NESHAN, The Iranian Graphic Design Magazine

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Neshan 39


Beyond Time; The Impact of Graphic Design on Commercial Advertisements

Meraj Ghanbari

The first Persian advertisements were published in the Persian press in India. Afterwards, the establishment of the first newspapers in Iran and the increase in their numbers boosted advertising considerably. At the end of the Qajar era, advertisements had the highest proportion of content in newspapers. These advertisements used the calligraphic style common in that period, particularly the Nastaʿlīq script — and their remarkable transformations were restricted to framing. The mid 1940s were the years of import and predominance of foreign goods in Iran. Printers mostly copied pictures of goods from foreign magazines and gravure printed them to create their own ads. In the 1950s, non-Iranian immigrant painters and designers, known as “commercial painters” produced the majority of advertisements. The late 1950s is considered the beginning of transformation and the serious formation of the graphic design and advertising industries in Iran. Before the foundation of faculties and the formation of graphic design, designers laid the foundation for contemporary graphic design through the setup of private studios – whether large or small. Arc Studio (Bahrami) was one of the first graphic design studios in Iran. Mohammad Bahrami founded this studio on Lalezar Street in 1946. In addition to book and magazine cover design, advertisements were also designed there. Parviz Kalantari, Morteza Momayez, Aydin Aghdashloo, Mohammad Ehsai, Ali Akbar Sadeghi, Boris Asiriyan, and many more worked for Arc Studio. “Back then, about eighteen people worked in the studio.” Biyuk Ahmari was another designer who launched a studio and focused on graphic design for advertising in the 1940s and 1950s. For a long time, he cooperated with the FACOPA Advertising Organization as studio supervisor. Mohsen Davallou is also another prolific advertisement designer of that period.
    “From 1956, our country quickly commenced a period of national production. Thanks to this favorable condition, Iranian financiers attempted to invest in production.” In this period, advertising institutes played an influential role in introducing national products. “In 1958, eighteen advertising associations were active in Tehran.” Among these agencies, Ziba Advertising Association, FACOPA, Avazeh, Sina, Touti, etc. were more recognized. The 1960s is a highly significant period in the history of Iran in terms of political and social transformation and cultural modernization. The growth of urbanization and increase in national production are some of the major transformations of this decade. The introduction of new tools and facilities for advertisement and the development of various printing techniques led to a rise in the number of advertising agencies and studios. Graphic design also evolved and gradually turned into an independent discipline. Graphic design was faced with numerous changes in this period, the most important one being the return of graphic designers who were educated in Europe to Iran.

