Digital technology greatly expands economic possibilities for composing images and texts. Muraqqa’: Imperial Mughal Albums from the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, showing at the Sackler Gallery through Aug. 3, presents magnificent paintings and calligraphy combined in a variety of ways. For the rich Mughal court, as for digital designers today, cost didn’t constrain most design possibilities.
These albums were put together like pages with widgets. The exhibition narration explains:
The Persian word muraqqa’ means “patched” or “patched garment,” similar to those worn by Islamic mystics (Sufis) as a sign of poverty and humility. It came to be applied to Mughal albums due to their patchwork construction, with each album folio consisting of numerous pieces of paper pasted together to form a single, continuous sheet.
The albums were typically arranged so that openings of paintings alternated with openings of calligraphy. Both the paintings and the calligraphy, often themselves in segments, were usually surrounded with several layers of highly decorative borders.
Modern books usually present black letters printed on white pages. Some texts have illustrations, occasionally even in color. Almost no modern books have colored, designed borders.
The leading edge of digital design looks a lot more like Mughal albums. WordPress themes often have colored borders for text, and sometimes patterned borders. Husky Media’s innovative approach to video advertising embeds any video player in a targeted advertising border. For rich possibilities for digital design, look to the Mughals.