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Japan has some of the finest graphic designers in the world and possibly also some of the worst. But we’re going to have some fun with the “styling” of some of the more “not the best that Japan has to offer” types of advertisements. Honestly, a cursory Google Image search would bring up dozens of examples of these and you will see plenty more if you go to Japanese websites with your ad-blocker turned off. However, they can be a great resource as references as to how to create cheesy images with a distinctly Japanese touch.
Making your own Japanese Maid Cafe poster
The image above which I found through a Google search (and reproduced here under Fair Use guidelines) captures in a single image a whole collection of exactly what I am trying to say here. It is an image rich in details; there is a lot of “tackiness” captured in the photo. These “tacky” elements will make creating your own Meido kafe (メイドカフェ) or Vocaloid concert poster a fun thing to do. And this article will demonstrate how to use MMD assets to easily create your own Japanese-style commercial art graphic.
Note: “tackiness” is a subjective term; my use of this term in no way should be interpreted that the establishment shown in the photo above is “tacky“. In fact, if you look in through the store window, the place actually looks really decent and the menu poster is suggesting that the food has been prepared to a “very high” standard; and of course you can probably expect personalized, “world class” maid service.
What you will need:
- MMD (any version)
- Google Images and Google Translate
- An external graphics application (see below)
You can use any graphic application that you are comfortable with to do projects like this one, but graphic apps like Photoshop, Gimp, Illustrator or Inkscape are probably the better ones. You could use Windows Paint, but that is not recommended. Or you could even use PowerPoint. In this article, we will be using Inkscape. But this will not be an article on how to use Inkscape. However, the basic approach will be the same for any graphics application.
Also, we will keep explanations short as we will focus on the concepts rather than the process.
You’re also going to need a maid. You don’t have to hire one; just find a suitable model from your collection or find one on the Internet. You don’t have to use a maid model; there are plenty of idol models and the likes which will serve the purpose just fine.
What you should also do, however, is to do some research before doing anything else. Enter the search term suggested below into your Google search bar and look through the images to get a good feel for the kind of look/style of the real thing so that you have a good idea on how to make your work look “authentic“. Also have a good look at the food being offered; especially their presentation. Look at how real maid cafe posters and menus are laid out for ideas. Also look at the maids themselves, especially make note of their “kawaii” mannerisms.
Search term: maid cafe menu tokyo
One of the nice things about MMD is you really can use it as an excuse to learn a lot more about places like Japan.
The most important menu item:
This will necessarily be your project’s driving concept. Designing advertisements in real life is half science and half art; not everyone in that industry “get’s that” which is why the world has so many more examples of bad advertisement than good examples. But, the truth is that bad advertisements can be just as effective provided that they have all the key elements that makes an advertisement effective.
Normally, I would charge hundreds of dollars for the following advice, but you’re going to get it for free here; but in a nutshell. For details, go get a 4-year college degree in the relevant field(s).
- Must have a visual (or audio) hook
- Must have an element that makes some type of offer (demand creation – picture of the offered product)
- Must have an invitation to take action (this is the sales pitch – in its most simple forms: “SALE”, “TODAY ONLY”, “SPECIAL OFFER”, “BUY NOW”)
Literally, each of the categories above can be expanded into a book of their own but for our purposes here’s all we need to do:
- Use an MMD model as the visual hook
- Use text to create an offer; a nonsense offer in our case
- There’s no invitation to take an action as we aren’t really selling anything
At this point, normally you will make a rough layout. Just use a pencil and a napkin or do what I do and create it in your head.
Creating the visual hook
This is really easy:
- Grab your favorite MMD maid model
- Pose her in MMD. I used a pose used by a real maid from an image that came up doing the research above.
- Put a basic shader on her to smooth out her shadows. You want to use shaders that do not affect the global scene; just the model alone. This is because we want the model against a transparent background. You could also use a more advanced effect like RayMMD; but then you’re going to have to spend time editing the model out of the background.
- Crop your shot and make a “Render to Picture” as a PNG. This creates an image with a transparent background.
You will need a cake…
Or pictures of whatever food you’re going to be serving in your maid cafe. There’s plenty of MMD food models. You could use those or just crib off something from the web – just use copyright or royalty free images. I grabbed a cup cake image from unsplash.com. But if your maid cafe serves other foods, that’s fine. Choose whatever you want.
You will need some Japanese characters…
Google Translate will be your best friend here. Just type your text, translate it into Japanese and copy it into your graphics app. Some apps may even allow you to change the font face.
Put it all together in your graphics app…
So with all the materials assembled, you can do whatever you want with them in your graphics app. The image above was what we came up with in about 20 minutes using Inkscape. Whether or not it captures the spirit of a somewhat cheesy Japanese maid cafe advertisement is subjective but it should look pretty convincing even though it is intended to be “satire“. In case you were wondering what was offered on the menu, I just typed the following into Google Translate:
authentic european cuisine
american hot dogs
The world is your oyster…
Although I chose to focus on maid cafes here; the principle behind what was discussed here can be re-purposed for other types of themes. You could create Vocaloid concert posters with a more Japanese kind of feel, for example. Another idea is to do some research into vintage Japanese advertisement posters; there are some really lovely examples that can inspire your own projects. Many of those use models in more traditional Japanese costumes and the art work is sometimes truly outstanding. MMD is a hobby that did originate in Japan, and it can be nice to “do something” to capture more closely the flavors and styles of that country.
Anyway, thanks for reading. We hope you have found some useful ideas here.
Izayoi Sakuya Ver.2.00 by Arlvit / character (C) Zun (Touhou Project)
Google Translate and Google Images
Cup cake image by Jennie Brown courtesy of unsplash.com (don’t mis-type this URL or you could end up at a really dodgy site).
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