The ancient country of Iran (Persia) and its old culture offer some of the earliest traces in graphic design and art.
Today, museums all over the world contain many examples of early Persian graphic designs on metal or clay vessels, seals, ceramic tiles, plaster carvings, carpets, silks and other clothes. Some examples of this ancient art enjoy a worldwide reputation, and designs on carpets or tiles, miniature paintings, calligraphy and book illustrations are instantly recognizable as "Persian".
A brief insight
Modern graphics in Iran first appeared in the late nineteenth century in the form of designs and illustrations in newspapers and magazines of the period and has continued to flourish. But even before this date, in the late eighteenth century some "folk" posters were being designed, lithographed and distributed in Iran.
depicted religious scenes or the famous sayings of the philosophers, writers and poets, suitably designed and illustrated in a highly decorative style.
Advertising design first appeared in 1908 in Tehran and from then on Iranian graphic design gradually took on a western style. In 1941, the Faculty of Fine Arts was established at the Tehran University, and courses were offered in graphic art and design. Over the years the graduates of this faculty have established most of the present graphics studios in Tehran.
Today besides this Faculty of Arts, four other institutions of higher education as well as six art schools offer courses in graphic design to over a thousand students each year. This is proof of the spread of graphic design in the various fields of publishing, advertising, cinema and television in Iran.
In 1964, the first graphics exhibition was held in Tehran, and the Iranian graphic designers have since exhibited their work in collective or one-man shows on a regular basis. In 1978,the first Asian Design Biennial was held in Tehran, exhibiting works from all Asian countries. Unfortunately, the activities of this exhibition were curtailed due to the turmoil's following the Islamic Revolution.
In 1988, the first Iranian Graphic Design Biennial was held at the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Arts, and the last biennial was held in April 1999.
Apart from the above exhibitions, three international exhibitions on children's book illustrations have since been held in Tehran. Iranian graphic designers have presented their work in international exhibitions such as the Warsaw Poster Biennial, the Lahti Poster Biennial in Finland and the Bratislava Exhibition in Slovakia.Their work has been popular and has won several prizes.
Today , the work of Iranian graphic designers is beginning to be recognized internationally, and many examples of their art have been featured in professional publications such as "Graphis", "Graphic Design", "Idea", "High Quality" and "Novum Gebrauchsgraphik".
Among the artistic and enthusiastic Iranian community of graphic designers, since many years back, there’s existed a highly awaited aspiration for a specialized journal on graphic design. And through the occurrence of diverse cultural, societal and political events during the first decade of the 21st century, this need came to surface. Neshan became the first Iranian graphic design publication established in Iran.
Before Neshan was born, the graphic designer’s community developed the Graphic Designers Society in the early 2000’s. Shortly after, the Society became a venue for graphic designers to gather and adopt group interests. This collaboration was of the first and foremost preeminent cooperation of graphic designers under one umbrella, which bloomed through major steps until its establishment. The joining of such artistic expertise created power and support amongst the designers and encouraged them to express their insights and knowledge to the rest of society.
At the time, Iranian graphic design had passed the post-Revolution and post-war era, which together created a period that drastically lacked expressive activity. The works of Iranian graphic designers had found way into the international scene participating in a variety of exhibitions frequently in different parts of the world. Simultaneously, the generation gap between accomplished graphic designers of different periods was quickly filled with the entrance of university graduates. Given socio-political conditions, cultural milieu had grown open and accepting of a more modern outlook. Those years, we witnessed a boom in publication of books, journals and newspapers. Social gaiety was witnessed of economic and political alteration therefore the demand for a prestigious journal to represent Iranian graphic design was even greater.
In October 2002, a group of graphic designers came together to do exactly that – to publish a specialized journal about Iranian graphic design with the outlook of both domestic and international audiences. It took nearly 14 months from the start to the publication of the very first issue of Neshan. There were numerous discussions and dialogue concerning the content and form of the journal. And to assure the potential and expertise behind such ideality, many connoisseurs were consulted during the preparation time span. In fact, some accompanied us part of the way and others remain as significant contributors to date. The primary group included Majid Abbasi, Reza Abedini, Mostafa Asadollahi, Saed Meshki, Morteza Momayez, Ali Rashidi, Firouz Shafei and Iraj Zargami. Reza Abedini left after the first few meetings. Then, Mostafa Asadollahi then took over the responsibility of organizing design and layout of Neshan.
