Russian Constructivist Graphic Design: In Service of the Revolution


An art and architecture movement sparked by the Russian Revolution of 1917, Constructivism was spear-headed and encouraged by the Russian avant-garde as a marriage of beauty and practicality. This concept was strongly manifested in the graphic design of the times, and prevailed until the 1940s.

Alexander Rodchenko’s design for the cover of Book About That by Vladimir Mayakovski (1923). Image via

Russian Avant-Garde

Going back to the most basic explanation of Constructivist Art, the Russian avant-garde, spurred by the events surrounding the Russian Revolution of 1917, thought that the notion of “art for art’s sake” had to be scrapped. For them, it was time for the bourgeois concept of autonomous art to be cast aside, and a reconstructed art that everyone can enjoy, understand, and take part in be put in its place.

In essence, Russian art around this time revolved around the goal of propelling social change or serving a social purpose, which meant it didn’t have to just look good, there should be some use for it as well. Perhaps, this concept can be best seen and understood from the graphic design point of view.

In order: Illustrations by Alexander Rodchenko, Varvara Stepanova, Rodchenko and Stepanova, and El Lissitzky. Images via, Design Obsession, and Russian Constructivist Graphic Design by Alki1 on Flickr.

As can be seen in the examples above, Constructivist graphic design was minimalist, geometric, abstract, orderly, and rarely emotional. It often catered to the ideologies of the movement, which supported the concept of a Utopian society where everyone could benefit from all things — including art. This simplicity can thus be attributed to the need for the common people to understand advertisements, illustrations, and even political propaganda materials, making them active viewers of the artworks laid out before them. This is why Constructivist graphic design has been touted as an important tool for revolutionaries to get their points across.

Famous Artists

The best known artists identified with graphic design around this period include Alexander Rodchenko, El Lissitzky, and Anton Lavinsky. These graphic artists and their contemporaries in sculpture, painting, photography, and even architecture later on inspired radical counterparts in the West.

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All information for this article were sourced from, Art History Archive,, The Art Story, and Constructivism (Art) on Wikipedia.

written by plasticpopsicle on 2013-06-19 #art #lifestyle #history #constructivism #lomography #graphic-design #analogue-lifestyle #alexander-rodchenko #constructivist-art #russian-art #art-movement

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