Though the work of Pouya Ahmadi is rooted in the art of composition, the graphic designer draws influence from writing. It is passages of text that inform his way of observing and operating, which in turn trickle through his concept-driven graphic design practice. “At the moment,” he tells It’s Nice That, “I am digging works by theorists such as Reza Negarestani, Mark Fisher and Sara Ahmed,” delving into philosophical ideas of theory-fiction, cultural theory and intersectional feminism respectively.
The intellectual interest underlies all of the graphic designer’s work, and a string of thoughtfulness is evident in the context and content of all his dynamic projects. On the ethos of his practice, Pouya continues: “In many ways, my practice is quite fluid and I can shape it as needs be. I have never been interested in having a predefined format or structure for my practice.” That being said, Pouya has always been drawn to projects that explore a sense of duality. Through design, he attempts to convey a dual experience – nodding to two extreme opposites of any given spectrum and at the same time. Order and chaos for instance, good and evil, high and low, bitter and sweet, and so on.
For the Chicago-based designer, “it is almost impossible to talk about visual language without considering the conditions under which a piece of work is produced.” Whether that’s a social, cultural or political structure, the context of a project’s whereabouts features strongly in Pouya’s visual language. His work connects directly to such factors, often relying on the audiences understanding of the situations at hand in order to understand the subtext of the work. Exemplified in the designer’s ongoing project Amalgam Journal, of which he acts as both editor and designer, Pouya investigates the intersection of typography, language and the visual arts.
With bespoke editorials and designs for each issue (currently in its second), the ad hoc transdisciplinary journal undergoes a visual overhaul with each new publication. “Amalgam intentionally refuses to be a thematic journal,” says Pouya, “on the contrary, the content is assembled in a radically organic process.” As a consequence, the publication’s content lies purely on material that sparks the founder’s interest and that which is urgent. With no predetermined format, contributions so far have ranged from the experimental, conceptual, or post-internet writings, to abstract artworks to boot. Fundamentally, the publication is rooted in typography’s intersection with other disciplines, with each issue attempting to further tease out the boundaries ever further.
In other work, Pouya explores the multiplicity of in-betweenness in Pardeh, a collaboration with Pegah Ahmadi. Featuring an eight by four feat canvas installation accompanied by a duo lecture performance, the project discerns how the concept of liminal spaces are often discussed in terms of social anthropology. Terms such as “border zones” or “non-places” are used as a way to shape the debate around identity development or alternatively, as a way to describe travel – migration, pilgrimage or touristic for example. In light of this, Pardeh investigates a different side to liminality, one that is “interminable rather than temporary.”
Elsewhere, in another publication design with a twist, the second issue of Close Distance generates a dialogue around work in progress. Soon to be released, the international poetics journal features a number of collaborations between artists, spaces and audiences. Created in collaboration with the editor Lara Schoorl, this second issue also sees a major change in its format. Printed on a square, 52 inch satin scarf, the limited edition journal is just one of many rethinks by Pouya of how we can read and interpret information.
Pouya Ahmadi: Close Distance
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.