Morteza Momayez designed many advertisements in the beginning of his career. “I began learning and working on graphic design in 1956 in Bahrami’s studio and under his supervision.” After five years, Momayez went to Ziba Advertising Association and designed advertisements for Oil Consortium in the international sector of the association. Then Ahmad Shamlou invited him to go to Ketab-e Hafteh Magazine. “After Ketab-e Hafteh, I went to Khosro Shahdousti’s agency, Pâté, and started working on Coca-Cola, Canada Dry, and 7 Up for the first time.” One of Momayez’s ideas for advertising 7-Up was a bottle wrapped in newspaper. Each day one part of the newspaper was torn until the bottle was uncovered in the last day –an idea far beyond his time. After returning from a sabbatical in France, he set up 42 Company in 1968 with Farshid Mesghali and Ali Asghar Masoumi. There, they designed advertisements for Hawilux paint. Once the company was shut down, Momayez started working in Negareh Advertising Organization with Abbas Kiarostami, Nikzad Nojoumi, and Ali Asghar Mohtaj. These designers created ads for banks, cinemas, and other clients. Interestingly, Abbas Kiarostami had designed advertisements in Tabli Film and Seven Company before joining Negareh. Kiarostami focused on advertisement design for a while in Seven, founded by Ali Akbar Sadeghi. Morteza Momayez also worked there for some months, in the period between leaving Bahrami Studio and joining Ziba Advertising Association.
    In the early 1960s, at the same time as the aforementioned transformations, Majid Balouch was one of the first Iranian designers to produce creative advertisements at Ziba Advertising Association (1960-62). “Nemati applied for work in Ziba Studio. It was the biggest advertising agency in the country and played the role of a university for those who worked there.” Then, from 1962 to 1964, Balouch went to Avazeh Agency. One of the most famous advertisements Balouch designed was for Orient Décor Company. In 1964, an advertisement exhibition was held in the United Nations in New York where 150 countries and more than 4000 designers had taken part. In this exhibition, Majid Balouch’s advertisement received the first international graphic design prize (medal of the second advertisement poster). The common feature of his works is simplicity. “Once I went to Avazeh Agency, I found their works overcrowded and full of unnecessary elements. I decided to deliver my message to the audience in the simplest way possible.” The first factor for attaining advertisement objectives is drawing the audience’s attention to the message. Creativity has a significant role in this process. Balouch’s creatively designed advertisements were highly successful in delivering the message. His works also clearly demonstrate the significance of graphic design in advertising. George Simonian and Alexey Gevergiz were the non-Iranian designers who were highly skilled in hatching and performance. Many advertising agencies competed for having them. Most of Balouch’s advertisements were performed by Simonian and calligraphically written by Abdullah Foradi. At the same time, Khosro Bayat was in charge of the advertisements of Iran’s National Airline (Homa) and designed its ads. Idea is the most important element in design. This point can clearly be seen and understood in the works of this designer. In the early 1970s, Mohammad Erfanian went to Ziba Advertising Association and worked in different advertising agencies as designer and studio director until the end of the decade. He designed and carried out creative advertisements for Tehran Bank in Interpop Institute.
    The most influential graphic designer in the advertisement domain between 1968 and 1978 is Kamran Katouzian. He had studied in the United States and started working in advertisement in 1964. In 1968, he launched Avant-Garde Advertising Agency with Manouchehr Mostofi. “With a new look towards the functionality of commercial and industrial advertisements, he was able to make the most of this pervasive communication tool in the Iranian society.” One of the first projects of Avant-Garde was a successful advertising campaign for AEG. “Back then, we worked with Letraset. The present facilities did not exist. It was not possible to write a complete text with Letraset; it had to be typed. So we stick the letters together as if it was typeset.” The works of this designer clearly demonstrate his goal: breaking with tradition and creating simple, pioneering works. The unique feature of Katouzian and Avant-Garde was their simple solutions for writing slogans. Through its ten years of activity, the agency had a great influence on Iranian advertisement and graphic design.
    The mentioned works make up an important part of Iran’s graphic design history. However, many of the masters of this field are unwilling to admit that they have worked in advertisement graphic design for a while. Perhaps this is why no precise research has been carried out on these works. Looking to the past, it can be realized that the period from 1961 to 1978 was one of the golden ages of graphic design and advertisement industry in Iran. Today, after more than half a century, technology, vast communications, and other distinct elements are not able to compete with hatching, Letraset, slide, and the innovation of the designers of those years. 

Afagh Lorestani, A. (1998). Advertising associations in forty years ago. Resaneh, 36.
Balouch, M. (2017, April 10). Personal interview.
Ettelaat Newspaper, 1958-1978.
Farhadi, A. (2017, April 11). Personal interview.
Farhadi, A., & Tanhayi, A. (2011). In praise of the seventy years of Kamran Katouzian’s life. Tehran: Vijenegar.
Ghanbari, O. (2006). Graphical instinct: The last interview with Morteza Momayez. Tehran: Anna.
Haghighi, E. (2011). Face to face: Interview with Morteza Momayez. Tehran: Khojasteh.
Mesghali, F. (2017, April 9). Personal interview.
Mirzayi, M. (2013). 230 years of commercial advertisements in Persian press. Tehran: Citeh.
Mirzayi, M. (2017, April 13). Personal interview.
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