NESHAN, The Iranian Graphic Design Magazine

Member of International Council of Design ico-D

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Neshan 35


The Nostalgia of Small Brown-paper Books!

Majid Kashani

Ketab-e Hafte and Kayhan-e Hafte were weekly magazines published from 1961 to 1963 by the Kayhan Publishing House under the supervision of Ahmad Shamloo and Mohsen Hashtroodi, and were owned by Dr. Mesbahzadeh. In different issues, Mohsen Hashtroodi and M. E. Behazin served as heads of the editorial board, which was comprised of figures such as Dr. Arianpour, Abdul Karim Ahmadi, Kazem Ansari, Kave Dahgan, Dr. Abdul Hussein Zarrinkoub, and Dr. Mohammad Jafar Mahjoub.
These two magazines published some of the greatest Iranian and foreign short stories, some of which were not published elsewhere before. They also incorporated poetry, plays, news, literary and scientific discussions, etc.

In the period when Ketab-e Hafte and Kayhan-e Hafte were published, the Iranian intellectual movement had reached full maturity and the cultural activists felt a pressing need to be more present in society and to introduce their thoughts and those of the world’s intellectual current, particularly in the field of literature. These two magazines were printed in trade paperback format (19.5 x 13.5 centimeters) on brown-paper and were reasonably priced. Thus, in an era when the number of media was not at all comparable to the present, they were among the few ties between society and the intellectuals.
Based on Morteza Momayez’s suggestion, in the first page of every issue, one or two works of art, such as paintings, photographs, sculptures, etc. by prominent Iranian or international artists were introduced to the readers. Some of the issues’ covers included the picture of a musician or writer to further the reader’s familiarity with them. 

About the graphic design of Ketab-e Hafte and Kayhan-e Hafte
The majority of the cover “paintings,” or “layouts” were carried out by Morteza Momayez. Khosro Bayat designed the cover and layout of some issues as well. Furthermore, in some issues, you can see Momayez’s signature on the cover and Bayat’s name as the illustrator and layout artist. In the last issues, Mohsen Jamali and Houshang Kazemi also designed a few of Ketab-e Hafte covers.

Since most of the designs were performed by Morteza Momayez, the general visual approach is similar throughout the magazines. The issues designed by Khosro Bayat also follow the lead of Momayez. The innovations in the cover design and layout of these two magazines were original in their time and are still remarkable. However, there were also deficiencies and disarrangements in the design of these two magazines. In 1979, Momayez notes these himself in his interview with Firouzeh Saberi in the book, Image and Imagination (1989, Esparak): “Ketab-e Hafte was for me a period of creativity work-out.” The following is an analysis of the design of these two weeklies.
Uniformity One of the most important features of Ketab-e Hafte and Kayhan-e Hafte is the designer’s unconscious or, perhaps, conscious attention to the concept of uniformity and the visual identity of different parts of the magazines. This identity is perfectly evident in the designer’s almost coherent attitude towards elements such as the cover, shape and geometry of the inner pages, fonts, titles, dividers, illustrations, etc.

However, if we assess the coherence of the visual identity of Ketab-e Hafte and Kayhan-e Hafte with today’s criteria, we would surely find numerous errors and flaws, large and small. But, if uniformity is evaluated by the yardstick of its own time (1960’s), considerable innovation with comparison to its peers — and the overall practice of graphic design in that era — would be observed.
The application of illustration to the covers of Ketab-e Hafte and Kayhan-e Hafte, the fixed places for information (i.e. wordmark, main story titles, price, etc.), the homogenous geometry of the inner pages, the use of the same font throughout, the design of the dividers, and the quality and spirit of the illustrations within are part of the successful attempt in organizing an integrated identity for Ketab-e Hafte and Kayhan-e Hafte.

