Tokyo subway’s humble duct-tape typographer
August 1, 2019 6:47 AM   Subscribe

Sixty-five year old Sato san wears a crisp canary yellow uniform, reflective vest and polished white helmet. His job is to guide rush hour commuters through confusing and hazardous construction areas. When Sato san realised he needed more than his megaphone to perform this duty, he took it upon himself to make some temporary signage. With a few rolls of duct tape and a craft knife, he has elevated the humble worksite sign to an art form. (previously)
posted by Etrigan (23 comments total) 67 users marked this as a favorite
cringing, wincing, I hope it's not actually duct tape but gaffer's tape?

God the tension in my shoulders just ratcheted up so much
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:08 AM on August 1, 2019

It looks too shiny to be gaffer's tape, no?
posted by jacquilynne at 7:16 AM on August 1, 2019

There is a lot of informal/temporary/employee made signage in the NYC subway system but i cant say any of it looks like 1/1000th as impressive as this dudes stuff,
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 7:16 AM on August 1, 2019 [3 favorites]

I hope it's not actually duct tape but gaffer's tape?

It looks too shiny to be gaffer's tape, no?

Also looks a bit translucent where you can see different colours crossing over one another. Although in some of the pictures it appears that the signs are being created on temporary barriers anyway.
posted by tobascodagama at 7:40 AM on August 1, 2019

I want video of him doing this!
posted by Maaik at 7:48 AM on August 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

 Also looks a bit translucent

Teraoka tape, likely then. Teraoka:Gaffer::Gaffer::Duct. It's inordinately hard to acquire outside Japan. My uncle imports it into Australia after getting some boxes sealed with it from a piano supplier in Japan. I think he's doing almost as much business with selling tape as with wholesaling pianos, tbh.
posted by scruss at 8:11 AM on August 1, 2019 [14 favorites]

Okay this is straight-up delightful. The signage is gorgeous—idiosyncratic but consistent. And those maps! My god. I love absolutely everything about it.
posted by Sokka shot first at 8:32 AM on August 1, 2019 [7 favorites]

Oh, man, I love basically everything about this. Signage as an intersection of visual art and craft and utility is this giant world I keep wanting to dig into at some point and keep not getting around to. Sato's work cuts a really nice line (heyooo) through that, and it's especially interesting to see it as something that's been such a long-running practice for him now. What a wonderful body of work.

Tape as a visual and physical medium is something I really never thought about until the last few years when I started using it for negative space and masking in my painting work. Roll tape has this fundamental aspect of linearity that affects the sense of how it might be used—deploying it becomes ordered, becomes vectors and directed strokes in a more direct and constrained way than more free-form material allows—that I really like and appreciate seeing manifesting in all kinds of ways in people's visual work. And the texture, and thickness, and color, and translucence, and implications of different levels of tack and residue, and...the jump from thinking of it in a utilitarian way as "just tape" to seeing it as a medium of expression is an exciting one to make.

Sato's stuff is great and I really like that it occupies such a clear intersection of aesthetics and utility. I'd love to hear more about his feelings and thoughts about his craft, the transitory nature of this kind of purpose-driven work, what he's learned and changed and what joy and frustration he's had in it all.

I want video of him doing this!

Ditto. I think some process footage would be really satisfying.

Teraoka tape, likely then.

In the previous thread, flapjax suggested "gum tape"; I don't know from tapes so I don't know if that's another nickname for the same material, or just a different guess entirely.
posted by cortex at 8:40 AM on August 1, 2019 [8 favorites]

I want video of him doing this!

Here you go.
posted by trig at 8:44 AM on August 1, 2019 [12 favorites]

This is so great, thank you for posting it. "Shuetsu Sans"!
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:45 AM on August 1, 2019 [2 favorites]

These are rad!

Weirdly, I just had the gum tape/duct tape discussion with some friends the other day (so of course I had to share this with them). Apparently they are the same thing.
posted by sunset in snow country at 8:50 AM on August 1, 2019

Rad, trig, thank you. This one is a nice steady overhead time lapse, and I love the not-so-toothy grin and random cat zooms at the end, but I like in particular the Rocketnews 24 montage for the closeups (you can get a better look at the tape here, for one thing) and the abbreviated step-by-step. That grid work and the subtractive process really really speak to me.
posted by cortex at 9:10 AM on August 1, 2019 [4 favorites]

I found an old Livejournal post (back from when some people were using it as a kind of Wordpress-lite), and apparently it's not quite accurate that he had no graphics training/experience; one of his early jobs was hand-lettering newspaper headlines. I could see how that could feed into designing signage.
posted by tavella at 9:24 AM on August 1, 2019 [7 favorites]

"This way to these guys". +1 Bright Yellow Caution Tape Smile.
posted by buzzman at 10:01 AM on August 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

This is beautiful, thanks for posting it.

As time-consuming as those must be to make, I am sure they beat yelling the same thing a million times at passengers.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:22 AM on August 1, 2019 [7 favorites]

OMG, this is far beyond what I expected when I clicked the link. Thank you so much for posting it, absolutely the best of the web.
posted by mumimor at 11:27 AM on August 1, 2019

 In the previous thread, flapjax suggested "gum tape";

Gum tape (which Teraoka also make) seems to be the same as kraft paper gummed tape used in watercolour work. Though translation's probably losing a lot.
posted by scruss at 11:41 AM on August 1, 2019

These are really neat. I particularly like the way he uses negative dots within some of the characters, e.g. the blue 急 in the first block of examples.
posted by zompist at 12:06 PM on August 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

Every now and then there is a profile of someone (frequently Japanese but not always) who's devoted themselves completely to something that seems relatively simple and elevating that work to art. Sushi, noodles, knife sharpening, sign making. And it strikes me that the common thread in all their stories is deep satisfaction in their work, amazing humility and a centring of others. "I want to make people happy" is a frequent refrain. And I don't think it's by accident that you see this kind of devotion to such "simple" work. There's no room to be alienated from your labor, here. There is immediate feedback from the people you're doing the work for. I wish my job afforded me this (or, maybe more accurately, I wish I knew where to find this in my job).
posted by Reyturner at 1:12 PM on August 1, 2019 [8 favorites]

even the simplest signs take him hours to produce.

I’m making the signs without anyone asking me

Sato must have the coolest manager in the world.
posted by rodlymight at 3:45 PM on August 1, 2019 [6 favorites]

His lettering is highly regarded by designers and curators

I like this.
posted by Harald74 at 10:54 PM on August 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

This man actually inspired me! Someone needed a simple sign and had NO Sharpies, but did have electrical tape and scissors. Not beautiful like this man’s work but infinitely better than otherwise!
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 7:33 AM on August 3, 2019 [3 favorites]

The writing is so stylish.
posted by lucidium at 7:54 AM on August 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

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