VC501 – Design Manifesto: 1920’s Russian Constructivism & Consumerism

In 1921, the New Economic Policy was established in the Soviet Union, which reintroduced a limited state capitalism in the Soviet economy. Rodchenko, Stepanova, and others made advertising for the co-operatives that were now in competition with commercial businesses. The poet-artist Vladimir Mayakovsky and Rodchenko worked together and called themselves “advertising constructors”. Together they designed eye-catching images featuring bright colours, geometric shapes, and bold lettering. The lettering of most of these designs was intended to create a reaction, and function emotionally – most were designed for the state-owned department store Mosselprom in Moscow, for pacifiers, cooking oil, beer and other quotidian products, with Mayakovsky claiming that his ‘nowhere else but Mosselprom’ verse was one of the best he ever wrote.

Additionally, several artists tried to work with clothes design with varying success: Varvara Stepanova designed dresses with bright, geometric patterns that were mass-produced, although workers’ overalls by Tatlin and Rodchenko never achieved this and remained prototypes. The painter and designer Lyubov Popova designed a kind of Constructivist flapper dress before her early death in 1924, the plans for which were published in the journal LEF. In these works Constructivists showed a willingness to involve themselves in fashion and the mass market of consumerism, which they tried to balance with their Communist beliefs.

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