NESHAN, The Iranian Graphic Design Magazine

Member of International Council of Design ico-D

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Neshan 46/47

Reference - III

Across Disciplines: Literature And Graphic Design

Aysegül Izer

According to S. H. Steinberg, the author of Five Hundred Years of Printing, the invention of the printing press and movable type not only caused radical changes in political, religious, economic and social events, but also caused important changes in printing and education, language, literature and philosophy.
Marshall McLuhan’s book on media theory, The Gutenberg Galaxy, has the subtitle 'The Making of Typographic Man'. Marshall, with his distinctive approach, deals with the consequences of the printing revolution,which started with Gutenberg and the possible consequences of an electronic revolution. According to the communication scientist McLuhan, the invention of the printing press has been helpful to humankind in storing information. Furthermore, it has caused radical changes in the human mind, in ways of thinking.  According to him, a new type of human being that can be called 'Typographic man' has evolved. This difference is as important and as deep as the difference between a literate person and an illiterate person.

There are many common points between literature and graphic design. It is helpful to remember Marinetti and his friends, whose revolutionary poems ignore spelling rules. Typography entered the art world with the publication of the Lacerba Magazine by Giovanni Papini in 1913. Marinetti, in his article in the 1913 June issue of the magazine, talked about revolutionary typography, which opposes traditional conventions. Designs that excluded harmony and used different kinds of typefaces in a disorderly hierarchy were formed. Some words were used in different directions and asymmetrically to create action and diversity on the page. These scripts designed by breaking free from traditional conventions were given metaphorical meanings and this new style of script was named 'Parole In Liberta' (Free Words).
It is thought that the works produced in this period inspired postmodern designers that emerged many years later. Hugo Ball’s Cabaret Voltaire and Dadaist poetry have important roles in the development of postmodern graphic design. Dadaist poetry replaces traditional poetry, which includes sound, meaning and language and interaction with structure, layout and sound. It adapts the innovative approaches of postmodern graphic design, such as typography, photomontage, negative space, layout, kerning and leading. 

The bill on the acceptance and application of the New Turkish Alphabet was passed on the fifth anniversary of the Turkish Republic, on November 1st, 1928. It played a determining role in the history of Turkish graphic design. The alphabet reform, giving way to improvement in literacy, was a radical decision; with the use of the Latin alphabet, there have been big cultural changes and transformations in Turkey. During this hybrid period, 'script' ended its connection with traditional conventions and history, and calligraphy continued to exist for some time. The famous calligrapher Emin Barın continued to produce immortal works of art in his original style.
With the establishment of the Republic and the bills passed as a result of new industrial policies, private enterprise and its products became diversified. But by moving away from the old script tradition, script was almost forgotten in the graphic production process. It was an element added to the graphic product after it was created. The biggest goal of the new republic was to focus on its own national products and services and to become self-sufficient. During this period the first established bank, Türkiye İş Bankası, (Turkish Work Bank) took its place in history as the first institution to publish big advertisements. Other establishments that published big advertisements during the first years of the Republic were Ford, Bayer, many radio brands, a few import products, and some public enterprises such as Etibank, Sümerbank, Ziraat Bankası, (Agricultural Bank) Tekel, (Regie) and Tayyare Piyangosu (Airplane Lottery).
Many pioneering graphic designers who produced extensively in the area of book design and exhibition design graduated from the Graphic Design Department of the former İstanbul State Fine Arts Academy (1928), which is now called Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University. Some of those designers were Bülent Erkmen, Sadık Karamustafa, Emre Senan, Uğurcan Ataoğlu and Yeşim Demir. Bülent Erkmen, a 1972 graduate, began to produce graphic designs in the late 1970s.
After the 1980s, with the development in technology and the entering of computers in the designer’s world, 'computer supported publications' changed the conceptual framework of the book. Trials on experimental forms in the writers’ books were also made for the world of book as the “design object”. Postmodern literature reconstructs life through connections between language, word, culture, philosophy, history and science. Just like in literature, in 1980s, Erkmen, by creating new typographic analysis and building new layers of meaning, transforms script into a main carrier of his designs.
According to Bülent Erkmen the book is a place (space); the book is the becoming visible and illegible of the script and the ideas hidden in the script in the book’s space. The book is just like directing a play, performing a composition and filming a script. It is necessary to have one more expert between the publisher, the editor and the typographer. If a book is meant to be more than seeing and reading of words, if it is not just a mechanic reproduction of writing and pictures and if it is desired to be designed and not just published, you need that one more person and that person is called a graphic designer”1.
The structure and space of these books are thought together, put together and constructed together with elements like script - pictures, line - paper, arranging and printing - binding. In such books, seeing is reading, reading is seeing, script is image and image is script. In other words, in such books we see and read the difference between reading a book and making a book.
Does the author look for a script outside the act of writing in such books? Are gutter, binding and picture different kinds of script in margin and two-page spread designs? Is this a book written by the author without writing, a book written without using only the script itself? Should we look for what to be read in the book itself rather than the script or the picture?
'Book', which has the illustrations of Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh, which is in the Topkapı Palace Museum Library, and Ferit Edgü’s text, is the amazing result of a collaboration between Bülent Erkmen and Ferit Edgü, where Erkmen turned the conventional book production process completely upside down by envisioning and eventually designing the book before it was ‘written’.

