Art Disability Japan

Art by people with disabilities ‘Shibuya Font’ spreads across Tokyo

The "Shibuya Font" is a graphic design that makes use of art by disabled people and is spreading around the city. The unique typefaces and patterns are unforgettable once you see them. In April, the group became independent as a general incorporated association with the aim of getting the business off the ground.

From Jiji

April 29 2021

TOKYO – A picture of a giant standing at Shibuya’s scramble crossing, or a pattern of colourful buildings – these are just a few examples of the many ways in which people with disabilities are using art.

It all started in 2016 when the district started to develop a special product in cooperation with a support office for disabled people in the district. The cooperating vocational school proposed to sell the designs as data. This led to the creation of the Shibuya Font, which uses letters and pictures drawn by mentally and intellectually disabled people working at the office.

Ayumi Isomura, 54, a lecturer at the vocational school and co-chair of the general incorporated association, said, “We thought that if it was a design rather than a product, it would be easier for many companies to adopt it for their products and services. So far, more than 30 companies have adopted the design for products such as umbrellas, handkerchiefs and masks. The font is also used in the information displays in the Shibuya Ward Office building and on the business cards of its employees, leading to PR for the ward.

In fiscal year 2019, the sales of the Shibuya font business amounted to 2.018 million yen. Of this, 2.78 million yen was paid as wages to nine support offices for the disabled. Mr Isomura says, “Incorporation will allow us to move more flexibly. We receive proposals for new business partnerships every week, and we expect to increase our profits and wages.  

A representative of the Welfare Division for the Disabled in the ward said, “We have been aiming to incorporate in order to keep Sibuya Font going. We are very emotional because of the wishes of the people at the business and the cooperation of the companies”.  

There are more than 350 designs created, which can be downloaded by anyone from the official website. They are free or 500 yen for individuals, and commercial use is sold separately.

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