NESHAN, The Iranian Graphic Design Magazine

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Neshan 42


When Culture Occurs

Alireza Mostafazadeh Ebrahimi

Similar to blood running through the veins of arteries, culture has long been a considerable importance for graphic designers. In a country like Iran, where culture is mainly composed of traditions and strongly reflects its history, graphic designers find themselves wandering through the backstreets of history to find an answer to today’s challenges.
The greatest challenge is to develop designs that respect Iran’s highly traditional culture, but also connects with younger generations, who have more modern expectations. The reason for the long-running debate between commercial designers and traditional designers is that, according to design critics, being cultured holds a value that is lacked by commercial graphic design and this robs the designers of their dignity. The important question is: what does commercial graphic design and cultural graphic design mean?
The above question was not raised to be answered in this short manuscript. It was brought up to introduce the design studio, White Square. Niloofar Abrishamkar is the creative mastermind behind White Square and she is known for pushing the boundaries of traditional and commercial design by adopting a cultural approach to her designs.

Her work provides solutions to problems posed by consumers and the subject’s commercial goals. Her creative ideas continue on to manifest into modernized events about traditional subject matter with a focus on communicating through dance and human performance. The performances have been widely accepted by local audiences and have been imitated by many inspired designers. Below are some examples of events designed by Niloofar Abrishamkar, which have cultural themes and modern forms.

This piece, held at the Sam Commercial Center, celebrates Nowruz (the Iranian new year). Abrishamkar arranges Haft Sin (also known as Haft Seen, a traditional custom of Nowruz where a table is set with seven items that start with Sin-Seen) in a way that tells a story behind each symbolic item. Actors are dressed in clothes inspired by Nowruz, establishing a bond between the audience and the artwork. Onlookers were encouraged to interact with the piece by taking photographs of themselves next to the Haft Sin and posting them to social media.
Due to the success of this project, the Modern Commercial Complex of Elahieh asked Niloofar Abrishamkar to develop a long-term plan for attracting more visitors to the center. Aiming for an achievement that was more than a commercial profit, she settled on a concept involving ancient Iranian festivals and developed a plan to host such festivals. The challenge was to attract audiences, who oppose these festivals and who are more connected with images of Christmas and Halloween, to the values and sublime concepts of traditional festivals. 

The first event was dedicated to Amordadgan, a celebration dedicated to the immorality and protection of water and plants. In the past, ancient Iranians used to go to springs and farms to celebrate and show their appreciation to the existence of natural plants, which were valued food and medicine resources.
In preparation for the event, promotional items, such as invitations and posters, were designed with visual interpretations of the four elements (i.e. water, wind, soil, and fire). These symbols were also seen in the clothing designs worn by the performers. During one of the performances, a theatrical scene of planting a tree took place at the front area of the convention center. 

The second event was dedicated to the Mehregan festival. The underlying theme of this event focused on our connection to the Earth, nature, creatures, different races, different schools of thought, and God. Various media-based designs were created based on the beautiful concepts of Mehregan. Moreover, the performance was also based on this theme and it was designed to build a relationship between the audience and the actors. The reactions were all positive. The audience praised the event and even volunteered to be involved. 

A product of nature
Given that numerous types of parquet flooring are made of synthetic materials, Lataj Company, an importer of wood flooring, aims to stress the fact that wood is a natural material and it has been used for a longer time than man-made materials. Abrishamkar was asked to curate an event to introduce this brand to the market and implement a strong, positive relationship between the brand and its audience using the idea of nature’s products.
Invitations were designed to appear as part of a tree in order to channel a specific mental image at the first interaction. The performance for this event centered on the respect for nature in the Iranian culture and showed the birth and lives of the actors within a natural landscape.

Mother’s day and father’s day
The Sam Commercial Center asked Niloofar Abrishamkar to undertake projects for the commemoration of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day as part of the plan for establishing a cultural relationship with the audience. 
For the Mother’s Day event, specially packaged cookies were designed and were given to women passing by. The aftermath resulted in an influx of interest towards the Sam Commercial Center. On Father’s Day, packages containing a DVD, sunflower seeds, and a gift card for the center were offered to men. Humorous messages included inside the packages mentioned giving the gift cards to their wives to distract them with shopping, so they can focus on watching the DVDs. 

Iranian clothes 
Niloofar Abrishamkar was commissioned to complete a project for Hanna Company, a clothing company. She created patterns specifically for women’s clothing that featured images of flowers and birds, styled like Iranian paintings. The textiles also included phrases appearing like Iranian handwriting to create a modernized look with inspiration of ancient Iranian culture. Although she is not the first designer to tackle this idea, her efforts stood out from previous designs because of her skilled, precise, and delicate incorporations of paintings and handwritten phrases matching the form and structure of the clothing.

Alireza Mostafazadeh Ebrahimi

graphic designer, art and creative director holds a master's degree in visual communication from the University of Tehran, Faculty of Fine Arts. He is a faculty member of Tehran University and a lecturer in Azad University and Vije Visual Communication Art School. He is also a member of Iranian Graphic Designers' Association from 1997 and is currently working as a creative director and marketing communication consultant. Have won prizes and have been published in international expert journals as well.

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