Saed Meshki: What is the process of your design work?
Ghobad Shiva: I am more used to thinking. I think about the order I receive while eating, sleeping, watching TV, etc. I draw lines in my mind constantly and I erase them until I am content at some point. That's when I take a pen and start designing on paper. For instance, I deliberate for two weeks and in a short time I bring it on to paper. As far as methods of expression I believe in experimenting and I never copy myself. What joins these experiences together is my perspective of the work. I believe in the integrity of the mind or the perspective but I totally reject uniform visual execution.
SM: During that time do you think about the idea or the subject of your project?
GS: Certainly the idea. I believe what maintains a graphic work on the wall is the idea. I believe it should be that way. Otherwise, we won't see anything but superficial lines and colors. It is important to me what color to use and how that color conveys my idea and helps it. I like my work to penetrate among people as communicative work and of course it must be pretty too. But what's important is what you see in a piece of work beyond aesthetics. Commercial works lack dimensional layers and only look beautiful. This is my method of work. In fact I think more and work less.
SM: Your generation and generally most of the artists that worked and became famous during the 60's and 70's had original and attractive ideas. In my opinion this process can be encouraged in others too. I mean that creativity has an industrial nature and not an artistic one.
GS: In my opinion it is completely the opposite. If we believe that idea is the product of the artist's mind and thinking, then the expression of that idea turns into a phenomenon by materials and matter is functional as long as it serves the expression of the idea. In fact material is what you are referring to as industrial which serves the idea to be brought forth and it is an objective mold for subjectivity and creativity. The result is the procession that is composed by the artist. Any work of art without an idea is a shallow attempt.
Basically an artist is one who has an active and creative mind and it is his creative mind that determines the fate of his work otherwise one who only possess craftsmanship or technical dexterity is ultimately a master and not every master is necessarily an artist. For example, as far as painting there are millions of painters living in the world of which all have more or less their skills. They recognize color and do a good job of design and
know how to use the paintbrush and even have their own techniques but will all the millions of artists' names be recorded in history? Or will their works become eternal? Whereas we see that
only the names of those were recorded in history who used their skills in expressing their idea and thinking. Let's remember that all the world's good and bad songs are written and played using the same seven notes but the immortal musical pieces are those that are serving the musical thinking of the composer which is also his natural mentality. In creating a piece of art therefore, an artist's expression and thinking play the major roles which we call the artists' novel ideas in creating art and we do not regard songs without ideas as art. Graphic art with an idea or just creating an atmosphere is pop on paper that you look at for a moment and become amused but forget the next. Today's generation has given it a befitting title: "Graphical slanting"
SM: I believe that whatever that mankind has created from the beginning he has done it with his mind, thinking and reason. The instruments are insignificant.
GS: Mankind has reached his ideas by his thinking and he has created the idea by his hands. The new generation works with PhotoShop and FreeHand which involves hardware, Windows and software. The subject of discussion in our time was creativity, color and senses. That is why we have so many graphic designers but has the quality of graphic design grown equally as its quantity?
SM: Is Iranian or any other graphic design work from countries like India, Africa, Japan, Poland, etc., presentable by use of familiar visual elements or is there a need to have a perception and understanding of the atmosphere and essence of a culture?
GS: As far it relates to me I must say that at some point in my professional career I realized that they say American graphic design, Japanese graphic design, etc. I thought to myself why don't they call it Iranian graphic design? I noticed the reason was that the Iranian graphic designers in the cultural division do not work for people. They work for other designers. They admire and encourage each other. At the beginning of my artistic endeavors I used to paint but only few people who came to see my works. The same happened in my next exhibition. Few people came and saw my works and it was over. I held my last exhibition on the
street sidewalk for every one to see especially the people in the streets. I believe that graphic design is a process that results from the client who places the order, the designer and people. I can even say that a country that has good clients has good graphic design. But it is the contrary in Iran. For that reason single copy graphic work is prevalent which means graphic art without communicating with people and merely for display in exhibitions with no use. If we complement each other it is not important because we are colleagues in the same profession. But if the building guard asks us for a copy of our poster that is important. That's why I have tried since many years ago to as much as possible reach Iranian graphic identity. Before the revolution and in the beginning many of my friends told me that I was corny.
