terratag became famous as the designer of the logo for electronica artist Aphex Twin. He worked at the cutting edge of culture, listening to early techno and designing for small skateboard labels like San Francisco’s Anarchic Adjustment.
His work felt like an alien otherworldly twist on cyberpunk. At the time digital tools offered a new palette and designers looked to explore the limits of it, using pixelation in an artful way.
The problem was that because of his iconic work Nicholson had been attached to 1990s graphic design. His work as emblematic of that time period as British design houses The Designers Republic or Octavo. He had to keep moving forward to keep working. Hence the new Terratag identity. Terratag was responsible for the Laughing Man logo in Ghost in The Shell Stand Alone Complex series. This has a nice recursive ring to it, it is not only derived from Japanese culture, but has also shaped Japanese culture directly. Terratag isn’t only design for hire, but also a brand in its own right. He has done art drawing from grauve covers, shibari photos and popular culture mecha and kaiju icons.
One could argue that Nicholson’s interest in all things Japan harks back to the 1980s and 1990s cool before the Korean wave of hallyu and K-pop overshadowed Japan’s cultural offerings. Japan was cool from food and drink (I don’t drink and still lust after a Sapporo Beer tumbler can, gaming, industrial design, street fashion, sleaze to cinema and animated programmes.
In that sense Japan is temporised by been sandwiched between Hong Kong’s golden age and the rise of Korea on the cultural landscape.
So why talk about Nicholson’s work now?
It’s a designer that I’ve blogged about before. I just noticed this picture in their flickr photostream. Loving the mix of Japanese fighting robots and pop-art motifs in this particular artwork. I wonder about what comes after this current iteration of Nicholson’s designs?