In Rodchenko’s ‘Books’ poster advertisement for the Lengiz Publishing

this essay I will explore to what extent is the future of design based in the
past, I will explore how Alexander Rodchenko and the Russian Constructivist
movement has influenced contemporary practitioner Paula Scher spcecifially
referencing to the history of the movement and its theories. I have chosen
Scher’s ‘Shakespear in the Park’ (Fig.1), for The Public Theatre advertisements
in 2012 as my contemporary artefact because of the nostalgic aesthetic achieved
through the use of contrast in scale and direction of type that has been used
in this striking piece of advertisement. Simularly the use of these visual
elements have been used before within the work of Russian Contructivist
designers, specifically in Rodchenko’s ‘Books’ poster advertisement for the Lengiz Publishing House in 1924
where there are extreme directions and dynamic scales of type being used
contrastingly. I am intrigued into how influential has the Russian
Constructivist movement been within Paula Scher’s ‘Shakespeare in the Park’
advertisement, particularly referencing the use of the grid in design as well
as challenging the previous rules of type being on a central axis and
symmetrical, and instead becoming more expressive visually. Therefore, the
primary themes that I shall be addressing are ‘how significant is the use of
the grid within design for advertisement?’ and ‘to what extent have the Russian
Constructivist movement’s theories been influential in contemporary design?’

‘Shakespear in the Park’ (Fig 1) was a part of advertisement posters designed
to promote The Public Theatre’s theatrical program that stages Shakespearian
productions at Central Park, New York. Initially there is a sense of nostalgia
visually in the poster that is reminicent of Russian Constructivist aesthetics
in Rodchenko’s work (Fig 2) which can be identified through the use of structure
and organisation from the grid primarily, as well as the concept of lines and
direction as a common theme throughout his work that has been adapted into
Scher’s design. When comparing the work of Scher and Rodchenko they have both
developed this concept of direction and lines alongside the grid in order to
reflect the modern industrial world post World War 1 where there was a fall of
old regimes and a new driving force of fast communication, transport and the
industrial age that was being reinforced and suggested through the use of these
bold angels and direction, mimicing the sense of the new reigimes post World
War 1; as decribed by Rogers-Lafferty (1991, pp.3) there was an “absence of
clearly defined boundaries”. Paula Scher’s ‘Shakespear in the Park’ design
clearly displays evidence of using the grid which can be identified through the
structured layout of the content of the poster, with conflicting directions of
the type alongside large scale titles and a vivid image in the main portion of
the negative space it demands the viewer to engage with the content in the
hierachy it has been visually implied by, ensuring the most valuable content is
bolder and larger whereas more general information is kept smaller but still
requiers viewers to engage with through having it at diagonal angles. This is
used to communicate the information of the event in the advertisement in a
clear and formatted manor using the grid with other constructivist ideologies
of dynamacy, geometric forms and lines to construct a piece of advertisement
design that is practical, modern and fits appropriately with society.

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strongly find the use of the grid within the design to be significantly
effective in achieving a bold and striking aesthetic that implies a strong
sense of communication and urgency through the variety of directions used of
the type, the scale of the information and the choice of colour palette. When
comparing Scher’s design to Rodchenko’s ‘Books’ outcome there is an immediate
visual connection between the two, specifically seen through the primary design
atributes of the grid and conflicting directions and scale of the type, this
can be linked directly back to the design values of Russian Constructivism.

movement of Russian Constructivism was the outcome of Russian Avant-Garde
developing from 1913 until the 1940s with a comitment to abstraction and
modernity, aspects of the movement revolved around geometry and minimalism
through their forms. This is implied specifically within Scher’s poster where
rectangular forms are used minimally in order to achieve an orderly style of
art, by breaking down design to the most primary forms possible it evokes a
stronger sense of controll and structure that was not applied as significantly
within avant-garde art. The movement also acted as a driving force in the
post-World War 1 society where concise information and news were in high demand
for the people who seeked a sense of peace and control which they lacked at
this time, this can be seen greatly within Rodchenko’s poster design where bold
structures and clear content is being confidently expressed through the scale
of the type as well as a bold structure and layout using the grid – the use of
Contructivist ideologies were able to fulfill the gratification desired.