Going back to your question however, that whether we can create an Iranian piece of art by Iranian cliché elements I believe that it goes back to the designer's character. Every one's character is made by his knowledge. The Iranian graphic art today needs honest designers with characters and having too much honesty is difficult too. Then in a near future they will call it Iranian graphic art/design.
SM: There are two issues at large here. One is the international judgment on our graphic design works and the other is our own people's judgment. I think in the current situation we cannot really rely on these two types of judgment. What to do think?
GS: I believe that the most important duty of unions is to inform the clients. It is really good that we educate our public relations officials, to show Municipality Authorities the good and bad works and turn them into good customers. At the present, many graphic designers are working in various levels and with different talents yet posters which are our environmental graphic works destroy people's visual culture. What I am saying is that designers build countries not politicians. If you have a pretty button on your shirt it has nothing to do with the minister of industry. A good designer has designed it. But some who prioritize cultural and artistic values believe that they should even work for free in order to promote themselves. Let's go back to your first question that if I find myself an artist and graphic art is my means of expression then I have to take such actions in the society. There has been some work done but the numbers are very few and superficial like typography.
SM: What is your opinion on the current status of type and typography in Iran as one of the first people who used Persian calligraphy in their posters?
GS: I believe that there are issues that need to be resolved. Issues that are scientific and do not involve taste. In definitions in encyclopedias and quite documented too alphabets mean alphabets, hand lettering is the same as hand writing that has nothing to do with calligraphy and calligraphy has been defined as penmanship. For example, if you type "Sa'adi's memorial day" and you change the distance between the letters or move periods around for aesthetic purposes that becomes typography. You may be successful or not. When a calligrapher creates an art then it is calligraphy. If you just write freely with your hand that is hand lettering. These are definitions that I use relying on what's been documented.
SM: If we change your hand lettering into fonts or change Nastaliq to fonts so we can work with in the computer as it has been done, is that called typography?
GS: No because it has a calligraphic character. To us Iranians type is the same as primary moveable letters in the newspapers. These letters are neutral and lack a specific character but the graphic designer by typography garnishes them with form and beauty. The Westerners as well have categorized handwritings under the title 'hand lettering' in the computer. At the present in Iran because of high prices that calligraphers charge customers do not place orders with them and do the type in computers.
SM: Considering type and typography what is your opinion on works in Iran that are done with handwriting whether they are typography or not?
GS: In my opinion except for a few, the rest are superficial. They are not rooted. If you take away the digital maneuvering from them nothing will remain of them but the traditional calligraphy still has blood and it is alive.
SM: Are they considered typography?
GS: No they are not. There is a reality and we should not be fooling ourselves even if a few customers have faith in us. Let's see how these issues came about in Iran. On the other side of the world somebody named David Carson did some works and they were suddenly translated and brought to Iran without any precedence. Because it was deconstruction every one was fascinated with it but deconstruction is not art.
SM: Some designers have followed Carson's works through his books. But among many other designers only his name has reached Iran. In the recent years in Iran similar experiences have been undertaken with somewhat success. We cannot completely reject them. Can we?
GS: I don't want to reject them but I am saying it may take many years for it to be settled. I have been sent books that I cannot read their titles. Many like to deconstruct things. Among them few want to take on new experiments. I respect the few who want to attempt to find a way in this atmosphere but a couple of generations need to be sacrificed before these issues take root.
SM: Commercial graphics and cultural graphics, how do you divide them?
GS: I have said times and over the difference between commercial and cultural graphic works lies in their subject. For a skilled designer it makes no difference. Many great designers on the other side of the world have done many great works that are rivaled with works containing cultural contents. As I said in the previous questions if the designer is an artist whether the subject of the order is cultural or commercial its art becomes manifested in it. In our environment and the world there are works with cultural contents that lack any art and also works with commercial contents that possess sublime artistic values.
SM: Thank you very much for your time.