Environmental Persian Typography

The usage of line in typography has a special status and has worked as a source of inspiration for many. This is especially true for Persian fonts, which have been reworked in various projects by artists around the world. Persian typography is currently used in graphic design, engraving on various materials, architecture and urban art. It is present also in a variety of old landmarks by a young Iranian artist, Moslem Ebrahimi, an award-winning visual and urban artist, researcher, and a University lecturer with a Master degree in Graphic Design.

I interviewed Moslem Ebrahimi and the following are his views regarding the status of “line” in Persian typography.

The line carries an important role and identity beyond its usage in drawings as a means to create shape or texture. The line represents movement, and movement is the origin of life.

All beings are constantly moving. A movement, which occurs between two significant points. The movement of a passenger from the point of departure to his destination, a lover’s movement towards his beloved, or from birth to death. Thus, regardless of whether an image consists of a line, area or volume, it is considered as a line if eyes move along the image from one point to another.

According to the above definition, in typography, the line can be considered as an element, which is used to draw letters. For instance, when a pen leaves a trace of ink on a surface while moving from a point to another, it is considered a line.

Most of the writings that we see and deal with in the context of typography are so minute that we, as readers, are not capable of understanding the details of drawing letters. Instead, we see each letter and word as a whole.

It is the line, which carries out the actual role in each paragraph that draws our eyes from one point to another. It is this stretch of lines that is most conspicuous in Persian typography because most of the characters are connected to each other, and Persian writing uses cursive line types.

In addition, most of the characters in Persian writing are drawn on a stretched and horizontal structure, unlike most of the Latin characters that are vertical and standing. All the above-mentioned reasons cause the Persian writing to have lines with more stretches and movements compared to Latin writing.

Using Persian typography in urban art is the most significant feature of Ebrahimi’s work.

Many artists from the Middle East have used cursive line types in their artworks, but it is his style and the way he uses the cursive line types that have made his works unique. Moslem’s projects make use of the mechanical typeface, which is known as the font. This source of inspiration is used to provide information and echoes what is seen in public and urban spaces.

Ebrahimi states that the reason he is interested in and makes use of this type of writing is that his profession and field of study in Type Design, and therefore he is in the know about Persian typography. In his work, he takes the freedom to modify the common structure of the language and responds to environmental conditions. He goes on to explain that typography usually has a mechanical and highly organized structure. Due to his profession, he has always been forced by abiding by the exact and mechanical rules of typography. The use of typography in the environment as a work of art helps him to freely handle typography and this time, impose his human feelings on typography.

Persian calligraphy and typography have a property called “Kashida”, a Persian word meaning extended or drawn, which is used to signify a kind of justifying in some cursive and typographical writings.

A calligrapher or type designer is capable of extending the line between two characters.

Ebrahimi maximizes the effect of this property by extending the line between the characters based on different situations. For reading his typography, the reader has to walk a long distance in order to read the lines. Thus, the reader has to move his body instead of his eyes.

Torso is a student magazine founded and funded by TOKYO, which publishes four times in a year on Art, Design and Society. Each issue has its own theme, and “line” was the theme for the first issue of the year 2014.


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