NESHAN, The Iranian Graphic Design Magazine

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Neshan 44

Opinion-II

Listen To My Poster

Roshanak Keyghobadi

Rhythm, texture and harmony are some of the fundamental elements in design and music. Rhythm in design provokes the feeling of movement through repeated patterns whereas in music it organizes the duration of the tones and pattern of the beats. Texture is the actual or visual feeling of a surface in design but in music it is the quality of the sound and the interaction of rhythmic, melodic and harmonic elements. Harmony in design is when all the parts in a composition are aesthetically pleasing as a whole, and in music harmony is when all the tones and notes create a meaningful sound.

Clearly music and design share many concepts and terminology—musicians and painters search for audible and visual elements to convey emotions and provoke specific feelings though their art. Rouhollah Khaleghi in his book Nazari be Mousighi explains: “a painter who wants to portray a real or imaginary landscape can not achieve this by just using one color (for example blue). Therefore a musician should employ various tools such as different scales and their intermingling and combinations to demonstrate the inner feelings and thoughts in form of sounds.”1 A number of artists such as Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Josef Albers, Stuart Davis, and Romare Bearden have explored different approaches in their process of making art in relationship to music. 
For instance, Kandinsky regarded painting as a spiritual act that expressed the universal inner feelings of humans through using abstract language of colors, forms 
and symbols.
In his book Music and Imagination Aaron Copland describes various qualities of music and explains: “whatever the music may be, we experience basic reactions such as tension and release, density and transparency, smooth or angry surface, the music’s swellings and subsiding, its pushing forward or hanging back, its length, its speed, its thunders and whisperings —and a thousand other psychologically based reflections our physical life of movement and gesture, and our inner, subconscious mental life2.” Copland’s description aptly applies to design. 
In 1973, Morteza Momayez designed a poster for a classical music concert of Mendelssohn, Mozart and Brahms’ works by the Tehran Symphony Orchestra at Roudaki Hall. One year later in 1974, Ghobad Shiva designed a poster for Avantgarde music by Guy Reibel and Pierre Urban performed by the National Iranian Radio and TV Chamber Orchestra at the City Theater in Tehran. These two performances were very different in nature. Generally classical music compositions (such as Mendelssohn’s music) are structured, balanced and controlled, whereas Avantgarde music (such as Reibel’s music) is about freedom and experimentations with sound that challenges traditional musical styles.
Although in the 1970s design movements such a Postmodernism and Deconstructionism were explored in the “West” Iranian graphic designers were mostly influenced by previous styles such as Modernism and International Design. Therefore, even though announcing two different genres of music, both posters by Momayez and Shiva were designed with a Modern approach that favors minimal, simple and clear design by using basic and universal language of line, shape and color. 
In the poster by Momayez, music symbols such as notes are shown in the form of circles and in four colors of red, yellow, green and black that are moving in and out of horizontal music staffs. The images are central, controlled and contained within a frame. All the information is placed on the bottom of the poster and the typography makes references to the patterns in the image through repeating black circles. In the poster by Shiva, in the center of the composition five white lines in form of music staffs are positioned vertically from top to bottom of the red background. These straight and static staff lines transform to jumbled and dynamic marks towards the bottom of the format and then again become straight lines. Type and image do not interact and the information is placed on top right and bottom left of the poster. What these two posters share is that both designers have tried to imagine how music and sound would look like and have employed universal and simple visual symbols to portray the audible (both in Classical and Avantgarde music) and its sensation on the paper— symbols such as music staves and notes; feelings such as calmness or turbulence, structures such as traditional or experimental. 
Usually a poster is a container of words and images that are harmoniously composed to make an announcement that can be easily seen and read. For Milton Glaser, what makes a good poster is memorability “which means you can remember it… clarity, ambiguity, mystery all of some kind of relationship to one another. If things are too clear they become uninteresting. If they are too obscure they become unread.”3
These two powerful posters are invitations to look closer and take an interest in the mystery of the symbols and their meaning. They grab the attention of the viewers, create an interest in “listening” to them, and remind us of their visual impact that has lasted for forty-five years.


1 Rouhollah Khaleghi (1906–1965), Nazari be Mousighi (A Glance at Music), Part One. Safi Ali Shah Publications, 1963, p.63.
2 Aaron Copland, Music and Imagination, Harvard University Press, 1952, p.14.
3 posterposter.org/master-featured/glaser-milton/

Roshanak Keyghobadi

holds a doctoral degree in Art and Art Education from Columbia University, New York and her MFA and BFA are both in Graphic Design. She has taught visual communication at State University of New York for several years. Roshanak writes about Iranian contemporary art and artists with special focus on design and typography and her essays have appeared in a number of publications including AIGA’s VOICE as well as Design Observer and her artworks have been exhibited internationally. In addition you can read more of her wittings on the artCircle blog. roshanakkeyghobadi@yahoo.com

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