Design Inspiration – Abbey Chong

From Constructivist to Postmodernist

Books (The Advertisement Poster for the Lengiz Publishing House) 1924
Books (The Advertisement Poster for the Lengiz Publishing House) 1924

Aleksandr Rodchenko is known as one of the founding members of the Constructivist group in 1921. This group advocated to take out the traditional ways of forming a composition and replace it with the idea of construction, which looked at the technical character of materials influenced by mass production. Rodchenko used this way of thinking to create dynamic compositions that included the use of photography, layering text with diagonal angles, oddly cropped frames, and high contrast. One of his most notable works would be his poster Books (The Advertisement Poster for the Lengiz Publishing House), 1924.

This composition mixed the idea of photography and type to create a photomontage. The photograph of a woman calling, with the text coming from her mouth in a diagonal manner like a megaphone. She is framed within a bright blue circle. The diagonal text forms a triangle in a bold sans serif red type. Rodchenko also uses other geometric forms and colours in the composition to create this dynamic design. This work influenced Russian advertising with his mix of black-and-white photography, strong colours, geometric shapes, and bold typography.

Paula Scher is a contemporary graphic designer with a strong influence in the typography community. She is well known for creating the brand identity of the Public theatre. Similarly to Rodchenko, she is well known for using typography in an illustrative manner with photography. A good work to compare with that of Rodchenko’s is Scher’s poster, The Diva is Dismissed, 1994.  

Poster, The Diva is Dismissed, 1994; Designed by Paula Scher (American, b. 1948); USA; screenprint on paper; 117.2 × 76.8 cm (46 1/8 × 30 1/4 in.); Gift of Paula Scher; 1996-88-17
Poster, The Diva is Dismissed, 1994; Designed by Paula Scher (American, b. 1948); USA; screenprint on paper; 117.2 × 76.8 cm (46 1/8 × 30 1/4 in.); Gift of Paula Scher; 1996-88-17

Unlike Rodchenko, Scher uses a centered composition, emphasizing the photograph of the face, but both use a photograph as a focal point that just includes the head of the subject. This photomontage technique allows both  compositions to come alive and feel as if they were shouting at you.

There is the use of high contrast in Scher’s work, with the bright yellow background and the deep blue image in the foreground. This dramatic contrast is similar to Rodchenko’s use of green, red and blue to contrast the neutral and black and white tones of the photograph. Scher also has diagonally positioned the bold sans serif type, with the diva’s mouth as a vanishing point, giving it the illusion of audibility which is clearly influenced by the type solution seen in Rodchenko’s poster.

We can see how in the elements that make up Constructivism, such as Rodchenko’s use of bright colors and photographs of active subjects, evoke strong emotion and influenced Scher’s poster. The most important aspect perhaps is the Constructivist-style typography of bold sans serif type placed diagonally, as this can be seen in much of Scher’s work. There is no denying that revolutionary artists such as Rodchenko paved the path for designers like Paula Scher to create iconic and dynamic work.

Works Cited

“Alexander Rodchenko Biography, Art, and Analysis of Works.” The Art Story, www.theartstory.org/artist-rodchenko-alexander.htm.
“Paula Scher.” History of Graphic Design, www.historygraphicdesign.com/the-age-of-information/postmodern-design/207-paula-scher.
Nouril, Ksenia. “Aleksandr Rodchenko | MoMA.” The Museum of Modern Art, www.moma.org/artists/4975.