NESHAN, The Iranian Graphic Design Magazine

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Neshan 40

Iranian Contemporary Design

The Courage to be a Frank or a Deceptive Icon: Behzad Motebaheri and his Designs

Foad Farahani

His crutch word in everyday conversation is "befitting.” He constantly corrects common errors when you are talking. In one second, he can change his tone from highly cultivated to that of a blunt lowbrow. With a nostalgic story of a Friday noon in the 1980s, he can awaken a thrilling experience of your childhood. He can even take you farther — he can sail a ship to Doulab and revive the Qajar era and its high-registered verbiage. Then he might recount you a cult movie he enjoyed watching last night for probably not the first time, and initiate a long conversation on cinema, literature, and music.
Behzad Motebaheri began his professional activity while he was still a student. He wrote his dissertation on Grid Structure in the College of Fine Arts, the University of Tehran. As creative director, design director, and copywriter, he has cooperated with reputable advertising agencies and has been in charge of several projects for domestic and international brands. He is a professional devotee of literature; he writes seriously and rigorously, and has obsessive visual concerns (design). Behzad may be considered one of the last members of the group who believed that the mission of graphic design is to solve problems.
Transparency, creativity, and correctness are the key concepts in his mind and taste. These make him eliminate impractical, ambiguous elements through the comprehensive work process. With such an approach, beauty is the comprehensible delivery of a message. Consequently, the designer considers his mission to be arranging, organizing, and defining frameworks and principles. This attitude is best reflected in a branding project: developing the brand identity manual, which Behzad considers his holy book.

In designing the Hepco brand (heavy equipment producer), he redesigned the logo and discovered breaks at a certain angle, thickness of the font, and contrast as key components of the brand's visual spirit. These three fundamental elements lay the basis for Hepco's entire visual identity. In designing the series of icons for Day Insurance, he pays attention to the human aspects and friendliness on one hand, and transparency and innovation on the other hand. The branding performs its duties, including introducing and informing about different types of services and applications. In addition, icons (one of the most practiced areas of graphic design) shape the visual spirit of the organization and create a modern expression of the brand strategy with a cheerful rhythm. 
Peykart, implying Peykan, the popular Iranian car, is a cultural-artistic project that aims to address a different range of audience through paper media, social networks, and applications. The unique lettermark of the project, with its exaggerated thickness, letter shadows, and boldness — inspired by the typographic fashion of the pre-revolution Film Farsi period — provides a befitting context for announcing current art events. In another project called Shenida, he directs the design of the logo and other elements of the organizational visual design in addition to having proposed the Center's name (Shenida, Hearing & Balance Evaluation Center). The Center's logo is in fact an optic phenomenon in a highly frequent form. Through the representation of sounds, the picture equivocally refers to the concept of [im]balance. The letterform also, in a systematic whole, is a work of typography and once again demonstrates Behzad’s attention and sensitivity to this field.

In fact, the common feature among most of Behzad's projects is typography; his attempt to simplify images with an iconic touch. In the advertising campaign of "Here it is", he designs a series of characters that in an exploding world of happiness. The poster of the Behance / Tehran Portfolio Reviews event displays the title, place, and theme of the event in a variety of grids in proximity to each other, with a balance of color, full and empty spaces, and different thicknesses. Finally, we seem to face a motif of the most neutral graphic design instruments. Peyk-e Shadi is an exercise book in the form of a Nowruz gift and Behzad, as creativite director, designer, and illustrator, turns it into a collection of jokes. The written text accompanied by several visual decorations of text and image confuses you so much that you have no choice but to laugh. However, he suddenly decided to cooperate with Sina Seifi, a digital artist, in designing the website of Homa Delvaray (graphic designer). The website invites the user to view the works in a calm and formal manner, but any movement you make leads to the repetition and dance of the page content. Then, through a painted network created by the user, accidents, and mouse movements, you can experience the colorful and detailed world of Homa Delvaray in her collection of works, information, links, etc.

To Behzad, design makes sense as a systematic approach that responsibly focuses on the need(s) of users in order to deliver a message or service in the most efficient way possible. His attitude towards the communicative and interactive aspects of his profession (which is today an interdisciplinary skill) might evoke the motto "form follows function" and the ideals of modernists and functionalists. He views usability as the aesthetic component of design. Behzad's working process is a reverse dramatization, a battle between heart and mind, and even the elimination of author. Icon is universal and trans-identical and type is the most impartial and direct working tool for a designer; while both belong to the written language evolution chain: ideogram and script. 
Is Behzad a constructivist designer who, given the most basic design tools, follows the same adventurous path as great figures such as Gropius and pursues the ideals of equalization and transparency? Or, does he strive for goals such as facility, usability, and pleasure based on the psychological, interactive, and analytical aspects of the user's behavior in the world of User Experience (UX) design? Or…

Wait! The seductive designer deceived us with his designs just as he could mislead us with his words. Let us return and pay attention as much as he would. He was ordered to design the poster of the Portrait exhibition as a classic theme of painting from the viewpoint of a few artists. Behzad finds a playful connection between the idea of portrait and post. He designs the portraits of the artists on the structure of stamps. The layout suggests mail containing a collection of arbitrary signs. The skull dispels all the psychological distinctions between individual portraits and makes all of them look like nothing but human portraits. The portraits of the artists are simplified so much that, save for a few key elements, they even have no gender. Part of the poem What is the Word by Beckett appears on the poster. The envelope and the iconic form of a paper folded in thirds (letter) beside the Punk Post mailbox form evokes the word junk post. In fact, with alliteration, J is replaced by P.
I believe Behzad is an expert of languages. Through his mindset, images, media, and any other element in his field of work — his design begins to talk. Language (verbal and written) and image are Behzad's promenade; his writing is descriptive and visual and his images are literary, although they both eventually shape an often semi-abstract product: language. Even in the most precise grammatical structures, language, as a set of symbols, entails working with signs. Therefore, its product is, at best, only a metaphor of for the reality in mind (of either the author or the audience). This is how the whole mechanism adopts an allusive tone and becomes the designer's work instrument. Within the boundaries of "contracts", "indicators", and "symbols", he attempts to provide you with an intelligent (not necessarily attractive) solution.

Foad Farahani

(b.1983) graphic designer, visual artist and researcher, began his career activities in the fields of painting, sculpture and conceptual art from 2001. As a freelance designer and art director since 2005, he has been engaged in various projects. His research on phenomenological art and perception philosophy is being published in the book Space as Support. Moreover, he has participated in several art events as a curator and exhibition designer. As well as participating in internal and international exhibitions in the field of fine art and graphic design, he has the experience of teaching in the courses such as publication design and discourses of modern art in his background.

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