Creative Spotlight: ASIAN_FOOD_DESIGN Celebrates the Diverse Asian Food Culture

By: Syiva Zahra
02/10/2024
en
Thumbnail courtesy of Masuki Takako

They say food is always a way to someone’s heart, a comfort blanket that complements our daily life. What we overlook the most is that food is actually a living culture, beyond the everyday staple we simply enjoy it as. In order to preserve gastronomic culture, food is researched, documented and, nowadays, even turned into illustrated artwork, such as the works of Masuki Takako of ASIAN_FOOD_DESIGN. Being able to see a fresh documentation of a culture’s gastronomic side can open us up to considering the deeper significance of food, such as the herbs, condiments, cooking method, and origins that make up a plate. Masuki Takako, founder of ASIAN_FOOD_DESIGN shared with EnVi her profound love for Asian cuisine and how she expresses it through illustrations. 

The Soul Behind ASIAN_FOOD_DESIGN

ASIAN_FOOD_DESIGN is a creative project established by Masuki Takako, a Tokyo-based graphic designer and illustrator. Her drawings are focused on Asian cuisine. “I’m delighted to share my love of food by illustrating the dishes I’ve enjoyed throughout my travels to different Asian countries, as well as those I hope to try in the future,” Takako shared, in an email interview with EnVi

Photo courtesy of Masuki Takako

“Cultural exchange is the first step towards peace.”

Masuki Takako

Takako believes in the saying “Cultural exchange is the first step towards peace,” and her goal is to pique people’s curiosity about different cultures through her artwork. 

The attention to detail in Takako’s works is eye-catching. Right off the bat, one can tell that she’s conducted a deep research on each dish due to the insightful yet simple inspiration that she channels. Color is the standout characteristic of her drawings. She uses bright hues that evoke excitement, which is natural given that color in dishes stimulates the appetite.

Seeking Visual Inspirations

“It always motivates me to learn about foods and cultures that I am unaware of,” Takako stated. She disclosed that she loves Asian food but she’s not good at cooking, hence why she began drawing. For ASIAN_FOOD_DESIGN, Takako’s goal is to express the kawaii (cute and lovely) essense of Asian food in her artworks. “Drawing these foods gave me a sense of satisfaction as if I ate them!” she said. 

Takako’s drawings are vibrant and often full of bright colors, which evoke peace and happiness. Her inspiration comes from the colors of food stalls, tables, tableware, and dishware that she comes across throughout her travels. 

Strokes of Happiness

For Takako, hand-drawing and painting is more enjoyable than computer drawing, as she finds the latter tiring to practice. She believes that because she has more color options and design control, hand-drawing is a happier experience. Prior to illustrating, she also enjoyed researching food because, as she put it: “It broadens my understanding of the cuisine and the culture.”. 

She finds it intriguing to create and discover designs that aren’t available in commercial design. In Takako’s case, producing books, zines, and posters allows her to express her creativity freely. Her frequently used technique in drawing is Risograph, a digital screen printing technique, and the artist likes blending two or three colors into her designs. 

Dive into Hong Kong’s Cuisine in Food & Drink: Hong Kong

In a proposed collaboration with Singaporean food writer Wee Ling Soh, Takako decided to create the Food & Drink: Hong Kong book. Takako’s husband is a Hong Kongese and has visited the city several times, while Wee Ling has lived in Hong Kong. Since they had similar experiences, they immediately hit it off . This project was completed via email and chat. 

Its complex combinations have earned Hong Kong cuisine the title of “Gourmet Paradise,” and discussing the topic is always a fascinating conversation. Given Hong Kong’s lengthy history as a port for trade, the city’s cuisine is mostly influenced by British and Chinese cuisines

The book’s creators both worked closely, with Takako in charge of illustrating and Wee Ling in charge of the food choice and writing. Initially, the book was made for children, with small characters appearing in it. As time went on, Takako and Wee Ling realized that the book could cater to adults as well. In the illustration process, Takako felt challenged as she explored how far she could go with only two colors in this book, used to featuring more than two colors in her drawings. 

What’s Inside the Asian Lunch Box?

Asian Lunch Box is Takako’s first ever self-created book. She looked for pictures across Instagram accounts and contacted the owners for permission to illustrate the food. After she drew them, she was reminded of a lunch box she had always wondered how to utilize. Takako originally loved bento lunch boxes, so she put the drawings inside the box and voilà! Asian Lunch Box was created.

Art Book Fairs all over Asia

ASIAN_FOOD_DESIGN has attended various book fairs in Asia including Tokyo, Seoul, Jakarta, and Singapore. These festivals are a means for book and zine designers to gather and showcase their brand. “It is very inspiring to meet new people and learn new things at every art book fair,” Takako shared.

One memorable moment of her attending a book fair took place at Jakarta art book fair, where she was the only Japanese participant and was grateful that the people there were very kind to her. One thing about Takako is that she uses the opportunity of joining book fairs to acquaint herself with local cuisine. “While attending art book fairs, I also enjoy the local food and do research,” she let EnVi know. 

Takako and Her Future Projects

In the future, Takako hopes to expand her works more, such as through collaborating with restaurants for their design needs. She is also planning to make more zines, posters, and have solo exhibitions. Takako will be having her first solo exhibition this June in Tokyo. For those residing in Tokyo or planning to visit, make sure to stop by! 

Looking for more articles that highlight visual arts and design? Check out our Shenuka Corea Creative Spotlight here