Cover Designs
All of the covers of Ketab-e Hafte and Kayhan-e Hafte are designed with manual illustration techniques. Some of the covers are printed with silk screen which, along with the special aura of Momayez’s designs, has led to the creation of a unique, relevant character with regards to the design style, number of colors, and choice of the thickness, surfaces, textures, etc. One of the important characteristics of cover design in these two magazines is the designer’s attention to turning the front and back covers and the spine into a consistent, related surface. Using Nastaliq and Zar fonts and sometimes putting the titles in color or line boxes is another feature. However, there has not been as much attention paid to organizing the writings on the cover in comparison with the arrangement of illustrations. Hence, the quality of the written part is not at all comparable to that of the illustration used on the covers. 

Fonts and Typography
The general tendency in 1960’s graphic design was the use of abundant illustrations. In the works of that period, there is little sign of today’s concern for typography. Nevertheless, footprints of an endeavor in the typographic domain can be clearly traced in the works of some prominent designers of the period, such as Momayez, Ghobad Shiva, and, particularly, Behzad Golpayegani. There is also evidence of occasional typographical attempts in Ketab-e Hafte and Kayhan-e Hafte. Some of the later experiences (especially in the 1990’s) — considered innovative typographical assays — can be clearly seen 30 years prior in the intermittent explorations of Momayez’s of Ketab-e Hafte and Kayhan-e Hafte cover designs. Although the typesetters’ preference and the limited diversity of the fonts greatly influenced the organization of the page layouts, relative attention and obsession in the choice of the fonts are more apparent in these two magazines than most other magazines of that era.  

Many believe that the quality of the illustrations of Ketab-e Hafte and Kayhan-e Hafte are not only beyond compare, but also a collection of the best fiction illustrations of our time. The diverse techniques and tones used by Momayez along with skillful designs, and, more importantly, the connection between the images and the content of the stories has created an outstanding collection. In his interview with Firouzeh Saberi, Momayez remarks:
“During my work in Ketab-e Hafte, it crossed my mind to match techniques with the writer’s style and the story’s ambience. I practiced almost anything that came to my mind; from exercises of technique, form, color, light, and other academic issues to the harmony in the style of the designer and writer, portraying the atmosphere of the text, and anything that is related to work and image. Naturally, in these exercises and explorations, I also profited from tools other than the pen and the brush. I made use of anything available in print and gravure techniques or the new possibilities in illustration. Even sometimes I wanted exactly to copy and imitate the method of an artist, but during my work I realized that I have ended somewhere else. This is why there is no sign of any direct influence in my works; all the influences have passed through my filter …” 

Printing Techniques
In the Ketab-e Hafte and Kayhan-e Hafte series, Morteza Momayez has made experiments in using different printing techniques, as well as testing the various illustration methods. In addition to offset printing, he has tried other techniques such as silk screen printing and the use of unique colors within cover designs, embossing titles and parts of the image on the cover, using pasteboards with different textures and thicknesses, embedding additional flaps to the cover, etc. Applying these techniques has significantly contributed to the graphic attraction of Ketab-e Hafte and Kayhen-e Hafte. Now, more than 50 years after the publication of Ketab-e Hafte and Kayhan-e Hafte, these magazines are exchanged among collectors and devotees of the world of art and literature. They were successful thanks to the conditions of the period in which they were published, and, certainly with the efforts and experiences of some of the greatest figures of Iranian art and culture. After Ketab-e Hafte, Momayez carried out several layout designs, illustrations, and cover designs, just as Shamloo tried to publish Ketab-e Jome in the same style as Ketab-e Hafte. However, they hardly succeeded in maintaining the same quality of Ketab-e Hafte and Kayhan-e Hafte. This excellence was assured only through the assemblage of great figures — the gathering of people who were each among the leaders of their domain, and who respected each other’s limits and restrictions in teamwork, a rare or perhaps nonexistent aggregation in our times.

Majid Kashani

was born in 1978. In 2006 he received his master's degree in graphic design from Tehran University. Besides teaching graphic design in university. He has published several books, articles and commentary in his field. Majid has been a key note speaker in several seminars, jury team member in dozens of festivals, and participated in numerous domestic and international exhibitions. In his studio called 'Daftar', he provides professional design services for cultural centers, publishers and galleries.

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