believe that the use of the grid developed in Russian Constructivism aids
significantly in the success of design, it opposes the idea of being
constrainted and unengaging and encourages simplicity and uniformity within design
which was not apparent as clearly previoiusly to the movement. It enables a
hierachy of content through precise layouts in order to communicate to the
audience, this is apparent in Scher’s poster where the use of strong diagonal
type along with opposing forms and an illustration has been clearly presented
within the negative space centrally in order to directly engage with the eyes
of the audience. Simularly, in Rodchenkos design the bold use of large type
increasing in size, the diagonal lines of the implied speech bubble and the
illustration achieves the same level of success in directly stating the content
within the negative space, and through the layout of the grid and type scale
there is an implied hierachy of information indicated. The use of contrasts of
scale, type and direction distinguished in both sources provides a distinction
visually, through this distinction messages are implied of their value, for
example Rodchenko has used increasingly large type at a diagonal layout which
suggests urgency and the volume of which the word is being said at. The success
of these graphics lie in the use of the grid format in which designers are able
to structurely and uniformly incorperate the elements of the design in an
aesthetic that is clear and engaging for the audience.

grid system provides a dynamic and innovative format for design, and it term
achieves a visually engaging outcome secondary. Primarily, when designers such
as Rodchenko and Scher use this system it provides a logical order from left to
right in which the audience is able to read the information in a natural
process, not formalist. Due to the coheasive effectiveness of the grid during
Russian Constructivism it has been incorperated within modern design for web
design, magazines and art, this is used so commonly and subcontiously because
of the level of effectiveness achieved in enabling the information to be
gathered and understood efficiently.

my critical evaluation so far, the impact of Russian Constructivism has been a
key movement in impacting the decades to come because of the abolishment of
traditional concerns of design being primarily about composition and focusing
on how it is constructed instead. Applied in the fields of art, graphic design
and architecture, there was now a desire for technical analysis and
practicality over aesthetics which is a concept developed into mass production
of contemporary design. An example of these philosophies still in practice is
Neville Brody’s brand campaign for Nike (1988) where there are distinguishable
features influenced by designers prior like Rodchenko. There is noticably a significant
volume of negative space, dynamic forms of type, sans-serifs and the grid
layout to compose the design – all idelogies 
in constructivism. The use of direction in particular is a dynamic
visual element that is engaging aesthetically and further suggests the movement
of ‘bouncing’ which happens to be one of the key words used in the design, this
play on words provides a layer of entertainement. The variety of scale of the
type further suggests the energy in the movement of bouncing, the variety of
directions aids in denoting this sense of movement. Furthermore, the directions
of the type being very linear and dynamic adds to the implication of energy as
well as directly linking visually back to Russian Constructivist ideologies of
linear and geometric forms, dynamism and a vast amount of negative space, these
same aesthetic atributes have been identified in Rodchenko’s ‘Books’ design and
Scher’s ‘Shakespear in the Park’ where these simular approaches to dynamic
design and geometric forms within the grid system is prominent.

could be argued that constructivism has been less influential in contemporary
design when compared to the movement of the Bauhaus, established in 1919 by
Marcel Gropius. The two movements share very simular philosophies adapted by
constructivist designers, priarily at its core the Bauhaus wanted to express
the non-acceptance of traditional rules and values of design by creating a
school where student designers could work together. The Bauhaus also encouraged
the ideologies of the grid, adapting design into life and the encouragement if
typography, this transformed typography and design across Europe and America through
this celebration of digital design, modern technology and art within everyday
life. These ideologies have been developed and modified throughout the decades
of movements including Russian Constructivism where it can be identified that
the movement has taken influnces from the Bauhaus, with their phiosophies being
very simular. I believe that the Russian Constructivist theories are
significant in influencing contemporary design and the movements in between, however
their ideas have not been constructed from new theories and practices but more
so adapted from previous ideologies from the Bauhaus in particular. To an
extent I believe that constructivism has played a significant role alone in the
contribution on contemporary design, but it should be acknowledged that the
theories constructed in the Bauhaus have been a significant source of influence
on constructivism and how it has developed contemporary design; there has been
a greater extent of influence on contemporary design in terms of both movements
rather than constructivism alone.