Red Flags and Rainbows: Insights into East German graphic design
Talk by Dr Jessica Jenkins, Senior Lecturer in Graphic Design, Falmouth School of Art
- Saturday, November 30th, 6pm at Atelier
Exhibition of posters from the DDR at Studio, a new occasional gallery at Melbourne House, Lower Street, Stroud GL5 2HT
- Saturday, Nov 30th and Sunday, Dec 1st from 11 am – 4 pm.
In 1973, the World Festival Games, an international sporting and cultural event with a specifically socialist agenda, was held in East Berlin, just a year on from the Munich Olympics for which Otl Aicher had created a highly effective branding system. The Festival Games gave the GDR its chance to take centre stage in the cultural Cold War. Riding high on a tide of international recognitions, First Secretary of the communist party, Erich Honecker, felt confident enough to present the communist Germany as a modern, dynamic and open state. Like the West Germans at the Olympics and the Mexicans before them, the East Germans understood very well the potential of such an event beyond its immediate remit, to act as a piece of national propaganda. A committee of leading designers and artists were briefed to visually communicate the Leitmotif, “United with the youth of the world for anti-imperialist solidarity for peace and friendship.” The extensive brief gave a litany of political aims which the designers were charged with visualising. However, the design committee came up with an integrated visual system which not only abandoned all the established codes of Socialist iconography, but also had a surprising amount in common with the West German graphic system. Aware that they were treading on thin ice with the deeply conservative Party bosses, the team employed covert strategies to overcome the reluctance of their client. Their designs were passed, and for the first time traditional Socialist iconography was abandoned in favour of an extensive graphic programme and system of urban decoration, which had more in common with hippy culture, peace and gay rights. The designs and the event in East Berlin were a huge success, arguably reinforcing the establishment more than they challenged it.
Designers in the new-formed German Democratic Republic were charged with developing an aesthetic that embodied the political values of the state whilst breaking decisively with the past. This exhibition of letterpress and lithograph posters shows what was achieved in less than ideal economic and social conditions. This is the first of a series of occasional events at Studio, run by Nick Pride.