Book review: Designed in the USSR

Enter the fascinating world of Soviet design with a peak behind the Iron Curtain in Designed in the USSR: 1950-1989. Published by Phaidon and created with the help of Moscow Design Museum, the book is a captivating account of life under Communist rule told through the design of every-day objects, graphics, illustration and advertising. The 350 images here, selected largely from the museum’s collection, tell a compelling story of design in the USSR.

Rozhki pasta packaging, 1980s, manufactured by the Rostov Pasta Factory. Picture credit: courtesy and copyright © Moscow Design Museum

Spanning almost four decades, this is the first publication to celebrate the largely unexpected creativity, innovation and diversity of Soviet design. Moscow Design Museum is dedicated to preserving Russia’s design heritage, and the collection featured here includes a diverse range of objects and ideas from children’s toys, homewares and fashion to posters, electronics and space-race ephemera.

Avos ́ka string shopping bag, 1950–80s. Picture credit: courtesy and copyright © Moscow Design Museum

Designed in the USSR 1950 – 1989 is organised into three chapters: citizen, state and world with an introductory essay by the director of the Museum Alexandra Sankova for an insight into the socio-political context of Soviet design.

Young People, Go to the Textile Industry! Social awareness poster, 1970s, designed by Miron Lukyanov. Picture credit: courtesy and copyright © Moscow Design Museum

The first chapter celebrates domestic and consumer products. We then learn about items that shed light on the state-controlled system of design, including movie posters, portable cassette players and a children’s modular radio construction kit. Whilst the final chapter takes the Soviet Union onto the international scene through objects such as the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games mascot and the Saturnas vacuum cleaner – inspired by the Sputnik satellite and a remarkable example of space-age design.
Nargess Banks

Picture caption and credits (in order)
Rozhki pasta packaging, 1980s, manufactured by the Rostov Pasta Factory © Moscow Design Museum
Avos ́ka string shopping bag, 1950–80s © Moscow Design Museum
Young People, Go to the Textile Industry! Social awareness poster, 1970s, designed by Miron Lukyanov © Moscow Design Museum

 

Designed in the USSR: 1950 - 1989 is published by Phaidon
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