EXPLORING THE FIRST AND ONLY IRANIAN GRAPHIC DESIGN MAGAZINE
Majid Abbasi, the current editor-in-chief of ‘Neshan’ tells us that the meaning of the word in Farsi language (Persian) is ‘sign.’ As simple as it may sound, the definition of the word goes beyond forms or physical appearances to the spirit of something intangible. From what he said, the word seems to be the right name for the magazine whose content revolves primarily around graphic design, which is basically the art and science of designing and communicating ideas, feelings, beliefs and information into physical forms and visuals. The name and masthead of ‘Neshan’ originated from its founder, Morteza Momayez (1936-2005), Iran’s pioneering modernist graphic designer. Neshan was first published in 2003 and after the passing of Momayez, Majid Abbasi, the founder of Studio Abbasi has been in charge of the magazine since 2010. The objective of the magazine is to promote graphic design to a larger audience within the Iranian society while at the same time introducing the works of Iranian designers into the international design arena.
Works of Iranian graphic designers as well as Iranian graphic design magazines have never really made their way to Thai designers. Perhaps there has never been any substantial attempt to facilitate communication between the two countries’ graphic design communities, or maybe it is the cultural unfamiliarity. But no matter what the reason may be, Neshan is a magazine one should never overlook, especially if the person is a graphic design enthusiast. Judging from the background of Iran’s graphic design industry that dates back to 90 years ago and its six decades of gradual development toward a more contemporary and somewhat minimal style, and with the time before the Islamic Revolution as the setting, we find a great number of award-winning and internationally recognized Iranian graphic designers be they Majid Balouch, the winner of the Advertising Poster Design Award (1964) or Farshid Mesghali who was in 1974 granted the Hans Christian Andersen Award. Neshan’s founder, Morteza Momayez was also the winner of the world-class Dessinnateur Poète Award at the Internationale d’Affiche de Film, Cannes (1975) and let’s not forget to mention the fact that Neshan was one of the magazines chosen for inclusion in ‘100 Classic Graphic Design Journals,’ a book that has big names in the graphic design community such as Steven Heller and Jason Godfrey as its authors.
NESHAN WAS ONE OF THE MAGAZINES CHOSEN FOR INCLUSION IN ‘100 CLASSIC GRAPHIC DESIGN JOURNALS.’
The content of this quarterly magazine is presented in English and Farsi with one specific theme for each issue such as Information Design (no.23), Environmental Graphic Design (no.27), Design and Function (no.34) and Non-Western Design (no.36). While a number of issues feature universal topics, there are several other issues that attempt to reflect more specific subject matter such as politics and gender in Iran’s design industry, which is discussed in the Women and Design issue (no.37). Conceptualized and materialized under the social restrictions that prevent women from appearing on magazine covers, the design is executed with a brilliant use of symbols that represent different images of women. Such attempt depicts quite a clear picture of the politics surrounding the issue. The details of the working process of each issue include the presentation of stories by both Iranian and internationally recognized contributors such as Erik Spiekermann, Steven Heller, Julius Wiedemann, Emily King and Rick Poynor. For the latest issue, Abbasi invited Lars Müller to talk with him for the interview, ‘Lars Müller Publishers; A Small Business But Independent.’
What we find to be rather amazing for Neshan and rarely see happening anywhere is the fact that all of the publication’s contributors are volunteers. Simply speaking, these people write for Neshan for free. When asked how he manages to bring together this impressive list of contributors, Abbasi answers with laughter, “It’s a miracle. It’s a secret.”
In addition to his role as the editor-in-chief, Abbasi is also the person behind the magazine’s art direction from layout to cover design. We noticed the change in the magazine’s art direction since 2010 when the responsibility was passed on to him with covers that are simpler and a focus that is placed on the negative space of each page with geometric forms being incorporated in to convey the interpreted meanings of the theme of each issue. All of the above is reinforced with printing techniques such as foil stamping of black and silver and other pairs of colors used as the color schemes for the design of the covers. There are other miscellaneous elements including the typeface and layout that may remind one of a Persian picture book or ancient poetry that seem to meet and mingle with the language of modernist graphic design in such a stylistically simple fashion.
TEXT: WICHIT HORYINGSAWAD