Tokyo Subway’s Duct-Tape Typographer

Sato san’s purpose is simple: he strives to make life better for the millions of commuters who negotiate station construction sites

Shuetsu Sato 佐藤修悦 is a sixty-five year old Tokyo subway security guard. 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 of duct tape and a craft knife, he has elevated the humble worksite sign to an art form.

Sato san has no formal graphic design training (Before working as security guard, he was a bank teller and worked in a cafeteria). Nevertheless, he has a masterful eye for form and colour. His exceptional letterforms are not only elegant and unique but, more importantly, very easy to read.

Using duct tape to craft the letters gives his work a distinctive style. He begins by running long strips of tape vertically and horizontally across the surface of the sign. He then slices away the excess to form each character. Some extra tape and a few curved cuts make the bends. It’s a straightforward process, but even the simplest signs take him hours to produce.

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