Over the past six years, Bijan Berahimi, best known as the founding graphic designer for Fisk, has been working on a highly personal project, to say the least. You could even say that his latest endeavour, for which he acts as both editor-in-chief and creative director, is more than just a beautifully designed publication. It’s a visualisation of how he experiences the city in which he lives and dearly loves, Portland. It’s a subject he’s doted on previously, in both the acclaimed magazine Cult Classic not to mention Fisk’s gallery and store, also titled Fisk Gallery, celebrating and exhibiting bodies of work made in Portland.
But over the past few years, Bijan has become “a lot more invested and engaged” with his Iranian heritage and, as a consequence, has been trying to find new ways to integrate this interest into his design practice. “People don’t often know who is behind studios or projects,” Bijan tells It’s Nice That, but “simply naming this project Joon is a dedication to my parents and my heritage.” In Farsi, “Joon” translates to life, and is often used as a term of endearment, connoting feelings of closeness, intimacy and affection. He recalls how, growing up, his mum would call him “Bijan-joon” as a way of showing love, and even now, the designer feels a sense of joy when he sees others reacting kindly to the word.
“It’s a word that is really close to me and one that I want to share with the world,” Bijan continues. After he graduated from CalArts in Los Angeles and moved to Portland, the term Joon accurately encompassed the sense of community he experienced as a new residence. In turn, he is focusing Joon’s debut issue on the metaphor of a blossoming butterfly, a representative symbol of his life in the Oregon city so far.
The recently released magazine reflects the colourful variety of Bijan’s experience in both its uniquely dynamic layout and diverse use of materials. With every turn of the page, the viewer’s senses are flooded with a new experience. The dexterity of touch – which alternates constantly from spread to spread – and the careful choice of colour palette and typefaces, which yo-yos just enough to provide a sense of awe in the multiplicity of design systems, but not too much to be overwhelming.
Funnily enough, Joon started out six months ago with an inquiry from fellow Portland-based friends at Brown Printing. The family-run business, which has been operating for over 80 years, is located just down the road from Fisk HQ, and the two companies have developed a close relationship.
Tasked with coming up with a concept for print promotion, Bijan resultantly spent a lot of time thinking about existing print specimens, and how to transform this concept into something more culturally-facing. Something that could maximise the possibilities of print to the fullest, while servicing the reputations of Fisk and Brown Printing simultaneously.
After extensive thought, Joon was born. A magazine that would touch on all the different facets of Portland; from its food, music, cannabis, florists, scent makers, printers and so on, told through Bijan’s intensely creative lens.
He started the project from the ground up, making a list of his favourite, progressive creatives in the city. “The goal was to create a web of diverse voices from all creative fields,” adds the founder who then came up with a general art direction for how he saw each feature coming to life. It took six months to go from concept to photoshoot to print, along the way, expressing the duality of Portland’s current social scape. “The community in Portland is equally positive and negative,” explains Bijan, “both of these aspects are the reason why Joon exists.” While there is an exceeding hub of talent freshly available amongst the city’s residents, there is a lack of infrastructure allowing small studios or projects to thrive financially.
On one hand, Portland is unique for its “physical and mental space” which sparks exciting projects to occur, but on the other hand, financial inequality runs deep. While there are large agencies and corporations, “they don’t contribute to the city’s cultural landscape,” and in turn, Portland is “full of people who do work as a hobby but not for money.” Many of the Joon’s articles discuss this duality, uniting through the sense of inequality. “This magazine wouldn’t have been possible without people who were willing to contribute their time and energy to a magazine they had never heard of. There is real mutual admiration for people in Portland that are interested in having a global dialogue. My goal is to create the space for this dialogue between Portland and the world.”
As the magazine’s first issue continues to explode all over the world, for now, issues two and three also have their eyes set on Portland. In the future, Bijan hopes the magazine’s reach will extend internationally, perhaps to the likes of Tokyo, New York and LA. But for now, Bijan and the whole Fisk team are revelling in the uniqueness of the project.
It’s a made-up client, a brand they built from scratch, with no one to answer to in terms of having an Iranian title, a tie-dye cover, or even butterflies on the website. “It was an extremely rare and beautiful process for us,” Bijan finally goes on to say, “Joon is a pure project where we naturally developed the language and identity. Fisk has been going for ten years, and while we are continuously pushing the work we make. It’s so refreshing to create a new brand from all the things we’ve learnt over the past decade.”
About the Author
Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor. Feel free to drop Jyni a note if you have an exciting story for the site.