Graphic design is a creative process that is based on presentation and visual communication. In order to combine symbols, words and images, designers use various methods. That allows conveying specific messages and ideas. Graphic designers unite in various international and domestic bodies that help to promote their work and also, that is how they can support one another and exchange ideas and creative thoughts. This work will undertake to investigate graphic design in Iran in the context of Icograda (International Council of Graphic Design Associations).
Icograda is an international organization, which was founded in London in 1963. Its purpose was to found a world body for expressing and practicing communication design and visual communication. The organization has members in 67 countries and regions all over the world. It also networks with such global agencies and organizations as UNESCO, ISO International Organization for Standardization), WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) and many others.
Icograda is a non-profit and member-based network of independent organizations (Icograda. IDA). Icograda actively promotes design, educational practice and research work, operating through design promotion bodies, design education institutions and design media. The organization also networks with individuals, using its Icograda Friends Network.
The core values, mission and vision of the Council are collectively expressed in the statement “leading creativity” (Icograda. IDA) and are practiced through activities of its members. In 1991, the Icograda Foundation was founded in order to promote global education and awareness through graphic design. The biennial Icograda World Design Congress serves as the means to unite the international design community and help to explore the modern trends in design activities.
Icograda in Iran
Icograda in Iran is represented by at least two organizations: IGDS (Iranian Graphic Designers Society), which has about 480 members and IGDN (Iranian Graphic Designer Network), which claims to have 18,000 members. Besides, the Council has several individual members in the country.
IGDS was founded about 14 years ago, when graphic designers decided to establish a professional society by uniting their colleagues. The initial core of the founders was organized in 1998 (Iranian Graphic Designers Society). IGDS runs various festivals and exhibitions, such as Silver Cypress II The Second Iranian Graphic Designers Society Annual Exhibition and The 4 International Festival of Iranian Tribes Culture.
IGDN was founded in 2005 in order to promote advancing of graphic design. It is a platform for professionals and enthusiasts to participate in design workshops, interact with international colleagues and build business relationships (Iranian Graphic designer Network). IGDN provides for open and fair practice of information exchange globally, displays designers’ portfolios and inspires talented Iranian designers to participate in various international events. IGDN is an official member of AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts).
New design trends in Iran
There are basically two design trends in Iran now. One is represented by usage of modern-day techniques and application of global tendencies, often used for commercial purposes. They are expressed through the Iranian context. The other trend is expressed in the opposite way: designers continue traditional and customary themes and design patterns by expressing them in the contemporary context.
The first trend is application of universally recognized and significant tendencies. It is well-expressed through posters, signs, journals, billboards and other visual media. Magazines are a good example of such practice. Contemporary graphic design in Iran is not homogeneous. It all depends on the preferences of the local population. As Iranian graphic designers explain it, depending on the population segment, their demands are divided into several groups. The preferences of those who live in rural areas and those who moved to the cities from rural areas but have rural approach to things are quite different from those of city dwellers (Contemporary Graphic Design in Iran). Their tastes differ very much and define respective preferences. Big cities are the place where commercial graphic design flourishes.
However, there is a specific situation in Iran when designers are more interested in expressing their artistic feelings and tastes. That creates a certain problem where delivery of communication suffers. It is quite an issue for advertisement and magazines, which stress their priorities on communication significance.
At the same time, Iranian modern graphic design culture depends on the Western tendencies. Although the art is organically connected with the society, it is still, to a large degree, a reflection of what is presented in the West. Iranian graphic culture largely follows the trends and examples of European countries and the USA.
Meanwhile, there is a movement to develop traditional patterns in the light of contemporary techniques. The country has a rich history of visual arts. Iran had schools of painters and artist that were experienced in developing logos (Shafei). Advertising agencies and schools of fine arts were established in the country as early as in the fourteenth century. With the arrival of graphic design techniques from the West, the old school became gradually replaced by independent designers, who took over the industry.
The past few years have been especially successful for Iranian graphic designers. Iran has been getting more and more international attention and recognition. Thus, the exhibition “A Persian Cry”, which was held in France in 2002, showed a range of works that have stayed out of public attention for over two decades.
One of the characteristics that make modern Iranian graphic culture so unique is the usage of typography. Typography is a style in graphic design that deals with making images with the help of letters. Creating typography posters is an especially popular area for designers.
