Noma Bar – graphic storytelling

Ahead of his talk next month for the West of England Design forum in Bristol, we caught up with Noma Bar to talk negative space, Hebrew typography and Saddam Hussein.

by Noma Bar
Bar with an image from the Cut It Out series

Bar was born in Israel and studied graphic design in Jerusalem before moving to London in 2001 where he honed a style he defines as  ‘maximum communication with minimum elements’.

‘I discovered my first portrait when I was 17, opening up the newspaper and seeing a picture of Saddam Hussein,’ says Bar, who took the triangular icons of the radioactive symbol and reappropriated them as Hussein’s eyebrows and moustache.

‘The graphic language developed from that,’ he says. It’s a language Bar describes as a ‘sign language’ and one he honed as a universal form of expression, not speaking much English at the time – ‘I couldn’t say something in the Hebrew typography and calligraphy I’d trained in,’ Bar says.

Bar with an image from the Cut It Out series
by Noma Bar

‘I couldn’t use that knowledge, so I used icons and symbols and pictograms, so it’s a very personal point of view.’ says Bar.

People have come to know Bar for this technique, particularly the use of negative space, and in his talk next month he’ll be discussing his book of the same name, Negative Space, his other title The Many Faces of Noma Bar, the Design Museum Designs of the Year-nominated Cut It Out exhibition, and D&AD Yellow Pencil winning illustrations for the republished works of Don DeLillo.

He’ll also touch on his latest work, which includes helping the Guardian develop a set of products, the Guardian Collection. Launched last year as a set of stationery featuring his illustrations, the range will soon include lap top covers, iPad covers and bags.

Bar with an image from the Cut It Out series
This image was used on the cover of Bar’s Negative Space book

Graphic Storytelling: An Evening With Noma Bar takes place on 13 March at Arnolfini, 16 Narrow Quay, Bristol, BS1 4QA

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