Constructivism was an artistic and architectural philosophy that originated in Russia in the early 20th century, right after the 1917 Russian Revolution.
The Constructivist movement rejected fine art aesthetics in favor of modern industrial design with a distinctly communist undercurrent.
Constructivist graphic design developed in tandem with the ideals of the Revolution.
Utilizing shapes, colors, and compositions to create visually striking propaganda posters and advertisements meant to spread the new communist ideology.
Geometric Shapes and Dynamic Compositions
A hallmark of Constructivist graphic design is the use of basic geometric shapes like circles, squares, rectangles, and triangles arranged in asymmetric, diagonal compositions that create a feeling of tension and motion.
Designers avoided symmetry and classic balance in favor of irregular arrangements with strong directional forces.
The shapes are usually flat, uniform, and simplified without modeling or detail.
This reduction of form to elemental shapes and lines helped communicate Constructivism's modern, machine-like aesthetic.
Compositions were designed not just for visual appeal but to energize the viewer and evoke the revolutionary Communist spirit.
High-Contrast Color Palettes
Constructivist color palettes utilize vivid, high-contrast colors like bright red, black, white, and yellow.
By restricting designs to just two or three bold colors, designers created maximum visual impact.
Stark black and white or red and black color combinations amplified the revolutionary nature of the subject matter.
Large fields of white space were also employed as a graphic design element, balancing and highlighting the use of pure color and shape.
The color palettes helped magnify the graphic quality and conceptual nature of the compositions.
Typography as a Compositional Element
Constructivist graphic design also utilized typography in a unique, reduced fashion.
Sans-serif typefaces like Futura and Avante Garde were favored for their modern, mechanized look.
Lettering was stripped of ornament and stylized to complement the geometric style.
The spacing between letters was altered to better integrate typography into the overall abstract composition; in some cases letters were even rearranged.
Type was no longer viewed just as a vehicle for text but as a pure graphic element.
The stylized typography helped maintain the conceptual nature of the design.
Communicating Ideas Through Abstraction
Most importantly, Constructivist graphic design was concerned with communicating ideas and concepts, not realistic representations.
Designers created purely abstract geometric forms and compositions that embodied emotions or propaganda messages.
There were no recognizable images, only symbolic shapes and colors that signified concepts and energized the viewer.
This preoccupation with abstraction and conceptual meaning epitomized the experimental spirit of the Constructivist movement.
Influential Constructivist designers like:
- El Lissitzky
- Alexander Rodchenko
- Liubov Popova
Pioneered this distinctive style in the early 20th century through posters, book covers, propaganda, and advertising designs.
Their work went on to inspire later modernist graphic design movements like the Bauhaus in Germany and the International Typographic Style.
The Constructivist aesthetic's revolutionary use of shape, color and composition to express conceptual ideas and emotions made it one of the most impactful avant-garde movements in graphic design history.