Reza Abedini, father of contemporary Iranian graphic design

reza abedini


Portrait of Reza Abedini – Mr. Bahman Pour – 2015

Reza Abedini, graphic designer in Iran: a job, a story

Being a designer like Reza Abedini in a country like Iran is: carry on their own and transcribe an incredible artistic, visual and calligraphic heritage and 3000 years old† It must be part of an extraordinarily rich history, that of an immense empire that has become the artistic foundation of all surrounding civilizations. The Kingdom of Persia influenced Arab as well as Western, Asian and African societies in the fields of architecture, sculpture, fine arts, writing or manual techniques.
Crossed by conquests, wars, cultures, Iran nevertheless distinguished itself from the Arab world by its own language (Farsi) and its culture, which makes it a unique country. As in other Muslim countries, it made extensive use of calligraphic art, whose arabesques and illuminations served to sublimate the Quran, the sacred text.

Radiating in turn over the world during antiquity, open to the West in the 1960s and withdrawn during the Islamic Revolution of 79, the country went through periods that were more or less conducive to visual expression† Despite the bad image conveyed in the media in connection with the news, Iran is nevertheless a prominent place of graphic creation, recognized on the international stage and full of talents.

Father of creation after the revolution

Reza Abedinic is the leading figure of the second generation of Iranian designers, Post-Islamic Revolution (1979), from the 90s. Born in 1967 he trains, teaches and transfers his knowledge inherited from the first Iranian graphic designers trained in fine arts and western graphic design, such as Morteza Momayez before him. Far from creating behind closed doors, despite the political context, his work is internationally recognized and seeks to perpetuate a Persian style and culture.

reza-abedini poster design
Images from the book Reza Abedini – Design&Designer #26

Member of the International Graphic Alliance and of theIranian Graphic Designers Association », he has been teaching Fine Arts at the University of Tehran (4th largest in the world) since 1996, in addition to working as an independent graphic designer in the cultural milieu. In Iran, visual arts and graphic design are closely linked† And because he is a renowned teacher and graphic designer, most contemporary Iranian graphic designers have been influenced and trained by Reza Abedini himself. He is thus THE key figure of the post-revolution that Morteza Moyamez follows before him (figure of the pre-revolution).

In perpetual research, “he gradually lets go of the codes inherited from the previous generation, in order to establish, on the contrary, the stylistic elements of his language. A style defined by the techniques and its limitations, screen printing, its large strokes, and perhaps also its muted colors on tinted paper, kraft”, emphasizes Alain Le Quernec in the issue of design&designer (Editions Pyramid) dedicated to the Iranian graphic designer.
In this clip from the BBC that we’ve summarized, Reza can be seen playing with letters as with pictures. The stylized handwritten letter is indeed inscribed as visual discipline and image in itselfwhich today occupies an important place in all forms of Iranian artistic expression, and which Reza Abedini managed to reinvent.

As we specify in our article on the genius of Iranian graphic design, “calligraphic art is still considered the most perfect applied art of Islam, and widely used in Iranian graphic design. (…) There is an important element, even supplanting the visual (while in our culture it is usually the opposite. Words and images intertwine to become one, the letters become illustrations† One cannot understand the meaning of Iranian images without considering the importance of the text to this culture.”

reza-abedini-design

I wish to confirm a contemporary Persian graphic design, Reza Abedini is passionate about typography and Persian letters and draw fonts in the Farsi alphabet. Without being purely calligraphic, his work is resolutely modern while being part of Iranian artistic codes. Thus he mixes the codes of contemporary art and Persian calligraphy to create what he called the ” Persian Indeed, it should be mentioned that typography as we know it in the West has nothing to do with Iranian typography.

A typo-calli-graphic work: letters as pictures

In Western writing systems, typography is used to energize the letter; a meaning, a sensitivity, an essence, from the designer to the user. This sensitivity was lost in the transition from hand to machine, from calligraphy to typography. But because of their characteristic shapes, Persian letters are imbued with an energy of their own and from which they are inseparable. Moreover, they are almost always calligraphic, handmade. Before Reza Abedini, Farsi was not (or very rarely) digitized and lithography was a very common medium for creating posters or advertising media, as these letters are almost impossible to type. Reza Abedini also states that “Iranian typography as such does not exist” (excerpt from the essay by Roshanak Keyghobadi What is typography? January 2015). If we want to play with words, we can speak of this typo calligraphyin the first Greek sense: the art of writing beautiful graphic characters.

Creating a Persian typography requires a lot of work from the designer to not only create letters but also multiple character combinations between them, according to their position in the word. Because, as far as the Arabic language is concerned, the letters merge to create new ones. The Iranian Designer Sina Fakour, who we met in Lyon and who shared with us graphic resources about his country, also produced his dissertation on “Arabic script, from manuscript to digital”. We can better understand this typographical difficulty with the image of Fakour’s work below, which shows that depending on its position in the word, the letter will be visually different (to be viewed in large size by clicking on it).

Similarly, Sina Fakour uses and rearranges the letters of the word “vote” to create new words: “yes” and “partner”. A game of letters impossible to grasp for European culture, which often sees only the beauty of folklore in it.

sina-fakour-design-iran

He takes this game from this calligraphic heritage, just like Reza Abedini. The particularity of Persian typography, unlike Western typography, lies in sublimating and combining this inherent energy and bringing to life its aesthetic criteria, as Saed Meshki explains in his essay “what is typography?† (what is typography) (2004).

It is then almost impossible for us to grasp all the nuances and references, but we can nevertheless appreciate the composition, the colours, the patterns and the arabesques.

reza-abedini poster design

reza-abedini poster design

reza-abedini poster design
Images from the book Reza Abedini – Design&Designer #26

Reza Abedini’s work has been awarded several times, most notably for the best film poster in Iran or at the Chaumont poster festival. He has also received awards at poster biennials in Mexico, Iran, Hong Kong, etc.

reza-abedini-design

reza-abedini poster design

Images from the book Reza Abedini – Design&Designer #26

If you want to know more about Iranian design, its origins and current representations, we recommend that you read our article on: the genius of graphic design and art in Iran

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