Japan Earthquake Posters: Remembering How the World Reached Out to Tōhoku
  by:  |  Mar 12, 2012

On March 11th, 2011, Japan was hit by the most powerful earthquake in at least 100 years at 8.9 magnitude, the fifth largest in history. The earthquake triggered powerful tsunami waves that reached heights of up to 40.5 meters. As if the devastation caused by the earthquake and tsunami weren’t enough, the following day, a reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant melted, exploded, and released radioactivity into the atmosphere.

People from a variety of backgrounds in all parts of the world worked together to help Japan recuperate from this triple disaster. The design world was definitely in the middle of the action, as this post will aim to demonstrate. To commemorate the anniversary of this tragedy, remind us of the uncertainty of life, as well as celebrate the goodwill of our fellow people all over the world at the same time, here’s a compilation of earthquake posters, canvas prints, silkscreen prints, and the like (as well as links to efforts/exhibitions that encouraged their creation) made to benefit Japan during that difficult time.

Japan Earthquake Relief Efforts, Powered by Design

Disclaimer: Images on this page are not owned by UPrinting and are used solely for educational purposes. Please click on the images to see their original sources.

The following posters are a collection of prints that may be available for purchase or submitted as part of exhibitions to benefit relief efforts. Check the descriptions and links below each image to learn more about them.

Adam Chang – Japan Earthquake Relief Series Print

japan earthquake posters 01 - adam chang

This is one of a series of posters The Poster Cause Project is selling, with 75% of profits allocated to support the Doctors Without Borders earthquake and disaster relief efforts for Japan.

Shepard Fairey – Dark Wave / Rising Sun

japan earthquake posters 02 - shepard fairey

This is a variation of Shepard Fairey’s original Dark Wave made in response to the tragedies created by the tsunami in Japan. Profits from this screen print will go to the Japanese Red Cross.

ExoesqueletoDV – Stay Strong Japan

japan earthquake posters 03 - stay strong japan exoesqueletodv

This print is available for purchase from DeviantArt, made available independently by the artist.

Peter Gutierrez – The 100 Charity

japan earthquake posters 04 - peter gutierrez the 100 charity

The 100 Charity is Peter Gutierrez’s personal project. All the money made will be donated to the American Red Cross for Earthquake/Tsunami Relief in Japan.

Kourosh Parsanejad – Ever-Shining Japan

japan earthquake posters 05 - kourosh parsanejad ever-shining japan

This is a contribution to an independent South Korean nonprofit called Green+You’s Japan earthquake initiative. More designs are available in the Green+You: Posters for Japan open Facebook group (around 2,000 submitted photos) and this web poster exhibition.

Linda Yuki Nakanishi – Japan Earthquake 2011 no.1

japan earthquake posters 06 - linda yuki nakanishi

In the creator’s own words, this poster represents the resilience of the Japanese people. The lotus symbolises birth and rebirth, and the red lotus in particular represents love, compassion, and passion.

Linda Nakanishi also organized To Japan with Love, all proceeds from which were donated to the Canadian Red Cross.

Vilmas Narecionis – Project Sunshine for Japan

japan earthquake posters 07 - vilmas narecionis project sunshine for japan

This is one of the 100 selected best posters from Project Sunshine for Japan, a group of artists, graphic designers, and art connoisseurs who have organized international poster competitions and auctions to raise money for donations to the Red Cross.

James White – Help Japan

japan earthquake posters 13 - james white signalnoise help japan

James White, aka Signalnoise, also donates proceeds from sales of this poster to the Canadian Red Cross.

Rade Šaptović – Poster for Japan

japan earthquake posters 14 - rade saptovic poster for japan

This was one of the featured posters in an exhibition called Designers Love Japan organized by 20 out of 275 submitted works were chosen for the exhibit. Proceeds were to benefit the Red Cross of Serbia, which has facilitated financial assistance to Japan amounting to approximately $1,600,000.

Francois Hoang – Wake from Death and Return to Life

japan earthquake posters 15 - francois hoang wake from death return to life

This is available as a poster print at the Aorio Studio online store. “Wake from Death and Return to Life” is inspired by a Japanese expression, “kishi kaisei”, which means “to come out of a desperate situation and make a complete return in one sudden burst.”

Megumi Diaz – Revive

japan earthquake posters 18 - megumi diaz revive

The first version of a poster for a Japan benefit art show.

Kat Reeder – To Japan with Aloha

japan earthquake posters 19 - kat reeder to japan with aloha

A tribute design with a decidedly Hawaiian twist. Proceeds also go to Red Cross.

Nick La – Japan Earthquake Poster

japan earthquake posters 20 - nick la webdesignerwall japan earthquake poster

Aside from this poster being available for purchase at Society6, it’s also downloadable for free in several sizes, so you can use it for your iPad or iPhone too.

These next posters may or may not be available for purchase or submitted as part of competitions or exhibitions to support Japan, but are heartfelt expressions of the desire to help as creative people all the same.

Moe Pike Soe – Resurrection

japan earthquake posters 08 - moe pike soe resurrection

Milena Janićijević – Japain

japan earthquake posters 10 - milena janicijevic japain

Hunter Langston – Japan Earthquake Poster Set

japan earthquake posters 11 - hunter langston japan relief poster set

Muhammad Haroon – 8.9

japan earthquake posters 12 - muhammad haroon 8.9

This is one of a series of posters Muhammad Haroon designed based on various major earthquakes around the globe. He designed artificial characters that act like living organisms, portrayed them as symbols of fear and danger, and named them after the magnitude of the earthquakes they were inspired from.

Dan Matutina – Love & Aid

japan earthquake posters 09 - dan matutina love and aid

Twistedfork / Dan Matutina created this poster illustration to inform people how to donate.

Joanne Slorach – Japan Earthquake Poster

japan earthquake posters 16 - joanne slorach

Finn Harries – Japan Earthquake Poster Series

japan earthquake posters 17 - finn harries
To wrap this collection up, here’s a video exhibiting a collection of posters made for the relief effort, with directions on how to help at the end. (If you’re reading this post via RSS, you’ll have to go to the post page to see and play the video.)

Japan Earthquake Relief Posters from Overcup Press on Vimeo.


Past posts on other blogs that documented the staggering amount of art being created to support Japan mere days (or even hours) after the disasters occurred can be found on Abduzeedo, Inspiredology, AIGA Houston, and Neversaycool.

For more poster designs, check out this series of tribute designs on Dribbble.

In case you’re seeing all this cynically, I also found an interesting post commenting on possible accidental insensitivity, as well as potential underlying motives of increasing sales and improving branding, by initiatives like these at the time on The World of Y.

The beauty of having art that supports a cause is that you have a way of remembering the event even after everyone else has forgotten about it. It may be true that it would benefit the victims of this disaster better if we skipped making these designs and just gave our money. But what about those who wouldn’t? And what about the victims themselves, who need more than just our money, but also encouragement and messages of hope from others who genuinely care but may not be able to contribute much except for making design that promotes awareness and informs other people how to help instead?

If you know of other related designs or artwork, feel free to share them with the other readers in the comments.