Bülent Erkmen - Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh
Erkmen, starting with the idea of writing a book with a single visual, scans a miniature image, designs the book as a dummy text and after making a model of it sends it to Ferit Edgü. Edgü writes it word by word, in other words translates the ‘Lorem Ipsum’, the dummy text, into Turkish. Erkmen, using the unwritten script and existing images, forms a relation between the pieces of images. He creates a rhythmic fiction. He explains the use of page numbers up front as not wanting to leave the pages blank. In his own words, “the numbers on the blank pages are a proof of the existence of the page, a signal for the beginning of the book and focus; the curtain rises and I want to say that it is beginning now. In other words, the page becomes the subject, becomes itself; although it does not say anything it says I am here. On the written pages there are no numbers. I did not use films subjectively in my life but as a means. The picture on the back of the book was produced from a small slide; the one to one corresponding dimensions of the slide were as small as 6x8 cm. I divided this small image into frames and enlarged them. In one sense, I applied the film language into book design.”2 
21st Century design theorists often argue that the era lacks a distinctive style. How can designers develop professionally especially in this digital boom age? How can they produce independent, creative and different challenging readings in the context of graphic design? After asking those questions, I would like to write about a few designers whose design languages are different from each other. Here are their works and answers. I would like to leave the choice of answer to the reader.
In Open work Umberto Eco says: “There is a common point in musical works composed recently. It gives the musician some personal independence over the interpretation of the piece. In other words, the interpreter not only decides on whether or not to follow his/her own decisions in following the composer’s instructions as in traditional music but can also contribute his/her own interpretation to the piece. Interpreter can decide on how long to hold the note or how to group the sounds. All these form together a creative improvisation achievement.”
Isn’t Eco’s approach to musical pieces a golden opportunity for us designers who want to see the contribution of visuals to script and who want to develop new readings by using visuals in script?

Translated by Kerime Arsan

 1 Bülent Erkmen, Making Book?, 2007
 2, Bülent Erkmen Book Design, 1989


Aysegül Izer

graduated cum laude from the Sarajevo Fine Arts Academy Graphic Design Department in 1985 and received her master’s and doctoral degrees in graphic design from the University of Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University in Istanbul. She established her own design studio in 2000. Professor İzer is head of the Graphic Design Department at Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University. She co-founded the Emre Senan Design Foundation (ESTV) and is a member of the Turkish Graphic Designers Association (GMK). Her design work and articles have been published in numerous publications, exhibitions, collections and museums.


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