NESHAN, The Iranian Graphic Design Magazine

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Neshan 41


The Hidden Treasure! On the Iranian Museum of Graphic Design, Tehran

Meraj Ghanbari

The idea of forming a graphic design museum in Iran was proposed in 1998, when the Iranian Graphic Designers Association was established. The Graphic Museum Committee of this association was launched in 2000, and in the past 17 years it has assembled collections, conducted research, and repaired historical works in three areas: negotiation with the pioneers and collection of works; repair and maintenance; and research and electronic database. These works were stored in a small room as a collection named “the placeless treasure” years before the establishment of this museum. The Iranian Museum of Graphic Design was eventually established on January 18, 2015, in “Arbab Hormoz” historical mansion of the Qajar period in Tehran. It is meant to protect, study, and display the graphic design heritage and this precious treasure within this mansion. The process of collection and storage of visual documents was pursued more strictly and enthusiastically than before.

The treasure in the Iranian Museum of Graphic Design contains over 10,000 works of Iranian graphic designers and illustrators, and some world-known graphic designers. These works are classified into the following groups: poster, symbol, cover, package, advertisement, illustration, artwork, card, calendar, and brochure. Posters play a greater part in terms of quality and quantity. In another section, ancient instruments and hardware are stored next to the artworks and etudes created by those instruments. Original works, artworks, and old black and white notices make up more than 60% of this treasure. Prior to the 1960s and the introduction of the field of graphic design to Iran, painters and illustrators used to create graphic design with the aid of their personal competencies and abilities to utilize different methods. Hence, many of the ancient works in this museum reflect the effect of the painting and illustration of the 1950s and 1960s on the Iranian graphic design. This treasure also includes the works of the modern graphic designers of Iran such as Mahmoud Javadipour, Houshang Kazemi, Mohammad Bahrami, Sadegh Barirani, Ghobad Shiva, Morteza Momayez, Mohammad Ehsai, Aydin Aghdashloo, Noureddin Zarrinkelk, Farshid Mesghali, Abbas Kiarostami, Majid Balouch, Behzad Hatam, the next-generation designers, and international designers including Jan Lenica, Michal Batory, Alain Le Quernec, Ahn Sang-soo, Shigeo Fukuda, Pierre Bernard, Saymour Chwast, Anton Beeke, Paula Scher, and Uwe Loesch.

Two of the most prominent works kept in this museum are the collection of illustrations of Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh which was created by Mahmoud Javadipour in the 1960s and Abbas Kiarostami’s first posters created in 1972. The posters and etudes of the works and illustrations created by Morteza Momayez for different publications, the posters and symbols created by Ghobad Shiva, the illustrations and posters produced by Farshid Mesghali for the Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults, and the posters created by Noureddin Zarrinkelk (The Children’s and Adolescents’ Dictionary) are among the most important documented components of the Iranian Museum of Graphic Design. There are also numerous works about packaging between 1940s and 1970s. The packaging of products such as Golestan tea, Iran tea, and Gol vegetable oil and packing techniques that evolved drastically with the advancement of the printing and canning industry are examples of these works.

These works are the fruits of the creative minds and the powerful hands of the pioneers; it must be noted that these examples were created when modern Iranian graphic design was in the early stages of its conception. Due to the lack of printing equipment and the diversity of instruments, designers were forced to perform long manual work and thus it could be stated that these works have a higher quality than their subsequent works as regards idea and implementation. Approximately 60 years ago, most works were black and white due to technical circumstances and were created with metal pens, brushes, etc. The illustration of precise etudes with limited instruments also required a considerable amount of practice and experience. Artworks make up an important part of the treasure kept in this museum. The final designs prepared were sent to the lithography unit for the preparation of films. When the image center devices were not available for color resolution, making artworks was one of the most important duties of graphic designers. In the pre-computer era, the mastery of printing and the related works was a norm among designers but it has been forsaken since.

The works kept in this museum were not being valued in those times. Reasons such as the continued presence and influence of the designers and passage of time doubled the identity and validity of these works. Today, with the advancement of technology, the epidemic of means of communication, and the decrease in the use of printing, this museum can try to complete its archive based on a historical basis by collecting the works of young and contemporary designers currently operating in this museum. These works will be enormously valuable and valid in the coming decades.

After unveiling the untold facts about the previous decades, the Iranian Museum of Graphic Design is playing a considerable role in the advancement of the visual culture of the society by linking the past to the present. By collecting works and holding exhibitions and training and research sessions determines the trend of evolution of graphic design and its place and studies the evolution of graphic design in Iran. Interaction with other museums of the world by holding joint exhibitions is one of the long-term goals of the Iranian graphic design museum. The goal is to establish communications and set the scene for understanding the Iranian graphic design on the international level and to motivate Iranian researchers and students to understand the world graphic design. So far, the unseen historical graphic designs of Iranians, which are the result of the attempts made by the committee of the Graphic Designers Association, have been collected with the activity of more than 90 people. These works include a narrative illustration of the evolution of children’s books design from the advent of printing and photography to the emergence of graphic design in Iran. These designs, theater, movie and music posters along with other works of this museum are displayed to the public in exhibitions dedicated to the analysis of the historical evolution of graphic design. In the chaos of the archiving of visual documents, the Iranian museum of graphic design seeks to recount the history of the Iranian graphic design and after three years of establishment of its establishment, this museum is now a safe haven for the ever-changing future of the Iranian graphic design and has given the world a taste of Iranian art.

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