Shahab Siavash: Pen, Paper and Passion

Shahab Siavash, creator of MALA’s logo, has used art to overcome tragedy. In his story he shares his progression as an artist and how his technique has grown over time.


Born in Tehran, Iran, and growing up in Rasht, the most influential experience in my life was finding out that, since I was born, my father had a strange disease that made him unable to walk. And after a decade of hoping I’d see my father healthy one day, the second life-changing experience was seeing my father get weaker and pass away when I was only 11. Because of these horrible incidents, I was a lonely boy for a long time and interested in fantasy and my imagination instead of the reality because that world was much more appealing.

My interest in art started with a comic book that my older brother gave to me. I started with drawing cartoons, and that eventually attracted me to graphic design as a means of expression. Later on I started to explore computer software for design and developed a working knowledge of several programs to enhance my rough sketches and drawings, as well create graphic art from scratch. I always loved experimenting with letters and symbols, and I integrated those into my fonts, posters and logo designs. During college, I pursued a degrees in mathematics and physics and ultimately graduated from Gorgan University with a degree in statistics.

Still, art has always been on my mind. I started to write articles and critiques about graphic design about seven years ago. These articles have been published in magazines and websites. And I received first prize at the Annual Graphic Design Critic Awards in 2012 in Tehran.

Following that, I decided to create a series of new Persian fonts that incorporate new and distinct features. I believe that when done successfully, typography can transcend its craft and become a true art, and this is a feeling that has been expressed through Persian art, going back to the Persian miniature paintings, in which scenes were overlaid with narrative text that made up a full album. As a typographer, I have created more than 30 individual typefaces by looking into my own culture for inspiration: Iranian motifs, Persian lettering from ancient to modern, as well as traditional and historical objects and the symbolism contained therein.

I also enjoy bringing new technology into the development of my designs and I refer to my hand and pen work as “penography” — that is my own method of handwriting by pen. Some examples can be seen on my website or Facebook profile. Also a book of my work was published two years ago. When I designed MALA’s logo, I envisioned a brand that was bold, proud, strong, and crisp. I think the logo aligns with the organization’s mission and values.

Thematically, I am interested in aspects of irony and satire, and I strive to embed such elements within my personal work. I really enjoy using certain subtle or indirect ways to communicate the message—the esoteric as well as the exoteric. A few years ago I completed a personal survey of humor in graphic design and advertising that has been published in Tehran – the book is named: “Graphic & Irony.”

My works have been exhibited in Tehran at the Contemporary Museum of Arts and Iranian Artists Forum and globally in Greece, Turkey and Germany, as well as being printed several times in books in Tehran, England and France. The most special one was the Wooden Book of Graphic Design for which I was a jury member to select the illustrations and graphic design works. I believe that talent holds no barriers. Geographical boundaries may change, but that should never limit what I am capable of doing.

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