Typography is based on the old art of calligraphy. In Iran, probably more than any other country of the world, calligraphy has been very popular. It is the art of presenting letters or signs in a harmonious and expressive way. Calligraphy was well accepted by the Muslim culture and its incorporation in the Islamic architecture was wide-spread. Iranian writing is based on the Arabic alphabet and consists of 32 letters. They can be written without lifting the hand, which especially welcomes the usage of calligraphy. In the Middle Age it gained great recognition.
With the arrival of graphic design in Iran, it is difficult to tell where calligraphy ends and typography begins. Some of the Iranian masterpieces are produced through collaboration of designers and typographers. Mohammad Ehsaei is one of the famous Iranian designers that specialize in logos and calligraphy paintings.
Events for expressing Iranian graphic design
Silver Cypress, annual exhibition of works created by Iranian graphic designers is held by Iranian Graphic Designers Society.
“The Iranian Look” is an Iranian poster exhibition, which was held in Lima, Peru in October of 2010. Around one hundred and forty posters from one hundred and forty Iranian graphic designers were collected and exhibited in Lima. The works included posters created by young designers and by experienced masters.
Rising stars in Iranian graphic design
Saleh Zanganeh is a rising designer. He was born in Iran in 1983. His design career began when he was 18. Zangadeh received his B.A. in graphic design in Tehran. He is working in the city of Gorgan as a designer and art director in an advertising agency. Zaganeh participated in many exhibitions and biennials and festivals both in Iran and abroad. He is a member of Iranian Graphic Designers Society (Saleh Zanganeh Official Website).
Saleh Zanganeh is a professional poster designer. He also operates in the typography style since he enjoys using calligraphy, his country’s important part of the culture. His style uses a lot of traditional context. His poster was accepted as the promotional for the “4th International Festival of Iranian Tribes Culture”. Zanganeh uses his experience plus the traditional culture patterns and colors to create his work (4th International Festival of Iranian Tribes Culture).
Amirali Ghasemi is one of those designers who exert influence on the Iranian artistic society. He was born in 1980 inTehran, Iran. He began experimenting with illustration and photography after high-school. He received Bachelor's degree in graphic design and established Parkingallery in Tehran in 1998, which is an independent art studio. Ghasemi also works as a free-lance photographer for various magazines (Javanbakht).
He takes part in every art field. Ghasemi did not limit himself with the graphic designer career; he created illustrations, paintings, photographs, etc. He travels much. In recent years, he has visited many countries for exhibitions, panels and talks.
Ghasemi creates exhibitions of items that seem to have no visual importance. Hangars and coffee cups may inspire him for creating a composition. With the age of slightly over thirty he has a long list of achievements.
Farhad Fozouni is another rising graphic designer. He was born in 1979 inTehran, Iran. He stands out for his typographic approach. Even though his designer career is not very long, he has created many interesting and playful works. Fozouni took part in many poster exhibitions as in his home country, so internationally. He lives and works in Tehran, Iran. He has been pointed out as a promising graphic designer (AzadArtGallery).
Iman Raad is another promising graphic designer, who lives in Tehran, Iran. He was born in 1979. Raad is well-known for his interest in using Persian folklore elements in his artistic works. He is a member of Iranian Graphic Designers Society. His works include posters, religious flags, calligraphy and others. He is reputed for making ordinary items look more beautiful.
Raad draws his posters with hands. They contain many traditional elements and typographic details. Raad works as a free-lance graphic designer (Iman Raad). He teaches design and has been director and editor of Rang Magazine for several years.
As seen from the above, graphic design in Iran is rapidly developing. The main trends are traditional artistic tendencies that are expressed with the help of new technologies and techniques and modern patterns mostly borrowed from the West. Both of those trends, depending on their audience, are in demand in Iran. Also, with the traditional school of calligraphy and its new expression in the graphic design style called typography, a new door opened for modern-day designers. They benefit both from the old school, which is rooted in many-century tradition and from modern technologies that mainly come from the West. However, Iranian soil produces talented authors who display their gifting in works that gain more and more recognition globally.
At the same time, graphic designers do not work individually. They unite in professional bodies, which help them to share ideas, propagate their artistic concepts and run exhibitions that familiarize local and international population with their endeavors. Some of the most recognized Iranian designers travel all over the world, presenting their art to the interested public. There are such rising stars among them as Saleh Zanganeh, Amirali Ghasemi, farhad Fozouni and Iman Raad, who work in the areas like posters, typography, photography and other.
Iranian Graphic Designers Society and Iranian Graphic Design Network are two largest Iranian organizations, which are the home base for hundreds of artists. They are part of the international organization called Icograda.