The Avant-Garde of Iranian Graphic Design

Pouya Jahanshahi
Assistant Professor of Graphic Design
Department of Art, Graphic Design and Art History
Oklahoma State University

The advent of the Apple Macintosh brought about a rapid flow of technological change which affected almost every part of visual communication arena, in one way or another. Since the start of this digital revolution, most graphic design communities around the world succeeded in maintaining their national identities, while implementing the technological changes into their industries, hence joining the global world of graphic design. However, because of challenges related to mark-making and the specifics of calligraphic-based scripts, Iranian typography – and by extension graphic design – struggled to maintain and its rich historic traditions and visual aesthetics, as Perso-Arabic characters necessitated a process of digitization for use in dominant graphic software applications of the time.

Furthermore, during this global digital revolution, various socio-political and technological circumstances resulted in the isolation of the Iranian graphic design arena from the global culture, for more than a decade. More recently, the dusk of 20th-century, brought forth an impenitent generation of innovative thinkers and designers, keen to define their lost identity. Through inwards nationalistic perspectives as well as technical and conceptual innovations, this generation made giant leaps and set forth a trajectory toward joining the global graphic design arena.

This research delves into the nuanced traditions of Iranian calligraphy and the struggle for its adaption to western printing technologies. Specifically, it focuses on the process, and the eventual arrival of what may be referred to as a hybrid graphic form – one comprising of the traditional eastern calligraphic forms and nuances, merged with the characteristics found in western typographic structures and letterform design.