Beyond Borders: An exhibition of contemporary posters from Iran

From calligraphy, architecture and literature to painting and music, the lands around and including present day Iran are a creative cradle that are still a jumping off point for today's global artists. While politics may have changed, Iran's graphic design community continues to connect their cultural touchstones to contemporary issues and ideas to create some very compelling graphics.

Contemporary designers in Iran still source their Persian heritage but increasingly their work today is defined by new influences including powerful digital design tools, limitless globalization, and ubiquitous social media. The result is an exciting hybrid that is equal parts past, present, and future.

It's rare for American audiences to have access to contemporary Iranian graphic design. A small group of designers are coming together to create a new exhibit, hosted at AIGA-NY’s gallery space: “Beyond Borders: An exhibition of contemporary posters from Iran.” The show is designed to help promote an open dialogue and exchange of design ideas. As designers, we understand the value in uncommon interaction opportunities and are structuring this event with several key points in mind:

  • Iranian design and typography have an incredibly rich history of artistic achievement that spans hundreds of years
  • Farsi typefaces have only recently been digitized, resulting in a new diversity of typographic treatments across Iranian graphic design
  • Emerging technological trends including social media are adding a new layer of interaction in the Iranian design community, building connections and influences between artists and cultures beyond geographic borders
  • Opportunities for U.S. audiences to view contemporary Iranian art and design are rare. This exhibit Beyond Borders gives the American audience a chance to experience a culture, a people and letterforms that may be unknown or misunderstood. It’s is a great event for designers, educators, and anyone interested in cultural exchange

The curatorial group includes AIGA Medalist Steven Heller, award-winning designer Mirko Ilić, design professor Nahid Toontoochi, design professor Pouya Jahanshahi, independent curator and author Amos Klausner, independent designer Anne Jackson, and design professor Andew Twigg. When asked about the goals of the exhibition Klausner noted, “Iran, like many countries in the region, is at a crossroads. There's a relatively young population intersecting with a constant newness that is already resulting in some very interesting ideas and images. We want to highlight the convergence of digital design tools, new technology, ubiquitous social networks, limitless globalism and those age-old cultural traditions. It's an exciting hybrid that is equal parts past, present, and future”

The group plans to solicit work from a wide range of Iranian graphic designers and ultimately select between 75 and 100 posters for the exhibition.

AIGA has agreed to host the exhibition at the National Design Center in early 2015. In fact, Executive Director Ric Grefé went so far as to record his own thoughts about the importance of this exhibition in a short video the organizers have completed and are sharing through their social networks.

As for many cultural programs, the organizers find that funding will be key to the exhibition's success. Working closely with AIGA, they have developed a small budget that will cover all expenses and recently, the group has initiated a Kickstarter campaign. The goal is to raise the $10,000 they need to host the exhibition.

As an event that shares contemporary Iranian design culture, the organizers believe this will be one the most important exhibition of its kind to hit the US in the next few years.