NESHAN, The Iranian Graphic Design Magazine

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Neshan 43

Editorial Column

New Situation For Problem Solving

‏Mehdi Haghshenas

The graphic design scene in Iran is evolving as designers are increasing pursuing other academic and experimental disciplines such as painting, calligraphy, and architecture. Most of these designers have become familiar with the various areas of graphic design in an experimental and creative way and have made significant efforts to respond to the community’s needs. As the academic discipline of graphic design continues to be developed at universities, graduates of this field are increasingly engaged in a variety of professional activities. Although these designers may not have pursued their traditional field of interest1, they have never been shy about embracing new experiences. However, another approach — that is quite different — has emerged observed within the last decade. In spite of the widespread development of technology and services,a group of, mostly young, designers has begun introducing themselves as a specicialist in a particular area of focus: type designer, packaging designer, character designer and so on. Their belief is that through this approach, they can better analyze and address challanges in the field. Many critics of this approach have risen recently because many design veterans and also designers with diverse experiences are still professionally working alongside these ‘specialized’ designers engaging in a more “Interdisciplinary Design” world. Is this the beginning of a return to designers with widespread activities, or a warning about increasing specialization amongst the younger generartion, or is it something else entirely?
A quick look at the broad dimensions of practice within the discipline of graphic design sets the stage for a discussion these dimensions can be categorized into several groups. First, in response to a client, graphic design confronts different orders, meaning numerous and uncountable activities of the community, each of which has its own theme and proprietary space. Second, graphic design collaborates with various other specialized disciplines including Illustration, Typography, Photography, Writing, Industrial Design, Architecture, Cinema, and Computer sciences. Third, graphic design is presented to the target audience through a wide range of media, such as books, posters, film titles, websites, or environmental graphics and signage. Fourth, most of these communicative devices are not merely a visual channel, because they are a combination of image, text, music, textures, etc., but audible and tactility, and therefore they are multimedia2 devices. Fifth, in order to accommodate mass reproduction, graphic design utilizes a variety of industries, including the printing, the built environment, electronics, and digital technology. Sixth, graphic design engages the audience, and even a wide range of people, when talking about a specific community. Seventh, graphic design benefits from a variety of human sciences, such as Sociology, Psychology, Economics, Marketing, etc., to adopt an effective approach to problem solving in communicating with the audience. Eighth, theories of some disciplines like Philosophy, Literature, and Communication have played a major role in the visual and semantic attributes of graphic design both in the pre- and post-digital era. Ninth, graphic design is simultaneously a theoretical and practical discipline.
Considering these dimensions of graphic design, which can of course, be explored more extensively — for example, the meaningful role of graphic and -graphy words in compiling the titles of various sciences — makes it clear that the graphic design is an interdisciplinary process that involves a range of activities and interactions with many disciplines. On one hand, this breadth explains the diversity of designers’ experiences, whether with the aim of introducing various fields of activity in this discipline, or in terms of novelty and a creative orientation, and on the other hand, it elucidates the meticulousness and specialization of young designers due to the need for deepening exploration in each of these areas3. This gives us some insight into why the emergence of interdisciplinary sciences that is the encounter of society with phenomena requiring interdisciplinary problemology and solvology and then, a collective and inclusive effort to address those challenges has taken such root. One of the areas for the emergence of graphic design as a new profession should perhaps be explored in connection with this issue. Especially considering its expansion expanded in the context other disciplines not rising to meet the emerging needs of society. Following this perspective, we can observe that the needs of societies and the dimensions of the challenges and obstacles they are facing have been in flux over the years, and therefore graphic design itself requires partnership with other disciplines to engage those issues. Although this approach has already begun in other design disciplines, with regards to graphic design, it is possible to imagine new opportunities for multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary, cross-disciplinary work to occur.
Social problems, the environment, natural and human-made disasters, politics, education, etc., have also contained some issues besides their multifaceted and complex challenges which require the synergy between different disciplines. It should be noted that the interdisciplinary is not merely the integration of two disciplines or data collection of a discipline for use by another, rather it is bringing the point of view of different disciplines to bare upon an important issue. We usually regard graphic design as a problem-solving factor, but it is obvious that our knowledge of the problem is one-sided and one-dimensional, while the knowledge of an interdisciplinary process follows all the variables at work in the problem. Some features of interdisciplinary studies and activities may examine a subject from a wide range of angles, a critical look, the co-integration of specialties together (even with the emergence of new specializations), the reduction of negative prejudices from professional and self-consciousness, and the quest for new findings. Additionally, the interdisciplinary does not mean ignoring the systems of disciplines and specialties. When it comes to graphic design, interdisciplinary approaches can even be considered a kind of specialization. However, specialization in today’s design is an activity in a specific field and the tendency to a kind of specialized skill in practical promotion of the work, while an interdisciplinary perspective discusses theoretical approaches and the way of interacting with specialties as well as other sciences. Therefore, such a process would make graphic design not to convert to small, low range, and eventually unimportant segments, but rather stand in a more balanced framework (not merely generalization, nor mere meticulousness). In this regard, you will find a considerable number of theoretical debates and work by the designers in this issue of Neshan Magazine. Undoubtedly, considering what is discussed regarding the dimensions of graphic design, it can be argued that interdisciplinary work has been addressed in the previous issues. But this issue can be a serious beginning with a focus on this topic. It is hoped that Neshan will add the title “Interdisciplinary” to its heading and also address topics from this perspective into in subsequent issues. 

 1 Activities away from the publishing area such as electronic works, environmental graphic design, etc.
 2 Do not confuse with multimedia discipline and its contemporary meaning.
 3 Although both of these approaches are controversial and criticized in their place. 

‏Mehdi Haghshenas

(born in 1982) is a designer, author and critic on visual communication and visual culture. He often emphasis is placed on the interdisciplinary studies and activities, and the basis of his work is visual communication and Iranian-Islamic culture and art. Mehdi graduated Master of Visual Communication from Tehran University of Art and is a member of the Iranian Graphic Designers Society (IGDS).


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