Inspired – Sally Costen, Seachange

I have no idea who gave me the pack of A5 postcards when I was 15. These cards were different. They were graphic design.

All were reproductions of posters from the 1920s and 1930s, designed under the banner of what is lovingly referred to as Russian Constructivism. Good old brutal propaganda graphics by ‘design hard, die young’ artists such as Gustav Klutsis. I knew nothing about the ideology and politics behind this work, but was compelled to find out, purely because of these posters.

I dissected this work, admired it and adopted some key principles of design through it. Keep it clear, be bold with colour, commit and do it well.

I have spent years trying to apply ‘utility’ aesthetics to both structural and secondary packaging for maximum impact. Where appropriate, it has worked perfectly.

Slabs of colour and high contrast photomontage do it for me. My love of black-and-white mid-1960s photography – moody and contrasting – and early, highly stylised Vogue covers all suggest this avant-garde world.

I know I am not alone in returning to the Russian and, more broadly, the European graphics of the 1920s and 1930s for a reminder of the power of graphic design.

This work resonates still. And so it should. We’re all in the propaganda business, after all.

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