Entry no.: 299
16 Oct 2007, 10:28 AM
I see incoming hits coming from Google searches for "communist design" keywords. They drive me mad and determined me to write this post.
However, what these searches find is A communist design law in the making page about SDPR's "design law" is only fair, if not also a bit amusing.
But that's not about communist design per se, but about a professional conduct that reminds of communism: people with mindsets imported right from "the old times" and an appetite for control by monopoly and lack of choice that can only make sense in a centralized economic model.
Communist economy was utterly inept at building a nice spoon.
IKEA opened their first Bucharest store a few months ago. One of the first items my friends bought from IKEA was—among other items—a tea spoon. A very simple yet beautifully designed little metal spoon, featuring a clear line and a matte sandblasted texture, almost soft to touch.
I look at it for a long time, trying to understand. How hard is to design a spoon, and—I remembered—why during communism exactly those small day-to-day domestic life objects were the most horrendous?
Because everyday life objects don't have any political propaganda potential. They don't serve the regime.
Communist economy could manufacture spaceships and send people on orbit, but was utterly inept—and will always be, in any if its iterations—at building a nice spoon.
Communist design is a contradiction in terms: there is no such thing as communist design.
In fact, communist design is a contradiction in terms: there is no such thing as communist design. The rudimentary exceptions you'll find can only confirm this statement, because communism and design are incompatible and mutually exclusive. Here's why.
- Communism is a centralized economy which means that market competition is heavily discouraged until complete obliteration, while design is an instrument for outperforming competing players in a market economy;
- In a centralized economy it's not the market that decides what's good—someone else decides what's good for you and what you should like: centralized taste. Design stands for differentiation and plurality, design teaches and encourages a democracy of taste;
- Communism is about eradicating the freedom of choice by lack of options and by coercion, design is about encouraging choice by seduction;
- Graphic design in communism is closely linked with propaganda. So closely that anything that's not propaganda it is regarded as hostile to the regime and subject to censure.2
- Without plurality there is no need for identity, consequently identity design is either pointless or diverted to propaganda, also.
Now really, please—if you find this—quit searching for "communist design"—it's not only a deceptive oxymoron, it's plain bullshit. There could exist an appropriate term, however: communist antidesign.
1 Romania's president officially denounced the Communist regime as "illegitimate and criminal" in 2006. Before that, in July 1993, the Czech Republic passed an act condemning its Soviet-era government, and Bulgaria's Parliament passed a resolution condemning the former regime there in 2001. In 2006 also, Ukraine's Parliament passed a bill labeling the Stalin-orchestrated famine of the 1930s that killed an estimated 10 million people an act of genocide. [See article in International Herald Tribune.]
2 Informations architecture helps people understand messages better, ergonomics helps people use products with less effort, usability helps people accomplish their goals, and so forth.
3 Graphic artists and book illustrators explained me the numerous revisions that were forced upon them by the censors for mere poetry books illustrations. In one instance a Communist Party censor asked that all earrings and bracelets from a series of book illustrations to be airbrushed out because they were "decadent" and "bourgeois".