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Case Study: Dentsu World Table Tennis Championships

Client:  TV TOKYO Corporation
AwardGraphite Pencil / Graphic Design / Posters (Graphic Design) / 2016     
Award: Yellow Pencil / Crafts for Design / Photography for Design / 2016    


Japan’s TV TOKYO, mainly renowned for its anime output, needed larger audiences for their broadcast of the 2015 World Table Tennis Championships. Having hosted the event for over 10 years, the station wanted to reach a new, younger audience for a sport traditionally watched by elders.

TV TOKYO’s long-running creative agency is Japan’s advertising powerhouse Dentsu. Housed in a building allegedly containing 70 elevators, and nearly 7,000 employees, Dentsu is by far Japan’s biggest advertising agency. Once a year, new recruits come together to climb Japan’s highest mountain, Mt. Fuji. The result is a loyal workforce, and trusting clients. This culture is what leads to the creation of powerful, craft-led solutions.

For the second time art director Uenishi Yuri was assigned the World Table Tennis Championships brief. No stranger to success, Uenishi has won prizes including the Tokyo ADC, and Adfest as well as holding solo exhibitions in Tokyo and New York, all at under 30 years old.

Uenishi’s posters for the 2014 championships, held in Tokyo, were complex, vibrant and dynamic. They depicted Japanese iconography overlaid with dramatic photography of the sport. It was up to Uenishi and his team, led by Creative Director Mari Konishi to come up with a concept equally as impactful for the 2015 event.



The team trialled a number of different approaches but settled on an idea that would differentiate them not only from their previous work, but from all the other posters around.

Deciding to focus on table tennis’ fast paced nature, the team opted to communicate the ‘extreme moments’ which happen throughout a match. As Uenishi explains, “Table tennis contains the fastest speed among all the ball sports. To communicate the ‘extreme moment’ in table tennis, we needed to bring a space without any temperature, time, atmosphere and feeling.”

The idea for execution was to bring out these moments, “the visual needed to be completely minimal and abstract.  We intentionally aimed for the space as if we had a remote controller to pause time.”



There was one photographer who the team believed was perfect for the job, “The photography should not be too flat, or look computer generated, and not have too much information and different tones together. With this very graphical yet minimal vision, it needed to find the right balancing between abstract and reality. Photographer Mikiya Takimoto has a particular talent in this field.”

In fact, Takimoto is renowned for his calmness and almost ethereal ability to make the world pause, capturing moments that are personal and intimate. His work portrays life that is at-peace, free from external distractions, totally in focus on the moment. As Uenishi puts it “We chose Mikiya Takimoto as we believed it is only him who can deliver the quality and the world of creativity we wanted.“

What’s more, to retain the realistic look they wanted, they eschewed retouching. “The visual is made of one-shot photography without almost any retouches. The only part that was retouched is we have deleted the paddle which was used to hit the ball.“

“We aimed for the visual to look like an illustration at a glance but if you look carefully, you will know this is photography. “ Uenishi explains. There was a fine balance that meant abstracting too far could make the posters lose their impact. “We needed to tune down the volume of information within the photography as much as possible. Yet we needed to not lose the detailed texture, and the shadow, to keep the photography with reality.”

To do this, a lot of tweaking to the subject matter was required. The balls themselves were treated with a special paint, and the right paper was required to capture the shadow in all its glory. Additionally, the width of the line on the table was increased.

The commitment to reducing post-production even went as far as to refrain from cropping, by framing the shots immaculately. “The photography was carefully designed with certain composition so we did not crop the raw photography. Each element such as ball and its shadow were carefully calculated and we laid the exact position. We made the background like a stage setting and floating the ball above the table. “

With the shoot completed it was over to art director Uenishi Yuri to create posters that conveyed the information TV TOKYO needed.

“To attract audience with strong impact, we needed to subtract all the elements and to choose only one element that is the heart of the visual.” He explains. This meant cutting back on text, and relying on the power of the image “The uniqueness of the poster lies in the symmetry in space and time, and the text should become the secondary information to compose the poster. The poster will not shout out to the audience with a loud voice, but it will surely attract the audience with slower yet deeper communication."   



The posters were displayed in train stations throughout Tokyo. But in such an overwhelming environment, there was a danger of them being lost. “Often the posters in the station receive less attention from the passengers. Outdoor advertising is ignored most of the time. Most of the posters in a station have too much to say.” Explains Uenishi. So the minimal approach worked to cut through the noisy visual environment of the Tokyo transit system.



Needless to say the posters looked stunning, achieving new heights of creative execution for Dentsu’s client TV Tokyo.

The Judges at D&AD were also unanimous in their praise. The Graphic Design Jury in particular spent a lot of time discussing the work, as Judge Shogo Kishino explains: “It is quite important that the work should have the power to convince the story, the newness, a strong emotional expression. The table tennis work had them all, and also had a new approach to express such sport in graphic. It had the power to make the jury stop and look.”

Importantly, the posters broke out of just appealing to a Japanese sensibility, British designer and Graphic Design Judge Toby Edwards explains, “In and amongst a wide gamut of other poster entries, this was one of those that managed to cut through the noise and draw you in. Simple, immediate, beautifully realised and an unexpected solution; It's a perfect example of maximum impact delivered through minimum means”.

Table tennis recently received a boost in Japan as Jum Mizutani won the country’s first ever Olympic medal in the sport, a bronze. All eyes in are now on the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, with hopes that the table tennis team can ride the wave of popularity.

If you think you have a campaign that deserves a Pencil, enter your work into the D&AD Awards and see if our judges agree. When it comes to awards, nothing matters more.

For more creative inspiration and the opportunity to get up close and personal with the world’s best design and advertising, join us at D&AD Festival.

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