A draft for a column on Israeli design for ‘Computer Arts’ magazine.
The intro that won’t make it to the print
Graphic-design in Israel just as much as any cultural field in Israel is a very interesting case. For 58 years the young state has been striving to define a genuine Israeli culture to unite immigrants gathered from all over the world under a mutual theme. Everything in this creation is controversial, starting with the idea of a Jewish-Democratic state, an oxymoron in itself. In such settings with a fast and sharp (and unfortunate) turn from socialism to capitalism, harsh political conflicts, tons of media coverage, different ethnicities, religions and nationalities under the same small piece of land, an aesthetic flux is bound to happen.
Unfortunately I cannot dive into the whole thing, so I chose to focus on the one thing that I do see as an exceptional phenomena, both graphic-design wise and cultural wise, that is the revival of the Hebrew letter.
And the main part…
As a part of the Israeli cultural melting pot the Zionist movement decided to adopt Hebrew as the official language of Israel. The language being used only in religious context for 2000 years, was readopted as a spoken language. With a shortage of typefaces, designing the Hebrew letter has become an idealistic Zionist mission.
With an influence ranging from religious-writing through latin, Art-Nouveau through Art-Deco and a strong new moderinst and especially constructivist influence, new Hebrew typefaces were designed by the plenty. The forties and fifties have gave Hebrew it’s first Sans-Serif typefaces and have led the letters into it’s current post-modern typographic age where some letters have become so distorted that it is hardly really Hebrew.
There is definitely a type-hype in Israel as was expressed in a Type Design Conference held in the Holon Institute of Technology last May. It is apparent through the works of designers and the trends adopted by design collage students. While some of these designers subscribe to the globalization and mainly latinization of the letter, others try to do justice with it’s nature and yet constantly introduce new and contemporary looking typefaces.
A quick (and far from full) name dropping will include the professional style of Fontef, the vivid totality of Oded Ezer, and the revivalist joy of Hagilda – Michal Sahar & Dani (Ha’Tayas) Meirav. On the younger and experimental side we’ve got Michal Vexler‘s Cursive Hebrew, Meir Sadan – a Hebrew-activist, and the Safta Project – a Flicker arcive of vintage Israeli design.