Dedicated readers of It’s Nice That will be familiar with Masoud Morgan’s process when he worked with fellow Iranian designer Homa Delvaray in designing the dancing bi-lingual poster for our ongoing Dropbox Paper collaboration back in August 2018. This time round however, we caught up with the Berlin-based graphic designer to learn more about the origins of his practice and what he has been up to in the past year.
Born in Mashhad, the second most populous city in Iran, Masoud tells us how his first entry into graphic design was accidental. After an early but brief attempt at industrial design, Masoud was determined to continue an old habit of making and designing. “The other fields were full and the only field that still had a few empty seats was graphic design. I had no other option. I had to study graphic design, and I stayed,” Masoud tells It’s Nice That. After working as a graphic designer in Tehran for ten years, Masoud then moved to Berlin to continue his education in interaction design and new media at UdK Berlin.
Masoud’s preference for typography was an unconscious decision, something that he absorbed from his surroundings. His childhood in Mashhad, in “one of the most religious cities in Iran,” meant he was exposed to abstract arts and calligraphy from an early age. “You might know that Islam is opposed to every naturalistic illustration,” Masoud says, referring to the religion’s aniconist tendency which stems from its avoidance of idolatry. What this means is that other forms of art, often typographic in nature, have seen a longer period of artistic development in areas like Iran. “I remember that I designed my first poster with the inspiration of a religious phrase that was installed on the portal of a house,” he says, referring to his 2008 poster for Iran’s literary awards, featuring a series of outlined Arabic script mimicking a metal sculpture sitting on the door’s transom.
He often seeks to find new ways of experiencing, taking inspiration from organic forms, objects and 3D materials. “I think this one is a family interest,” he says. “My father is interested in making things. He had a handicrafts shop for a while and he even builds houses. My brother is an architect and my sister is a sculptor,” he continues. But far from a tepid involvement with the new dimension, Masoud’s found his own way to work with 3D elements, a method that gives his work its signature and dynamic legibility.
“3D elements come into my work when I want to destroy the form of design structure and its elements," adds the designer, “2D elements don’t show the feeling of destruction and suspense as perfectly as I’d like.” He compares the literary award poster he made, with a newer work six years later. In the first, “every element is tied together and doesn’t move,” but “everything is disintegrated and the elements are suspended” in his new work. Playing into the growing topic of resilience in design by highlighting its opposite, Masoud adds: “I think this visual space and this suspense is due to the social conditions that I grew up in, and converted it into a visual taste.”
In his recent project for the Beyond Borders, an event held by the Zeit-Stiftung foundation, Masoud was tasked with designing the visual identity for “a series of speeches and seminars about borders between communes, regions and minds.” He decided to go for a simple yet striking interpretation of the name. “The thing that connects all these designs together was the relationship between these two words: beyond and borders,” he says, creating a graphic where the word beyond leaps over the word borders.
Another ongoing project, an identity for a newly founded theatre workshop in Berlin, sees him constructing spaces rather than just elements, playing with optical illusions where the company’s identity changes when seen from different angles. “For me, it’s a new experience and it gives me more possibilities to connect with the audience and more importantly, involving them with my design,” he says of the interactive treatment. And as the possibilities of typography continue to grow, it’s always exciting when designers like Masoud take advantage of these possibilities in such an astute and thoughtful manner.