An Inspirational Designer

Avinoam Noma Bar is a man of few strokes.

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Famous for his portraits which are a manipulation of negative and positive space, playing with figure ground to achieve a simple visual image that portrays a certain message. His works are a mixture of humorous portraits that depict what the subject does rather than what the subject looks like. For example Jamie Oliver’s portrait has been created so that you can see a smiling face, but if you look closely his nose and mouth are symbols that relate to his work.

Born in Israel 1973, Bar lived amongst a creative family with an interest in art. He began studying in Jerusalem, and as a result of not understanding their language, turned to another source of communication. He developed a collection of pictograms that became his personal form of sign language. His largest influence: silent comedians such as Charlie Chapman. Bar graduated from the Bazelel Academy of Art & Design in 2000 with a Bachelor’s of Graphic and Type Design.

His Career Journey began during the Gulf War when he developed a caricature of Saddam Hussein from a radioactivity symbol he found in a newspaper. He moved to London for work, and found it by showing this caricature to newspapers and magazines. (Dernavich, 2008) He is now known for not only his insightful portraits of celebrities but also for his works relating to negative and positive space. Bar has illustrated the covers of 60 Magazine covers and has published 550 illustrations as well as two books: ‘Guess Who’ and ‘Negative Space’. The first focuses on his portraits and the second on his conceptual works.

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Noma Bar has illustrated a number of works for a range of clients. One of these is IBM. As a part of the Smarter Planet Campaign, Bar designed a series of 12 print pieces accompanied by a small amount of text to highlight IBM’s past achievements. (Alice, 2010) His work for this campaign was exceptional. His use of negative and positive space to depict a sort of “short” story was very successful in generating a message. For example one of the posters was an illustration of mobile phones that actually looked like footsteps. The story behind this was about how IBM’s changes to cellular masts electricity meant that an Indian telephone provider could reduce its carbon footprint.

In an interview, Bar revealed that he spends most of his day in a park near his house thinking and sketching. He explained that he wouldn’t begin his work on the computer; rather he would sketch and sketch until he had his final idea, and would refine it on the computer. His advice to aspiring, young designers was to:

“Be open to everything – to a degree. I was educated to open my eyes all the time when I started – we’re talking 11 years ago – but I think these days [young graphic designers’] eyes are already so open because of the Internet. It’s easy to be exposed to a million styles in one click and I see a lot of students struggling because of [too much] knowledge. The fact that I’m not at a computer most of the time is to avoid it and focus on myself, on where I’m going and what’s good for me.”
(Segal Hamilton, 2012.)

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I found this to be quite insightful and it helped me to realize where I have been going wrong in my design approach. A lot of the time when I am looking for inspiration, I search the net. The problem with this is that instead of generating a new idea or an innovative idea, I see something that someone else has done and work from that. His words have been a trigger for me in that I have started to try to look at things differently. Now when I am on the bus I watch the things out the window rather than scan Pinterest on my iPhone.

Avinoam Noma Bar is most definitely a designer that has achieved high recommendation for his works. The way his solutions are quite unique and very consuming in the way they capture your eye and make you take a second look. He is a great inspiration to young designers and his books should definitely be a “must have” for all aspiring artists and designers.


Dernavich, Drew. 2008. “An interview with Noma Bar” The New Yorker – the cartoon blog, September 24. Accessed March 20, 2013.

Alice. 2010. “IBM’s Smarter Planet Illustrations are Clever!” My Modern Met blog, August 3. Accessed March 20, 2013.

Segal Hamilton, Rachel. 2012. “Noma Bar: Graphic Designer”. Accessed March 20, 2013.

Forgot, Emily. 2010. “Noma Bar Interview” Accessed March 20, 2013.

artica. n.d. “Featured Artist – Noma Bar”. Accessed March 20, 2013.


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