Dieselpunk + Steampunk Culture

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:

and developed into a manifestation of Suprematism which (as it seemed in early 1920s) could be applied everywhere. He designed a school primer:

with the same techniques he used to illustrate the poems of Vladimir Mayakovsky:

You rascals, nailed with wordlines, stand silent! Listen to this wolfe's wowl, hardly pretending to be a poem!

Typography is an integral part of Lissitzky's self-portrait (1924 or 1925).

Being a kind of Soviet cultural ambassador to Europe, the artist created numerous brochures, booklets and catalogs for industrial and art exhibitions:

A cover for Constructivism by Alexei Gan, printed in 1923, is less spectacular but no less important:

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:

At the same time he illustrated Soviet pulp - a serialized Jim Dollar novel by Marietta Shaginyan:

Alexander Rodchenko designed a reading room of the Model Workers Club for the Soviet pavilion at the International Decorative Arts Exposition (Paris, 1925):

Varvara Stepanova, his wife and co-author, also contributed to "the new rading", creating an advertisement for school textbooks:

And finally, a cover of 13 Years of Work by Mayakovsky, designed by Anton Lavinsky and published by the VKHUTEMAS art school:

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:

Find more photos like this on Dieselpunks

Special thanks to russianavantgard.com and babs71 @ LJ 

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