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Design Outside the Canon

The Design Canon in American education focuses mainly on Europe, North America, and sometimes parts of Asia. During one of my design history courses at Maryland Institute College of Art, we took a look into Middle Eastern design principles and typesetting. The gestural typography and its stylistic variability stood out to me the most. I was also starting to learn Arabic at this time, so this lector especially spoke to me. With a deeper dive into Arabic Typography, I’ve learned that many historic designers have come from Tehran. Finding a “new” pocket of type designers in Tehran has opened up a whole new world for me. I feel like Western art programs really miss out on sharing the design of different cultural backgrounds and languages.

As designers, we should widen our toolkit and give ourselves time to find new inspiration. Beauty is universal. You don’t need to understand the language to appreciate it. I’ve pulled together a handful of references that I like to visit from time to time to inspire me. I encourage you to look for your own inspiration outside the Western design canon and see what sparks your interest. Hopefully, some of these references can be your stepping stone.