Mapping Turkey: Graphic Design

The 1928 alphabet change was a traumatic event in the field of typography in Turkey; as a result the calligraphers who used to work with the old Arabic letters were now out of work.


For the full Graphic Design mapping please click here.


It would be fair to say there is no real awareness among the Turkish public about graphic design. Instead of speaking about an “audience” for graphic design, we can speak about “users”, as graphic design does not have a specific audience like that of the plastic arts, performance arts or cinema. In essence, the aim of graphic design is to maximise and spread an intended message, being solely a professional domain. In Turkey, one rarely comes across educational activities or organisations such as hobby clubs for amateurs in the field.

In the past, the understanding of a graphic design exhibition in galleries was often as follows: the work by a designer or several designers on completely different subjects would be exhibited next to one other. Today this perception has slowly changed, and in curated exhibitions work is now chosen and exhibited based on a contextual relati-onship.

Unlike some developed countries, Turkey does not have institutions such as design centres, design museums or design galleries that support the understanding of the importance of design for society. Graphic design exhibitions reach their audiences in spaces that perform various other functions, such as culture centres, art museums and university lecture halls. The number and quality of these spaces have improved considerably since the 2000s. In the 1920s, during the early years of the Turkish Republic, the government provided grants for international education, thereby training people who would then support the development of the country. As time passed, the public support of human resources in the fields of visual arts and design declined, and in recent years this has come to a halt.

As a result of governmental policies and the profit-making ambitions of the priva-te sector, the quality of education at universities has declined. In this way, graphic design education has also been adversely affected. As in the rest of the world, the 2000s were the beginning of a fast and profound period of change for graphic design in Turkey. In particular, the technological, economical and societal developments that have taken place since the 2010s have had a major impact on graphic design and graphic design education.

Since 2013, as a result of the wars taking place on Turkey’s border, terrorist attacks and the problem of migration, Turkey began to move away from Europe, and fewer graphic design students have come to Turkey through the Erasmus programme. In this period of crisis, most of the graphic designers who were invited to graphic design events in Turkey did not accept the invitation, afraid that something bad would hap-pen. In the past few years, students from the Middle East, Iran, Russia and Greece no longer attend the Grafist event, which is organised by Mimar Sinan Fine Arts Universi-ty as a regional design education event.

Although Turkish graphic designers and graphic design education groups have come to a point where they are seemingly “cut off from the world”, as a result of new tech-nological innovations, young designers especially are building new tunnels to reach the world. With the opportunities created by new media, mobile phone and tablets, there is hardly a destination left they cannot reach.

For the full Graphic Design mapping please click here.