Content is nothing. Looks are everything. We've seen great works of art created to advertise cheap soap or mediocre movies.
With books, looks are often inferior to content, but sometimes the opposite is true. Even a statistics handbook can become a work of art, provided with appropriate cover. That's what Lyubov Popova has done for the Russian Postage & Telegraph Statistics, 1921 (above): minimum detail, maximum symbols.
In 1920s, Soviet Russia could be proud of two design geniuses. One, El Lissitzky, a man of many talents (see Horizontal Skyscrapers), is remembered today as one of the fathers of modern typography. His experiments started during WWI, first with Hebrew books:
Being a kind of Soviet cultural ambassador to Europe, the artist created numerous brochures, booklets and catalogs for industrial and art exhibitions:
It's a manifesto of probably the most famous Russian art movement. The other design genius, Alexander Rodchenko, belonged to this movement. We've already seen his posters, soon we'll see his innovative photographs, but today let's take a look at his book designs.
Rodchenko excelled in the photo montage technique, pioneered by Italian Futurists and developed by the Dada movement. To illustrate About It, a poem written by his friend Vladimir Mayakovsky, he created a series of composite pictures, combining magazine clippings with the photographs of Mayakovsky and poet's lover Lily Brik:
This school, the closest Soviet analog of the Bauhaus, is worth a separate article. Today, I show only a tip of an iceberg. To see a bit more you're welcome to browse the album (32 images) or enjoy the slideshow: