In November 2007, a group of young graphic designers from
various parts of Iran who grew up after Iran's Islamic Revolution
of 1979 put together a poster exhibition called Rokhsat.
As they explained in the exhibition statement, in Iran's
traditional sports, a young wrestler asks for rokhsat
(permission) from the elders when he presents in the ring.“ The
group demanded rokhsat from the generations before them (and
their viewers) to present their design innovations and artistic
visions. This was an open invitation for a glimpse at contemporary
design practices in Iran and specially a venue for identifying the
new generation of Iranian women designersi.
In contemporary Iran vigorous engagement by a large group of
women graphic designers in all aspects of design practice and
pedagogy has been an undeniably powerful force, and their presence
in the national and international art and design arenas is making
the new face of Iranian graphic design visible. Among this group
one designer stands out for her unique style and extraordinary
personal visual language: Homa Delvaray.
Poster designs by Homa Delvaray (from left): VitrinRooz.com
virtual exhibition, 2009; Hope for the future, 2008.
Delvaray is not only active in designing posters, books, CD
covers, logos and creating Persian and Roman fonts, but also
teaches college-level drawing and illustration, serves as an
editorial board member of Dabirehii design collective and
Rang Magazine (a
graphic design magazine online). She regularly exhibits her work
inside and outside Iran, and her designs have been featured in
several national and international publications related to design
Book cover designs by Homa Delvaray (from top): Iranian Drama:
Passion Play, 2009; Islamic Art and Architecture, 2009.
In an introduction to her recent virtual exhibitioniii, Delvaray declares
that ”the essence of art is creativity and confrontation.“ She
explains: ”I do not believe that transmitting the client's message
to the viewer in the easiest possible way is the only mission of
the graphic designer… If a graphic designer is supposed to have a
commitment, it would be finding a new way of communication for what
he/she has to say in order to relate to the viewer. There are no
pre-assigned general rules to help achieve this goal sooner. The
designer has to choose and try new approaches to challenge
himself/herself.“ Delvaray believes that by simplifying design and
making it obvious to the viewer a designer would insult the
intelligence of the viewer and assumes that they are not able to
”solve a simple riddle“ or ”comprehend complicated
Delvaray's works can be described as complex, enigmatic,
dynamic, challenging, packed (conceptually and formally), and of
course confrontational. Her wayfinding and experiments may start
with basic typographic practices but end up with highly
sophisticated design methods and approaches. Learning from visual
traditions of Iran, from miniature painting and lithography to
metal work and carpet designs, Delvaray layers, twists, turns,
stretches, stitches, weaves and gives dimension to elements of her
designs and paints them with vibrant colors associated with Iranian
arts and crafts.
Poster designs by Homa Delvaray (from left): Dialogue, 2007;
International Day of Graphic Design, 2005.
What makes Delvaray works challenging and confrontational is the
way she mixes and matches local and global cultural codes and signs
and simultaneously conceals and reveals the intentions of her
designs. She actively involves her viewers by presenting them with
fascinating formal and conceptual visual conundrums. For example,
at first glance Delvaray's 2007 poster design for the Contemporary
Iranian Graphic Design 9th Biennale titled Goftegoo
(”Dialogue“) resembles a primary sketch for a carpet design with a
symmetrical composition and highly decorative and ornamental
nature. Flowers and paisleys dominate the visual space yet when
looking closer an array of icons, symbols and mechanical objects
such as emoticons, punctuations, letters, numbers and cellphones
come to surface. The monochromatic treatment of motifs and visual
elements gives them the same importance yet touches of yellow are
subtle points of emphasis in the entire poster.
Delvaray explains the idea behind this designiv: ”Chatting or sending SMS
[Short Message Service] are tools of communication which have the
most usage in today's world. [An] increasing number of digital
services has contributed to this mode of communication which has
entered our culture and created a new culture with limited and
incorrect syntax and has forced us to unintentionally use
abbreviated and meaningless words and has created Penglish [Persian
English]. Yellow is the sign for danger. There is a danger in
choosing to have dialogues of this kind. Using Iranian motifs and
combining them with the elements of the virtual world is an attempt
to show how Iranian culture is changing and confronted with the
increasing spread of tools of communication and the way it is
Posters by Homa Delvaray (from left): Painting exhibition of Ali
Mohammadi, 2008; Ashoura, 2006.
In the field of graphic design and visual communication,
aesthetic and artistic practices can invent and introduce
imaginative spaces for revealing and challenging cultural and
political obstacles and limitations. Ellen Lupton and Abbott
state: ”Design can critically engage the mechanics of
representation, exposing and revising its ideological biases;
design can also remake the grammar of communication by discovering
structures and patterns within the material media of the visual and
verbal writing.“ John Bowersvi argues that the engagement of designers
and their active role in the production of culture has significant
social and political meaning. ”Designers are more than makers,
observers, or controllers of information and ideas. At their best,
designers are participants in the creation, critique and
dissemination of culture.“
What distinguishes Delvaray's work is her sensitivity and
meticulous way of putting together complex ideas and elements with
diverse visual histories and components, and assigning new meanings
to their new identities. She looks at the ”old“ and ”traditional“
visual elements as ”raw materials “ to work with and rejuvenates
them by using them in contemporary contexts. ”I am not interested
in pleasing the viewer but I am aiming to excite them with my new
works and ideas,“ Delvaray says. ”I would like to work on the
viewers' taste and perception.“ She believes that designers can
change the ”collective taste“ of a society and culture by
respecting their viewers' intelligence and educating them via
thought-provoking and powerful designs.
Drive Slowly, the Sea Is Slippery!, 2009, book cover design by
[i] The women
designers of the Rokhsat exhibition were: Shahrzad
Changalvaee (b.1983), Asieh Dehghani (b.1982), Homa Delvaray
(b.1980), Maryam Enayati (b.1978), Zeynab Izadyar (b.1984), Zeinab
Shahidi (b.1983), Reyhaneh Sheikhbahaey (b.1980) and Soha Shirvani
is also the title of a journal of ”critical writings and
professional commentary“ on typography. The founder and chief
editor of Dabireh is Reza Abedni. Abedini is a prominent
Iranian graphic designer who has introduced the Iranian
contemporary design and typography on an international level. The
majority of Dabireh's editorial board members—such as Iman
Raad, Farhad Fouzouni, Homa Delvaray and Shahrzad Changalvaee—are
former students of Abedini and among the most successful and
innovative young designers in contemporary Iran.
[iii] Homa Delvaray
exhibition at VitrinRooz.com, February 24 to March 9, 2010.
correspondence with author, August 2010.
[v] Lupton, E., and
Miller, A., Design Writing Research: Writing on Graphic
Design. London: Phaidon Press, 1996. (p. 23)
[vi] Bowers, J.,
Introduction to Two-dimensional Design: Understanding Form and
Function. Canada: John Wiley & Sons, 1999. (p. 13)
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Every great success story starts at the first chapter, and we are honored to start two books at once. AIGA Baltimore has been awarded two AIGA Innovate grants to work on two special projects that are poised to have a lasting impact on the design community in Baltimore and at large.
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