The critical role of Morteza Momayez as editorial-in-chief in founding and formatting Neshan is undeniable. He exerted his entire knowledge and expertise for the improvement an enrichment of Neshan. Although he witnessed the birth of Neshan, he passed away and we lost this unrivalled treasure. After his death, the Editorial Board took over the responsibility of editor-in-chief. Ebrahim Haghighi, who was in close contact since the first issue, formally joined us from then on, and still remains contributor until recent day.
The hardships emerged at the very beginning; especially continuous writing! The Editorial’s determination to ensure that articles published in Neshan had not been formerly published anywhere else increased the difficulty of the overall job. The lack of sufficient and inaccessible sources, and the reliance of existing sources from oral memories made our task more complicated and rendered our researches more intricate.
We devoted each issue to a specific topic as the main focus. These topics were usually issues of concern or subjects of interest to graphic designers of the time. Editorials of Neshan were written on the same subject and acted as an entry to the covered theme.
Among these topics were visual national identity in graphic design, 8th Tehran International Poster Biennial, design education and international schools, book cover, logos, theater posters, stamps, music, typography, sports, cinema, political graphics and advertising.
Iranian graphic design pioneers’ perspectives were reflected in all issues of Neshan as an effort to record the history of graphic design in Iran, which had not yet been written. In a number of the latest issues, we have also expanded our introductions to contemporary graphic designers of Iran.
Based on the subject under discussion, we have published an article of pathological significance with a historical approach in each issue. We have delved deep into the matter as far as available sources allowed. One of the permanent valuable parts of Neshan is Iranian Motifs. In each issue, this component deals with a historical period or a special case. It is considered one of the most usable sections for contemporary Iranian graphic designers and is in fact a recording of the visual documents of this land.
Another element of Neshan is the introduction of international graphic designers, which includes both contemporary designers, and significant designers of past generations. Up to present day, Neshan has written and interviewed 66 foreign designers and 38 Iranian designers in 20 issues. The Cold Sight section covers criticism and pathology of a special topic in contemporary Iranian graphic design. “Book Review” is another section where the books on Iranian graphic design or relevant subjects are introduced. A large number of new books of world graphic design from reputable international publishers have also been made known for Iranian audiences. In other cases, we have also looked at graphic design websites.
Neshan’s presentation, layout and cover design has always been and still remains of the main concerns of its founders; as all are graphic designers and are very sensitive to this matter. Their tendency has continued to this very issue and although there is always a distance to the optimum format, it has been one of the permanent topics for discussion among us.
A close study of Neshan, since the first issue to date, indicates a smooth growth in content and a structure development in line with the growing experience of the founders and more cooperation of the colleagues. Our initial decision was to devote about 70% of the space in Neshan to visuals and 30% to copy. In practice, however, the need to discuss theoretical subjects and explain different topics disrupted this balance in favor of copy. Today, we can claim that Neshan has succeeded to encourage some of our colleagues to continue writing, and to attract some of the writers to expand in other areas of graphic design.
Neshan has enjoyed the presence of distinguished Iranian writers and art critics including Aydin Aghdashlou, Ebrahim Haghighi, Mehdi Sahabi, Farshid Mesghali, Mohammad-Reza Riazi and others. Major international writers such as Steven Heller, Rick Poyner and Emily King have also cooperated with our editorials.
Neshan is the result of a collaboration of Iranian graphic designers and their experiences that have always called upon other colleagues and individuals to contribute. Today, graphic designers in Iran and all around the globe are familiar with Neshan. We are a member of ICOGRAD’s (International Council of Graphic Design Associations) Media Network and mutually cooperate with reputed international journals.
Neshan is the most prestigious journal of graphic design in the Middle East and has achieved to gain a position parallel to the most distinguished world journals of graphic design.
Seven years of activity and five years of publication have brought several ups and downs, and pro and cons for all of us. We pride ourselves in our achievement of publishing twenty issues worthy of the prestige which Iranian graphic design and Iranian graphic designers hold. However, we have always criticized ourselves and have tried to set the future path and add to the open and hidden values of Neshan. Like all people in the press, we have our own obstacles to face but wish to see our efforts yield better results and to see our Neshan shine more brilliantly.