Reza Abedini is one of the key figures who helped pave the way for contemporary graphic design in today’s Iran. In his work he combines colour and form, line and plane, font and image to form bold designs that are also highly poetic. Building bridges between the East and the West, overcoming misunderstandings, making connections, fighting cultural bias, these are all themes Reza Abedini feels related to.
Reza Abedini. A profile
Reza Abedini (b. 1967) is a ground-breaking exponent of contemporary graphic design in Iran. Using a strong and sophisticated style incorporating Islamic calligraphy in a free, innovative and striking manner, he creates beautiful images that carry a powerful cultural message. His passion for graphic design, in particular Persian type and typography, has lead him into linking literature and aesthetics, searching for a unique visual dialect that reflects Persian poetic sensibilities. Professor of graphic design and visual culture at Tehran University, Abedini bridges generations. He emphasises the relationship between visual tradition and modern identity, encourages research in the rich history of Persian art and nurtures talent in the younger generations.
In 2006 he was granted the Prince Claus Award. This award celebrates Reza Abedini’s superb graphic design and his individual skill in adapting collective knowledge, making it new and compelling today. The award drew attention to the rich diversity of Iranian culture – both historic and contemporary, recognises the impact of graphic design as a powerful global medium of communication, and highlighted the tradition and role of radical graphic design both in Iran and across the world. He works with challenging authors to create unique artistic works in which literary content and design complement each other to perfection (including a collaborative work with the satirist Ebrahim Nabavi).
New Visual Culture of Modern Iran
New Visual Culture of Modern Iran is a collaboration between Abedini and Hans Wolbers, director of Lava Graphic Design in Amsterdam. This publication shows another side of Iran, one we do not read about in the newspapers or see on CNN. New Visual Culture of Modern Iran reveals a rich graphic design tradition, with fairytale book covers and posters, wonderful magazines, newspapers and photography. This book surveys the visual language that represents contemporary Iranian society, and gives an idea of what is really happening in this fascinating country. It reviews how Islams enduring presence has helped shape contemporary visual culture and describes the cross-pollination of separate disciplines, creating a unique variety of modern images, virtually uninfluenced by other styles or tastes around the globe.
Reza Abedini founded Dabireh. Journal Of Persian Type And Language, both a publication and a collective of young Iranian graphic designers who share a passion for calligraphy and typography. They all have a keen interest in the history of Persian language and writing system. Recognizing the absence of a comprehensive body of critical writing and professional commentary, Dabireh aims to be a credible source of articles, interviews and research-based projects which address the less explored territories connecting vast historical sources.
Identity and Definition. An interview
The work of Reza Abedini is featured in Arabesque, by German publisher Gestalten. For this Tehran-born and Amsterdam-based designer, graphic design is not merely a visual art form but “a value”. Combining traditional and contemporary types in his own body of work—logos, posters, corporate identities and three-dimensional designs—for more than 20 years, he is also teaching as professor of graphic design. In this video, he gives insight into the merits of Arabesque 2, why there is a “useless distance between the letters” in western printing and how to find one’s own visual identity these days.
Getting to know the work of Reza Abedini
Arabesque. The creative emancipation in the Arab world and Iran
A two volume collection of cutting-edge graphic work by young designers and activists from the Arab world and Iran that is emblematic of the cultural emancipation of this entire area.
The wave of protests – the Arab Spring – in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Libya, and other countries have made it clear just how much the Middle East is searching for a new identity. Young designers in the region are playing a part in this movement by increasingly emancipating themselves creatively. In their work, they are charting their own compelling course between local visual convention and a modern international style.
Arabesque documents the potential of this current creative emancipation in the Arab world and Iran. The two books feature examples of recent innovative and groundbreaking design work that is inspired by the richness of the region’s visual culture.
Arabesque features graphic design, logos, editorial design, and illustration by young designers and activists from Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon, and the United Arab Emirates. Regardless of the location and nationality of their creators, all of the examples included in the book combine modern design with the traditional, letter-based canon of Arab forms in striking ways.
Given the important role of calligraphy in the Middle East, Arabesque 2 focuses on typography. The book presents a wide range of Arabic fonts and typefaces inspired by traditional calligraphy. These are accompanied by a rich selection of applications. Select examples of design and graffiti serve as powerful demonstrations of how text can be used illustratively. This work is particularly relevant to those creating street art and poster design.
The books rich selection of groundbreaking visuals is supplemented by texts and interviews that describe the environments in which the featured designers and artists work.
The books includes a foreword by Huda Smitshuijzen AbiFarè, the Director of the Khatt Foundation Center for Arabic Typography. Volume 2’s preface is written by John Martin, co-founder of Art Dubai.
Interview feature with Arabesque editors Ben Wittner and Sascha Thoma
Arabesque investigates the creative potential of the Arab World and Iran and features examples of recent innovative and groundbreaking design work that is inspired by the richness of the region’s visual culture. This video podcast includes an interview with Ben Wittner and Sascha Thoma, who edited Arabesque (together with Nicolas Bourquin) alongside footage that they filmed while staying in Cairo for one year. Furthermore it does give detailed insight into the book itself. The interview took place in Berlin.
Get the book
Arabesque, by Nicolas Bourquin, Ben Wittner, and Sascha Thoma. Published by Gestalten (2008). ISBN 978-3-89955-206-5
Arabesque 2, by Ben Wittner and Sascha Thoma. Published by Gestalten (2011). ISBN 978-3-89955-330-7