NESHAN, The Iranian Graphic Design Magazine

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Neshan 29

Iranian Contemporary Design

Form + Aesthetic; A Review of Book Cover Designs by Majid Abbasi

Saed Meshki

Majid Abbasi is a full-fledged graphic designer for a number of reasons: he is systematic both in his ways of thinking and in his practice of graphic design; he meticulously calculates the start and end points of each of his works and he knows this process like a road map. The same is true of his knowledge of roads and maps in his frequent trips, where if following him, one can rest assured that he will reach the destination.
Majid is punctual; if he is to deliver work on a specific date, he will not delay. Employers trust him and can count on the delivery of his promises. This is a very precious and rare quality in a society that recognizes delay as a secondary habit of many of its citizens. He is an exceptional finishing force. He makes the best use of his opportunities, appreciates them and uses them for the development of his career—an approach that speaks volumes of his intelligence. He can create a career opportunity out of small chances; he expands upon them and accomplishes his goals. Majid is capable of creating a unified force out of a dispersed and disintegrated group of potential energies. He is able to nourish other people’s efforts and direct their talents towards achieving a specific goal, which is a testament to his managerial capabilities.
Majid plays an influential role among his peers. His positions are constructive and realistic, and this approach prevents him from illusions that can lead to instability. Majid is unique in public relations. It is a popular belief among friends that he knows all internationally-recognized graphic artists and is in contact with every one of them. Acting as a judge in numerous Biennales and exhibitions in all parts of the world and the ability to gather articles for Neshan from a diverse group of creative individuals—including young aspiring artists to renown masters—are all indicative of his vast relations. 

Majid has a special interest in typography. His extensive use of authentic Persian types and his knowledge of Latin typefaces are characteristic in his works. He is a man of various talents and a knowledgeable person in many different areas including western classical music. He played the piano in the past and is able to identify the name of a piece of music along with its composer, after simply hearing a small segment. Majid has been a member of Alliance Graphique Internationale (AGI), a member of the board of directors of Iranian Graphic Designers Society (IGDS), co-founder of The 5th Color (along with three other friends), jury member in many national and international festivals and exhibitions, and curator of different exhibitions such as Persianissimo. He has also attended numerous exhibitions throughout the world. He has received various prizes from different festivals—the last one being the first prize of the 8th International Triennial of the Ecological Poster 2012 in Ukraine. He also played a fundamental role in Did Graphics company where he completed a number of major projects along with his colleagues. 

During the past few years however, Majid has had a stronger presence in bookshop windows through his book cover designs. His designs for Cheshmeh Publishers are especially conspicuous, in view of a large number of books and a variety of topics. Cheshmeh, which is a highly active publisher in literature and poetry, has succeeded to stand out among its competitors with the help of Majid’s talents. The diversity of its subjects has led to the design of different uniforms; uniforms which, though varied, clearly show their affiliation to a single publisher.

Design on uniform covers experienced its heyday in the 1980s and the 1990s, with the works of Morteza Momayez for publishers such as Esparak, Donya-ye-Ma’dar, Sheeva and Behnegar. Those uniforms were characterized by precise geometrical divisions, fixed and changing parts, radiant flat colors and illustrations based on highly contrasting images. The use of text was also employed in conventional Persian typefaces such as Black Zar, Titre and so on. This period was the golden era of book publication and Morteza Momayez was the champion of book cover design. Afterwards, Ali Khorshidpour occupied the shop windows with his uniform cover designs for Tarh-e-Noe Publications, in the same fashion formerly used by Morteza Momayez. The publishing industry was flourishing and the variety of subjects as well as the high number of new publishers were unprecedented. A new generation of publishers had emerged and they demanded different types of cover designs to meet their standards and respond to their visual aesthetics. Consequently, different designers entered the market equipped with various techniques and methods. Typography and experimenting with the structure of Persian letters became some of the major tools of book cover design; a method that has survived to this day.
Designs by Majid Abbasi are on the one hand a continuation of the same method common in the 80s and the 90s, and on the other, carry elements of the present, and the properties of contemporary graphic design. The geometrical structure and precise divisions on the covers, intact characters and unchanged structure of letters, along with flat colours and the use of photographs, follow the same traditional method while the combination of these elements is modern. 
In a collection of covers designed for the Contemporary World Literature series, the text is placed in the center left, and the lower part of the page is fully covered in a homogenous colour. A black and white photo is illustrated with punctuation marks to suit the subject matter of the book. Titles are not occupying their fixed place along the top of the cover and this has turned them into visual elements for the composition. A large number of attractive and unique covers are designed with this brief and simple format.
Another category of covers in a series called New World of Poetry, make use of a number of thin lines along the bottom of the page, for illustrations which are distinct due to their minimalist style and their use of large negative space. The older collection World of Fiction is where Majid experiments with text and a few elements added and designed by Black Zar font—his personal favourite typeface.
Added elements in some covers, such as the cover of Running in the Dark Minefield, are a direct indication of the title, while in others, such as The Swine Bone and Leprotic Hands, illustrated signs display the general meaning of the story. A comparison between this selection of designs and his more recent works clearly show Majid’s evolving path towards perfection. 
The layout and design of the three-volume collection All My Poems by Ahmad Reza Ahmadi and the seven-volume collection of Agedness Notebooks by the same poet, are examples of some of Majid’s highly successful designs. The use of the poet’s photos from three different time periods, representing distinct periods of his poetic life, along with the translucent cover jacket, and the yellow and green punctuation marks repeated in all three volumes of All My Poems, are all elements that have contributed to the creation of an attractive and memorable collection.

Among non-uniform cover designs by Majid Abbasi, a number of exceptional designs stand out that are either closely linked to the content of the book or are simply visual perfection. These include cover designs for Women Poetry, from the Beginning till Today by Pegah Ahmadi, A Memory Lies in Me by Anna Akhmatova, Tales of Those Years by Ali Ashraf Darvishian, A Humming Bird of Love Between Your Teeth by Federico Garcia Lorca, The Red Sofa by Michele Lesbre and The Past Days of the Aged People by Mahmoud Dolatabadi.

Saed Meshki

was born in 1964 in Iran. He studied Graphic Design in the Faculty of Fine Arts at Tehran University. He is a member of the Alliance Graphique Internationale (AGI), Member of the Board of Iranian Graphic Designers Society (IGDS), Manager of Neshan magazine and Member of the 5th color group and Manager of Meshki publication. Saed has won numerous awards and prizes both at home and abroad. He has been the winner of the Second Prize for cover design and the Special Prize of Creativity of the 6th Biennial of Iranian Graphic Design (1999), First Prize for Cover Design of the 7th Biennial of Iranian Graphic Design (2001), Pearl of Czech Republic Design(2002), First Prize of the First Biennial of Cover Design of Tehran (2003), Icograda Excellent Award in the 19th international poster Biennial Warsaw (2004).

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