Inner Structures–Outer Rhythms: Contemporary Arab & Persian Graphic Design | Minneapolis College of Art and Design

Inner Structures–Outer Rhythms: Contemporary Arab & Persian Graphic Design

MCAD Main Gallery
Gallery Exhibition
Inner Structures/Outer Rhythms web header

The Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD), in conjunction with the Khatt Foundation, is pleased to present Inner Structures-Outer Rhythms: Contemporary Arab & Persian Graphic Design, an exhibition that reflects the growing interest in graphic expression from under-recognized creative regions of the world. The college is partnering with Dr. Huda Smitshuijzen AbiFarès, founding director of the Khatt Foundation, Center for Arabic Typography (Amsterdam), to curate the exhibition and to publish a book of the same title. 

Central to a more inclusive global design discourse is recognizing the power of graphic design and typography to communicate social change, local cultural concerns, and universal human and environmental challenges. “The diversity of graphic expression in Arab and Persian graphic design is linked by the creative use of the Arabic letterforms in an ever evolving and playful manner,” Dr. AbiFarès explains. “Developments in Arabic typography of the twenty-first century have been marked by a division between fluid calligraphic designs and structured geometric compositions. Sometimes the two mix in intricate and unexpected ways, revealing complex and engaging rhythms.”

The exhibition and related publication focuses on Arab and Persian contemporary design and highlights the works of a select group of thirty of the best contemporary designers from the Middle East/North African (MENA) region and its diaspora. It charts certain trends that reflect the specificities of Islamic visual culture, local aesthetic trends and contemporary design applications that respond to current events and socio-political concerns. The exhibition will feature posters, videos, textiles, graffiti, books, fonts, and typefaces and is divided into four broad themes:  Visualizing rhythm in poetry and music; Type and lettering for political activism; Designing for culture and the arts; and Beyond Arabic calligraphy. It will also include a viewing/reading library with dozens of informative publications on design from the MENA region.

Inner Structures-Outer Rhythms will include the works of the designers Reza Abedini, Mariem Abutaleb, Studio Kargah, Homa Delvaray, Naji ElMir, Yara Khoury Nammour, Khajag Apelian, Hussein Nasreddine, Azza Alameddine, Naïma Ben Ayed, Farah Fayyad, Wael Morcos, Kristyan Sarkis, Amir Karimian, Mohammadreza Abdolali, Studio Safar, Studio Kemistry, Turrrbo, Hamid Mirza Qorbanpour, Lara Assouad, Acil Benamara, Yusef Alahmad, Hey Porter!, Karim Farah, Ayman Hassan, Nadine Chahine, Omaima Dajani, Jana Traboulsi, Rasha Dakkak, Mark Nicolas, and Bahia Shehab.

About Dr. Huda Smitshuijzen AbiFarès 
She is the Founding Director of the Khatt Foundation and Khatt Books publishers. Based in Amsterdam, her professional, cultural, and educational activities extend from the US and Europe to the Arab World. She holds degrees in design and design history from Leiden University (PhD, 2017), Yale University (MFA, 1990), and Rhode Island School of Design (BFA, 1987). She was a jury member of the Third Jameel Prize for Islamic Art and Design 2013 (Victoria & Albert Museum, London), and member of the grants selection committee for Mondrian Foundation (2011-2012) & The Netherlands Architecture and Design Fund (2013). She is a member of AGI (Alliance Typographique Internationale). Dr Smitshuijzen AbiFarès specializes in multilingual typographic research and design, with focus on Arabic typography and design history. She has published several books on typography and design from the Arab World, and contributed essays to professional and academic publications. She is the author of Arabic Typography: A Comprehensive Sourcebook (2001/2021), Typographic Matchmaking (2007), Typographic Matchmaking in the City (2011), Arabic Type Design for Beginners (2013), Nomadic Traces: Journeys of Arabian Scripts (2019), Kameel Hawa: The Art of Shaping Arabic Letters (2019), Typographic Matchmaking in the Maghrib (forthcoming), and The Catholic Press of Beirut: A Printing and Design Legacy in the Arab East (forthcoming). She taught design and typography courses at design programs in the Middle East and Europe. She works as an independent design curator, researcher, writer, designer, and publisher.

About the Khatt Foundation
The Khatt Foundation, Center for Arabic Typography is a cultural foundation and design research center dedicated to advancing design and typography in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), and their diaspora, and to building cross-cultural creative networks. Their specialized publishing house, Khatt Books, focuses on topics such as typography, graphic design, architecture, other applied and visual arts from or dealing with the MENA region. /

Poster by Aria Kasaei
Aria Kasaei - Studio Kargah
No beginning or end. No orientation. No direction. This is the exceptional position of a circle.
100 x 70 cm
Film poster by Homa Delvaray
Homa Delvaray
Poetry in Motion
Contemporary Iranian Cinema, Bagri Foundation and Barbican Centre Project
100 x 150 cm.
Hichhhhh by Hamid Mirza Qorbanpour
Hamid Mirza Qorbanpour
Lettering of Persian Poetry
50 x 50 cm.


People Drowning at Sea. “Those Who Have No Land Have No Sea” by Bahia Shehab
Bahia Shehab
People Drowning at Sea. “Those Who Have No Land Have No Sea”
Mahmoud Darwish’s Political Poetry
Cephalonia, Greece


Bohemian Ideals by Kristyan Sarkis
Kristyan Sarkis 
Bohemian Ideals
50 x 70 cm.
Jazz Poster by Apelian Khajag
Khajag Apelian 
Some of My Favorite Things, Jazz & Ink 
Salon Beirut
50 x 70 cm.


Egyptian Folk songs by Mariem Abutaleb
Mariem Abutaleb
Folk Songs Archive
Visualizing folk songs through Arabic 
Lettering project
300 x 300 cm.
Poster by Mohammadreza Adbolali
Mohammadreza Adbolali
8th Teheran International Sculpture Symposium 
120 x 80 cm.


Gallery Visitor Policy for Fall 2021 

The MCAD Gallery is open to the public beginning September 1 for the following hours:

Monday–Friday: 9:00 a.m–7:00 p.m.
Saturday: 10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.

All visitors must enter through the north (main) entrance, sign in at the welcome desk in the main lobby, and stay in designated gallery areas.

Masks are required inside of MCAD buildings regardless of vaccination status.

For more information or any disability accommodations, please contact 612.874.3667 or

MCAD is committed to providing students, faculty, staff, and visitors with disabilities equitable access to MCAD-sponsored programs and events. 

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