Through a brief look at the history of graphic design, itself closely tied to the history of advertising in Iran, this paper aims to draw attention to the crucial role of Tufigh in producing a modern visual vernacular in the graphic language of Iran. During the 1950s and 60s, ads of soaps, refrigerators, cleaners, and many other household items flooded the Iranian magazines, most of which were directly translated from their European originals. The standouts in this mix were the ads running in Tufigh. Though not filling more than two half pages, these ads, with their distinctive satirical imagery and pros, as well as the implicit cultural context in which they were placed, introduce a vernacular that has since left its imprint on the graphic design of Iran.
Through a comparative analysis of the ads running in Tufigh and the ones running in other weekly magazines of the same time such as Etelaat-e Banovan, Etelaat-e Haftegi and Zan-e Rooz, I would aim to illustrate how Tufigh successfully lends its visual satire to the genre of advertising, examples of which have a distinctly “Iranian” component. The aim is not to hinge the argument on an essentialist description of the ads but rather to highlight the distinction between these ads and the ones that are directly copied and translated from their European counterparts. In depth analysis of Tufigh’s advertisements in relation to both the audience towards which the magazine is directed, and the specific components that accompanies each ad would clarify the point: a modern visual vernacular is feeding the popular need for innovation. In this comparison, what is innovative is not the copied picture of European women holding clean sheets on the backdrop of Alps, but rather the group of women accompanying a bride to the local bathhouse. To mark the first modern and the other simply insignificant distorts the history of modernization in Iran.