Reza Abedini — Persian Type and Typography (2003)

Reza Abedini has played a seminal role in introducing Iranian graphic design to the wider world. Growing up in Iran, Abedini’s creative ability became more and more clear to the people around him, including teachers and family. His continuous exploration of creative art filled Abedini with the self-confidence and curiosity, which culminated in him picking up the brush and paint. Even at such a young age in school, Reza was illustrating and designed sets for plays. With his teachers introducing him to graphic designers and other artists, Abedini was gaining knowledge to the creative universe and Iranian and Persian cultural history.

After Graduating in 1985, Reza then majored in Painting from Tehran Art University and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1992. While studying, he was not sure which medium he wanted to design with and as a result, it was not until the late 1980s that he began his professional career as a graphic designer. Despite his lack of graphic design education, Abedini created a lot of work, relying on his own methods of creative expression. It was with these methods that he began to combine printmaking, lettering and typography.

His interest in typography is based on the belief that historic literature, particularly poetry, is the gateway to Persian culture. This interest continued to grow, due to his love of Persian calligraphy which developed during his youth when certain powerful political and religious figures restricted the public from exploring the outside world and its culture. From this, Abedini’s style of graphic design evolved as he employed intricate shapes and minimalistic use of colours on the textures of aged paper. Similar to architecture in Iran, his work features same floral shapes, patterns and elements. As these shapes and patterns are repeated, Reza has created a distinguishing characteristic to his work, involving manipulation of assorted elements, fonts and languages.

(Poster ‘Persian Type and Typography)

The poster which allowed me to discover Abedini is called ‘Persian Type and Typography’. The poster was designed for a lecture at the Iranian Academic Centre, and demonstrates the technique with which Reza merges Persian culture with western design principles. The text that appears inside the silhouette is a mixture of Farsi script and English. Also included in the text are words written in a hybrid of Farsi and English commonly used in Iran for SMS texting and are referred to as ‘Pinglish’. The typographic layout of this poster was influenced by an Iranian calligraphic composition written in Arabic, based on different typographic ways to express one’s relationship with God.

So from learning the history from the design, it is obvious what Abedini is trying to convey. It seems that with combining Farsi with Western roman lettering, Abedini is linking the differences between the two writing systems. Rather than succumbing to Western design trends, he has succeeded in creating his own unique hybrid style that creates a relationship between Persian and Western type, as well as referencing his own cultural style and heritage. By doing this, his work, which has been recognized so successfully, is opening the eyes of the world to Iranian typography and design.

Personally, with the design illustrating a silhouette of a man wearing a coat or jacket with calligraphy on it, suggests a man who is wearing his culture. From a first glance at this design, I instantly received a sense of religion and culture, which indicates that Abedini’s message had definitely between portrayed to me in some shape or form. Perhaps it was the use of minimal colour — a man wearing white — that made me think the design was conveying a religious message. The fact that the silhouette is wearing the type, suggests that he is proud of his culture and would not think to hide it. After reading about the designer and his interest in typography, its obvious that there is a lot more complexity behind his designs than what can be seen why viewers. I personally love the design, as the use of simple colours and design allows the piece to act effectively and create a sense of mystery.