NESHAN, The Iranian Graphic Design Magazine

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Neshan 39

Archive - 2

A Special Incident; A Review of Vije Graphic Agency’s Advertising Design

Alireza Mostafazadeh Ebrahimi

The intense fervor of the early years of Iran’s Islamic Revolution resulted in the shutdown of numerous institutions and companies for different reasons. Advertising agencies were no exception. It is clear that in the unusual situation of that period, in which the post-war economic downturn had limited business activities related to production and supply, there was not much demand for advertisements and promotion of products or services. In the lack of market competition, there was no need for advertisement to increase sales. In this situation, establishing an advertising agency whose prosperity is highly dependent on economic conditions, seems an odd, audacious decision. Although audacity does not necessarily guarantee success, nothing could be achieved without taking risks. Amrollah Farhadi and Iraj Zargami, who owned Aggrandisement Graphic Group a few years before the revolution, faced the hazard, established Vije Graphic Advertising Agency in 1984, and achieved success.
Graphic designers have different options for growth and progress: They can either gradually improve their skills in graphic design and turn into more adept designers; or try various activities related to graphic design and enter new fields. Although the latter option somewhat disengages them from design, it offers a wider prospect of a larger world where design is also included.
Adopting the second approach, Farhadi and Zargami left the graphic design and photography studio they had established together a few years before the Revolution. Backed by the experience of working with professionals in advertising agencies before the Revolution and eager to restart the engine of advertisement, they took the first steps towards establishing an advertising agency.
Newspaper ads were the main advertising media of that period. Vije Graphic Agency designed the first professional ads of those years for Suliran Company and Maadiran Group and published them in the few available newspapers and magazines. A trace of the pre-revolution advertising trends is evident in the early works of Vije Graphic, due to the strong influence of the advertisements of that period in addition to the limitations in printing and production, which were not yet transformed.
In these advertisements, contrast was used as the most important element to attract attention and put emphasis on the subject. The high contrast between black and white surfaces, along with contrasts in the sizes of visual or alphabetical elements made these ads undeniably robust and attractive. Sometimes a thick frame could clearly distinguish them from other ads, texts, or crowded pictures in newspapers and catch the readers’ attention.
A prominent feature of Vije Graphic ads in this period was the presence of eye-catching and funny slogans which delivered the advertisement’s message the readers in a nice and effective form through their bold and large font.
The emergence of computer in the world of graphic design in Iran in the early 1990s led to a miraculous transformation - as in the rest of the world. A large part of the works of this period were influenced by the conflict between a massive wave of computer-savvy graphic designers and designers who still rejected the new phenomenon and considered it as a source of humiliation for graphic design. Undoubtedly, most of the works created by these designers, which were the outcome of their excitement and infatuation with the magic of computer, overused computer possibilities and led to the mass production of worthless designs. However, this wave calmed down gradually, like any other phenomenon, and was finally replaced with a relatively peaceful environment in which the works of graphic design used computer in a proper manner.
The same trend was more or less seen in Vije Graphic which was one of the early adopters of this new tool, although it was not used as excessively as in the other institutions. In this period, Vije Graphic designed works in which one could spot naivety in using computer techniques and tricks. This trend, however, did not last long and soon Vije Graphic designers learned to utilize the vast capabilities of this new tool and produce quality designs. A characteristic of these designs is the use of simple color surfaces and minimum use of visual elements. Thereby, out-of-house ads were created that captured much attention, particularly in the crowded urban space of those days.
In the newspaper ads, white, blank spaces also perform an appropriate function, although the clients mainly prefer full and crowded designs, since they want to make most of the money they have spent.
Following this period, after Iran reopened communication with other countries which was banned in the early years after the revolution, one could gradually see the influence of European and American advertising – that has always been innovative – on Vije Graphic designs. This is obvious in promotional ads for various new products in the market at the time. The coherent, strong, and constructivist composition of the ads effectively focused on promoting the new products that mostly needed to be remembered by the audience.
Since the establishment of Vije Graphic, lack of access to informational resources and internet made it difficult to find practical models for forming its structure and work procedures as could be seen in other countries. Therefore, founders of Vije Graphic had no other choice than relying on what they had learned in Kamran Katouzian’s Avant-garde Advertising Agency – where Amrollah Farhadi had worked as a graphic designer when he was a university student (before the Revolution) – and also trials and errors in designing ads. In this situation, two important events helped Vije Graphic. One was the return of Kamran Katouzian to Iran, who could help the Agency by his valuable experience and knowledge in advertising agencies. The other was cooperation with the educated and experienced directors of Maadiran Group who ordered their ads to Vije Graphic Agency for seven consecutive years. They transferred their experience and knowledge, acquired from working with international advertising agencies, to the managers of Vije Graphic.
Therefore, not only could the managers and employees at Vije Graphic promote their capabilities in establishing an agency close enough to international standards, they could also provide an opportunity for many graphic design graduates to enter the professional market. Many of these graduates, later on, established their own businesses in the form they had learned from Vije Graphic or started working in other advertising agencies and contributed to the development of commercial graphic design.
In addition, Vije Graphic laid a new foundation and standard for advertising graphic design in Iran that highly influenced other advertising agencies and increased the quality level of their works.

Alireza Mostafazadeh Ebrahimi

graphic designer, art and creative director holds a master's degree in visual communication from the University of Tehran, Faculty of Fine Arts. He is a faculty member of Tehran University and a lecturer in Azad University and Vije Visual Communication Art School. He is also a member of Iranian Graphic Designers' Association from 1997 and is currently working as a creative director and marketing communication consultant. Have won prizes and have been published in international expert journals as well. a_r_mostafazadeh@yahoo.com

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