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AARP International, the division of AARP that focuses on global aging policy issues, produces a yearly print magazine called The Journal. Each year, Ultra Studio creates custom, handmade artwork for the cover of the prestigious publication. For the 2018 Edition, the magazine focused its coverage on the story of aging in Japan—the world’s first super-aged country. This is the first year that AARP has highlighted an individual country and marks an important evolution in the magazine’s content and design. The goal was to find a way to pay homage to Japan’s culture in a unique and fitting way (without falling back on vague or trite visual metaphors), with a visually stunning piece of art. We wanted to generate interest and cement AARP’s role as an innovative and credible global thought leader. The poster is a creative component of the magazine.
Because we were so intimately involved in the creation of the magazine content (from writing the articles, to taking photos) and on the ground in Japan for a number of weeks, we were able to zero in on the medium of choice: paper craft. We decided on the art of paper cutting and folding, a nod to the Japanese paper art forms of origami and kirigami. For subject matter, we chose the skyline of Tokyo, with Mt. Fuji in the background, which speaks to the modern density of a Japanese metropolis. This hand-crafted direction encapsulates the pure craftsmanship we witnessed in Japan, and gives a nod to the striking dualities present in Japanese art and culture: simplicity and intricacy, restraint and obsession, modernity and tradition. Using one of our own photos of the city for accuracy, we engineered a multi-layered city from paper—meticulously cutting, scoring, folding, and mounting hundreds of pieces of paper by hand. We also wanted the poster to project a minimalistic and restrained design.
The resulting creative (and the publication) have received overwhelmingly positive feedback—from global leaders at the World Economic Forum, AARP board members and leadership, the Japanese embassy in Washington, DC, and many other recipients around the world. The creative work continues to serve as a focal point for AARP’s global age-related content, encouraging people to take a closer look at AARP and aging, making an academic topic more relevant and compelling for a wider audience.