NESHAN, The Iranian Graphic Design Magazine

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Neshan 34

Iranian Contemporary Design

Studio Shizaru

Ali Afsarpour

Confucius said, ‘If it is contrary to ritual, don’t look at it. If it is contrary to ritual, don’t listen to it. If it is contrary to ritual, don’t utter it.’ In the Eastern culture, the advice of the ancient philosopher is manifested as three monkeys covering their eyes, ears, and mouth, respectively. But, sometimes a fourth monkey accompanies the first three: A monkey sitting with his hands crossed, conveying: “Do no evil.” This monkey is called Shizaru.
Shizaru is a tranquil, peaceful, and proactive branding studio located on Golfam Street, Africa Boulevard in Tehran. The designs created by this studio can be described as “neat”, “well-organized”, “up-to-date”, “eye-catching”, and “professional.” These characteristics are also evident in the studio’s atmosphere, the personality of its owners, and even the decoration of the furniture in their office.
Mehrdad Mohammadzadeh is a graduate in industrial design from Tehran and has received further education in Paris in product design. He teaches design basics and principles and is responsible for determining the policy and orienting the work of the clients in Shizaru. In dealing with his clients, he seeks to find appropriate solutions for problems and needs, and accepts no boundaries in doing so. He says: “I am neither an artist, nor an engineer. Consider me as a surgeon who may be obliged to cut off your hand in order to cure you!” He is right. Some brands need an organ removal in order to come out of a coma: the owner might be so deeply attached to the organ that he/she cannot realize that the illness is dangerous and developing. Another member of Shizaru is Paulette Ghahremanian, graphic designer and art director: a nice, clear-headed, exquisite, unassuming, quiet, and serious type. “If I am Shizaru’s brain, Paulette is its heart,” describes Mehrdad. Paulette Ghahremanian is one of those pleasant, cordial people that when you enter their office you feel like you are taking their time! You realize that her time is precious, the time that is devoted to make Shizaru’s heart beat.
Whenever necessary, they invite other people to collaborate in carrying out their projects. They place an order, sign contracts with freelancers or employ people in order to attain the goal they describe as: “presenting a work that meets international standards, without any national embarrassment.” By national embarrassment they mean the incorrect notion that assumes a work designed with an Iranian appearance does not have the adequate and acceptable quality to compete with foreign products; the notion that makes one prefer English over Persian writing, not realizing that it is sufficient to put aside incorrect patterns and frameworks in order to achieve better results. Shizaru designers believe that they must keep working until they exceed the limit of other people’s efforts. This approach is the only path to producing results that will make the others say: “Why didn’t this cross my mind?!”

Another interesting point about Shizaru Studio is that even if they succeed in delivering a project to an employer, they do not constrain themselves to that profession. An overview of the projects they have carried out and the variety of their works and clients serves as evidence. The reason they choose to work with different professions is to not be known as a studio that is famous for working for a specific professional group. It is fairly common to be contacted for orders from the members of a profession as soon as an interesting work is carried out for a client in that field. Of course, from both a professional and a confidential point of view, it is not right to accept projects for several clients in the same profession who might happen to be competitors - big multinational companies officially prohibit their advertising agencies from doing so. However, it is common for smaller businesses who search through their associates’ delivered projects to find an office to place their order. They believe these offices have already gained the required information, experience, and knowledge about their profession. Now you are to decide whether to succumb to the temptation or not; since accepting these types of orders sequentially will make you the exclusive designer of a profession, while rejecting them will mean missing an order and becoming deprived of its income.
The designs of Shizaru are normally minimal and tailored for a certain order. They do not leave their footprints in their works. They generally believe that it must not be easy for a person to recognize their work as soon as they see sees it. It is the client that must be noticed first. Perhaps the common feature in all the works by Shizaru Studio is the outstanding quality.
Using special materials and sometimes abnormal, difficult, and precise production methods is another feature of Shizaru Studio. They constantly seek to create their designs with the best quality and hardly give in with sentences such as “It is impossible to do these things here.” Simplifying and hesitating to put enough effort is not at all among their existing alternatives. Everything must be made possible!
Once an order is made by a client in Shizaru Studio, some time is devoted to studying about the subject. The information obtained from the client along with other data gained through market research is the material by which the shortterm or long-term brand strategy is formulated based on the client’s needs. Then, the results of the study are presented to the client in the form of an initial suggestion. In this phase, they do not start designing and showing the initial designs, but simply discuss the results of their study with the client to place the work in the right path. The next stage deals with coming up with ideas and designing. Finally, the obtained results are presented to the client in a suitable way; the time and cost spent for the presentation being sometimes as much as the subject itself. So, if you order something to Shizaru, you must not be hasty nor expect to receive numerous initial designs. In the path to attain the most suitable solution, they find the most correct answer themselves and develop it in the best possible way. The good point is that you are in the know of the process from the beginning and at last have no other choice than satisfaction.

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