NESHAN, The Iranian Graphic Design Magazine

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Neshan 43


Tough And Firm

Saeid Forootan

Rooted In Traditions 
Reviewing the work of graphic designer, Mirza Gholam-Reza Esfahani would be next to impossible outside of the context of his era. Due to the close relationship to and use of technology, the profession of graphic design has always been in the process of transformation. Recent examples of new media design often defy contemporary definitions of graphic design, feeling more ate home find among the visual arts. Similarly what the Qajar calligraphers practiced in their era is also not considered graphic design today. The function, engagement, and publication of work via modern technology quickly gives rise to new definitions.

If the handwriting of inscriptions in the architecture of Qajar mosques and schools can be considered a variant of graphic design, there is no trace of such a relationship between type and architecture in the same way today. Instead, the design of signage, mapping, and building pictograms has become more important in relationship to modern architecture. Accordingly, the practice of writing inscriptions today will be regarded as a repetition of tradition, not the continuation and revival of that profession. Now, if we consider a line of influence between the Iranian graphic designer and Qajar Mirza Gholam-Reza, we have identified the coordinates on which Iranian graphic design—and it’s relationship to calligraphy— can be traced. Graphic design in Iran has no alternative but to be connected to the history of calligraphy. The connection itself has to blend with the technology of the day, and consequently the new and modern definitions of graphic design in the world, so as to create contemporary interpretations for today’s society.
The graphic design works of Amir Mahdi Moslehi can be put into this category, with a great background of calligraphy knowledge and understanding of the Qajar visual and scriptural history. The use of type in his work is a modern translation of many of the same forms used by leading advocates of Iranian calligraphy.

Technology And Compulsion
The most expressive product in contemporary Iranian graphic design is the design of new typefaces. Given the the emergence of new digital media, the diversity of today’s fonts plays a vital role in graphic design. Typefaces can be regarded as the heroes of this period of Iranian graphic design. The focus the young generation places on this area is predictable, but the design of new typefaces often encounter serious hurdles. One such being technology incompatibility with the structure of Persian handwriting. Several Arabic-Persian designers have tried to overcome this challenge through customize hybrid Persian-Latin letterforms leading to further modernization. Efforts are also underway which focuson alterations to the main structure of Arabic-Persian letterform. These endeavors require a thorough and careful examination, but at this early stage, it is a sign of hope for the bright future of Persian type design.
Amir Mahdi Moslehi belongs to the new generation of Iranian designers whose main focus is on typeface design. His first official publication, the typeface Mirza, is an attempt to convert Nastaliq to type; a typeface in accordance with written forms of Mirza Gholam-Reza. In many ways, it can be considereda response to our needs of using Nastaliq in today’s technological platforms. Due to the limitations of converting something like Nastaliq to a digital fonts, the Mirza typeface is a successful step forward after many other attempts have been to convert Nastaliq. The perfect match between letters and affiliation combined with a minor error margin, a precise and standard design, and the creation of new compositions and combinations are the characteristics of the Mirza typeface. While it cannot truly be considered a ‘modern font’ and it falls slightly short of modern standards due to technological limitations, its deficiencies are compensated with its remarkably beautiful features.
In order to overcome these problems, technology must evolve sufficiently in order to accurately replicate the letters’ structure. To bring these beautiful forms into the modern age we we must depart the calligraphic cavern, so to speak. In order to pave the way for technological advancement, we need to look at the matter as a western designer does, with a contribution that demonstrates and exploits the best of what digital technology is currently capable of.

Confrontation With Time
One of the most important and controversial points in today’s art and design is ornamentation. Ornamentation has a special significance and position in the history of the world from the East to the West. Early humans had a different understanding of time compared with the contemporary understanding. Time is an important form of capital in today’s life. Elements are understood and perceived in relation to time, either as a manufacturer (designer) or as a consumer (audience). The application of ornamentation in historical work differ greatly from its use today. In many cases work, produced by machines is considered less valuable and beautiful (appearance-wise) in comparison with work produced by the human hand. As an example, compare the calligraphy inscription for a school in the past with a simple and precise expression on a modern building; the time that today’s audience has to decipher and appreciate the work today is far less than the amount of time one had a long time ago. The time (think of it as capital) devoted to producing the works in the past and present are quite incomparable. All these together create a need in today’s society for simplicity and avoidance of surplus ornamentation (and not beauty). Simplicity in graphic design has become an unconditional requirement and the discovery and creation of aesthetics through simplicity is what has given importance to contemporary designers’ works. This point is rendered even more important when it comes to designing a typeface.
In this regard, the works of Amir Mahdi Moslehi are outstanding. Avoiding unnecessary ornamentation and addressing simple and pure forms are distinctive features of his works. It is very difficult to create something both beautiful and functional. The aesthetic influence of Swiss graphic design is obviously present in his work, however the most significant point in his work is the contemporary expression of forms and aesthetics that he has observed in traditional, historical work. This infusion of the past into modern work is a direct result of a studious approach to research.
His other project is the typeface, Tlesk. While it is more modern than Mirza, it is similarly rooted in the tradition of the forms of Nastaliq. A type which is simple but not western; it is oriental, but not old, and has not come from the files of a museum or in-between old books.
In the manifest, it says:
This type is supposed to be neither Persian nor Arabic
But we can write: Abadan date!
And maybe can write:
Casablanca is near!
A type for the Mesopotamia!
Which smells like grape wine.
Its name is Tlesk.

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