NESHAN, The Iranian Graphic Design Magazine

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Neshan 39

Editorial column

Graphic Designers, Familiar Strangers

Ali Rashidi

Today, the advertising industry is being developed and transformed throughout the world at an incredible speed. Although the industry is constantly changing based on the advancements of technology and communication, its impact is progressively increasing, demonstrating the significance of advertising in today’s world.
Graphic design is one of the main bases of the advertisement industry. This particularly makes sense in Iran, since graphic designers have played a significant role in this field for a long time. Unfortunately, today the relationship between graphic designers and advertising agencies has deteriorated due to unawareness of professional cooperation frameworks. Gradually people with less expertise and skills have undertaken the executive tasks once performed by graphic designers — an approach that will lead to a decline in the quality of advertising.
In Iran, graphic designers and advertisement specialists do not get along well. The reason for this discordance is mostly the not-so-professional behavior of graphic designers. Since I have been involved in both specialized fields for many years, I will try to fairly and unbiasedly shed light on the challenges of the professional relationship between these two working groups.

Graphic Designer As Artist
It cannot be denied that the graphic design profession and “artistic creativity” are two inseparable concepts. However, when a client seeks help from a graphic designer about his/her particular problems and needs, the designer normally tries to sell his/her artistic ideas, which are often utterly irrelevant to what the client needs! Instead of attempting to know the clients, their working fields, and expertise or the characteristics of the competitive market they work in, graphic designers produce ideas in the void, without the least attention to the clients’ problem or the objectives they pursue. Since these ideas are developed irrespective of the clients’ brief, they are simply useless to them and are, thereby, rejected. In response, rather than finding issues with their own methods, graphic designers unleash a barrage of insults to the poor clients, claiming that they do not have any “visual understanding”, “reason”, or “artistic taste”. They ignore the fact that their profession is different from that of painters or graphic artists and if a client was in search of a work of art he/she would definitely not go to them!

Graphic Design And Teamwork
Graphic designers surprisingly avoid teamwork and are unwilling to share the significance and credit of their work with others. This attitude is totally in contrast with the normal behavior of advertising agencies, as their works are generally the result of cooperation, synergy, and mutual effort of a group of idea developers, graphic designers, photographers, illustrators, copy writers, marketing experts, etc. As it can be seen, graphic designers are only responsible for a part of the advertisement work, which is of course highly crucial and important. However, graphic design alone cannot fulfill the needs of the clients for advertising. The fact that a graphic designer cannot be the sole owner and creator of an advertisement work is another factor that complicates the cooperation between this group and the advertisement experts.

Keeping Up With The Latest Technology
The modern technology of digital communication is an essential part of graphic design; graphic designers are expected to adopt leading edge technologies sooner than any other group. However, graphic designers act as if they are in conflict with all aspects of modernity. They oppose technology instead of benefiting from the world’s outstanding achievements, which are advancing amazingly fast. Surprisingly, this attitude does not only exist among the old generation; it is prevalent among younger graphic designers as if they don’t believe in the death of paper media. Today, traditional media is declining at an incredible speed. The graphic designers who have not yet come to believe this obvious fact (or have not taken it seriously) in order to adapt themselves to these inevitable changes will quickly fade away from the professional world.

The power and influence of any profession stems from the performance of those who practice it. In western world, graphic designers are fully aware of the capabilities of their profession and constantly contribute to the flourishing of the industry through the development of work and commercial, cultural, and social influences. Unfortunately in Iran, graphic designers assume themselves to be artists when they are young. After some years, they become “masters” and are reluctant to devote a part of their time and energy to learning the business. The Iranian Graphic Designers Society (which was established to serve as a guild) suffers from an identity crisis since most of its influential members are under the same delusion. As a result, it cannot play an effective role in the development of this profession.

Undoubtedly, the quality of advertisement work influences social culture both directly and indirectly, and in turn contributes to the promotion of the society’s visual perception. Therefore, it is evident that graphic designers can play a decisive role. On the other hand, advertisement experts do not have enough knowledge or expertise in graphic design. In addition to layout, typography, font selection, and composition design, the expertise and experience of graphic designers is needed for putting the creative ideas of idea developers into practice and, finally, creating a perfect advertisement. Unfortunately, today it is enough to take a look at the mass media such as billboards to realize the absence of graphic designers in this field. Many of the advertisements are based on bright ideas, but the obvious errors in their design extremely downgrade their rating. This irreparably damages the visual culture of the audience and highly influences the quality of advertisement in Iran.

Ali Rashidi

After graduating from California College of Arts in San Francisco (now CCA), Ali started his early career working as a designer and art director at University of California Publications. He established his own design office DesignZone in 1986 in Oakland, California. He moved to Iran in 1990 and co-founded Daarvag International, a distinguished branding and advertising company. His teaching career includes over two decades at graduate school of Art University and University of Tehran. He is one of the co-founders of Neshan magazine, a member of AIGA and ADC Global, and former chairman of the Iranian Graphic Designers Society (2012 to 2015).

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