Thursday, November 6, 2008

Russian Design

The Bolshevik Revolution occurred during October of 1917. One example of design during the revolution is shown to the left - Kasimir Malevitch's Suprematist Composition: Airplane Flying, 1914-15. Suprematism seemed a bit too abstract, not literal enough for everyone to be able to understand. It didn't appeal to the masses like the lubki did. Around the same time Constructivism was also being practiced. The Bolshevik government saw the need to use mass-media to spread the Communist ideology around the world. Thus they established the concept of "agitprop." Thousands of posters were produced and posted in urban hoardings as well as spread throughout the country on boats, trains, and horse-drawn carts.

Qualities of design around and after the Bolshevik Revolution were influenced by Cubism, sometimes called Cubo-Futurism. Folk art (lukbok) was used along with symbolic colors to resonate with the community. Suprematism was an attempt at finding a new form to serve the people. It was objective, pure, and symbolic. Colors and shapes were meant to evoke emotions. Where Suprematism didn't sit well with the masses, the alternative was Constructivism. Constructivism was based on the idea of constructing a society. It utilized photo collage, symbolic color, images were manipulated to convey a message, geometric shapes, grid layout, and asymmetry.

Following are examples of design after the Bolshevik Revolution.

Image 1: Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge, El Lissitzky, 1919-20
Image 2: Kakao (Cocoa), Alexander Rodchenko, 1923-24
Image 3: Fragments of an Empire movie poster, Georgi and Vladimar Stenberg, 1929
Image 4: Inside spread from The Results of the First Five-Year Plan, Varvara Stepanova, 1932
(images from and

Also at this time design also utilized the lubki and color symbolism to appeal to the viewers emotions.
Image 1: To Horse, Proletarian!, Alexander Apsit, 1919
Image 2: The Struggle of the Red Knight with the Dark Force, Boris Zvorykin, 1919
(images from

Following are examples of more contemporary Russian design.

Image 1: More Light Let the Party know Everything, Sachkov, 1988
Image 2: Know who you are voting for, Kuznetsov, 1988
Image 3: Hurrah for the heroic deeds of the Soviet soldier!, Savostiuk and Uspensky, 1986, Organization of Solidarity of the People of Asia, Africa & Latin America poster –
Image 4: AIDS Attacking!, Avanov, 1989
(images from

The more contemporary design shows influences from the past, but is a bit more reductive.

Following are examples of current design with a Russian influence.
Images 1 & 2: Medoyeff vodka bottle
Images 3 & 4: Architectural Drawings of the Russian Avant-Garde
Image 5: 1996 MTV Video Music Awards Poster
(images from AIGA design archives)

Graphic Design A New History, Eskilson

1 comment:

Michelle Elkin said...

I love how constructivism still comes through again and again in certain modern designs today! Especially brands trying to appeal a sense of Russia, like vodka for example.