• Steven Heller

Costumes With Attitude and Amplitude

Ken Tanabe is a graphic designer who creates Halloween costumes according to “design rules” as a way to avoid the worn-out Halloween routine of: I paid too much to dress up as a sexy dead version of that person from that thing. Although Tanabe has developed his own Halloween costume style and everyone is encouraged to participate and share. I asked Tanabe to tell us more about them.

What inspired you to make these costumes? I wanted to reverse the patterns that make Halloween costumes predictable. People often dress up as a sexy dead version of a pop culture figure. And the costumes are typically store-bought and a little flimsy. As someone trained in graphic design, I thought I would apply my professional practice to the costume problem. That includes research, prototyping, and a custom solution that makes people happy.

Do you wear more than one a season? I create my costumes according to six self-imposed rules, which basically force me to do the opposite of what everyone else is doing. I only make one of those costumes per year. However, if I get invited to a good theme party (like I was this year), I might follow someone else’s rules instead. Designers love a good brief.

What has been the response? I’ve been making costumes according to these rules for 12 years now. My friends have come to expect (and, I hope, look forward to) a new Halloween costume every year. I was a finalist in the NYC Halloween parade one time. Last year, there was a nice piece about my costume in Fast Company Design. This year, Radiolab (one of my favorite podcasts) kindly retweeted it. I see it as the closest thing I have to a fine art project. And it’s a lot of fun.

What is next? Halloween isn’t the only holiday I’m excited about. I created a campaign for a new holiday called Loving Day. It’s named after Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court decision that struck down the laws against interracial marriage in the U.S. It’s gotten great press, and some people even get married on Loving Day. If I can keep filling voids in our social fabric with something celebratory, I will.

Do you design your own typefaces? Are you passionate about type-centric design work? Have you produced an excellent handlettered project? If so, we want to see your work. All too often, typeface designs, typographic designs and handlettering get overlooked in competitions—which is why Print developed a competition that gives the artforms their full due and recognizes the best designers in each category. Enter Print’s Typography & Lettering Awards today.

#DailyHeller #halloween #kentanabe #StevenHeller