Russia Constructivism


  • committed to complete abstraction with a devotion to modernity
  • themes are often geometric, experimental and rarely emotional

  • Constructivist themes are also quite minimal, where the artwork is broken down to its most basic elements.


  • In 1917 the group turned their energies to massive propaganda but by 1920 a deep ideological split developed.

  • Kandinsky and Malevich took the direction of the artist as a spiritual activity separated from the needs of society. They reject the social or political role

  • Included in this direction was Alexander Rodchenko and 25 others.

Constructivism is marked by:

  • organization of abstract, geometrical elements to make dynamic or visually stable forms
  • combinations of different sans serif typefaces for their visual and formal properties as well as their literal meanings
  • simple, flat, symbolic colours
  • extensive white space as part of the design
  • photography (rather than drawn illustrations) and photomontage

Kasimir Malevich

  • founded a new painting style called suprematism which rejected pictorial content in favor of pure geometric form and color.

  • believed the expressive qualities of a painting developed from the intuitive organization of these elemental forms and colors.

  • By 1920, following the Russian Revolution, a deep ideological split occurred between Russian artists such as:

    Malevich and Kandinsky
    —who felt that art should remain an essentially spiritual activity apart from the utilitarian needs of society

    to Vladimir Tatlin and Alexander Rodchenko
    — who were referred to as constructivists, who devoted themselves to serving the new communist society through industrial design, visual communications, and applied arts.


Suprematist Composition,
Kasimir Malevich


Black Square
Kasimir Malevich

A symphonic arrangement of elemental shapes of luminous color on a white field becomes an expression of pure feeling.
A new vision for visual art is as far removed as possible from the world of natural forms and appearances



El Lissitzky





  • Lissitzky was of the most innovative and proficient designers of the constructivist ideal.

  • He developed a painting style he called PROUNS (an acronym for: Projects for the establishment of new art).  
  • He developed visual ideas about balance, space, and form in his paintings, which became the basis for his graphic design and architecture.



Beat the Whites with Red Wedge
El Lissitzky

  • The Bolshevik army emblem, a red wedge, slashes diagonally into a white sphere signifying A. F. Kerensky’s “white” forces.

  • The slogan’s four words are placed to reinforce the dynamic movement.

  • Veshch, was a trilingual Russian journal, which Lissitzky worked on with editor Ilya Ehrenburg.

  • Showed new ideas and printing innovations including photomontage

  • The Soviet government offering encouragement by sponsoring a Russian art publication: Veshch.

  • The title reads Object:—chosen because the editors believed that art meant creation of new objects, a new collective international approach to art and design.

  • This cover is the 3rd issue but it's design is similar to the first issue.

Chapter 15
Cover art for Veshch 3
El Lissitzky

01, inside, back covers

Mechanical drawing instruments were used to construct geometric letterforms in a different style for each title, small typeset type was pasted in for plating.

It shows how Lissitzky constructed his designs on a dynamic diagonal axis with asymmetrical balancing of elements.

The weight is placed high on the page.

Inside title Page for Veshch
El Lissitzky

In this page of Veshch (1922) he searched for a geometric system for treating type, geometric elements, and the photographs as a whole.   These goals were not full achieved till later in 1924.


Dlia Golosa (For the Voice) (1923)
El Lissitzky

All the pages | 3-D Model


pages from For the Voice (1923)
Poem by Mayakovsky

El Lissitzky


pages from For the Voice (1923)
Poem by Mayakovsky

El Lissitzky

The basic style was the result of individual work, developed in response to technological limitations and material shortages as well as from an understanding of Modernist theories.

In contrast to the Veshch cover, constructed on a diagonal axis, here a rigid right angle is animated by the counterbalance of the M and circles.

His intent was to interpret the poem like
"a violin accompanies a piano."


The poem title "Order for the Army of the Arts" appears on the right page opposite a dynamic constructivist design.

click here
to see what the book looked like


The poem "Our March" begins,

"Beat your drums on the squares of the riots, turned red with the blood of revolution."

  • The title type represents the drum beat
  • the red square signifies the blood-stained town squares.



Book cover for
The Isms of Art
El Lissitzky


Title page for The Isms of Art
El Lissitzky


Text format for
The Isms of Art

El Lissitzky


Pictorial spread from
The Isms of Art

El Lissitzky

Click here
to see pictures of the book.

Complex typographic information is organized into a cohesive whole by the construction of structural relationships.

One of the most influential graphic designs of the 1920's

The graphic spirit achieved by medium-weight sans-serif type, mathematical division of the space, white areas, and the bold rules established a typographic standard for the modern movement.

Click here
to see more detailed pictures of the book pages.


Vertical lines separate German, French, and English texts, and horizontal bars emphasize an important introductory quotation.


The grid system of the preceding typographic pages
are echoed in the placement of the images, which are one, two, and three columns wide.



Russian Exhibition poster
El Lissitzky

In this stark, powerful image, the youth of a collective society are cloned into an anonymous double-portrait above the exhibition structure designed by Lissitzky.



Advertisement for Pelikan carbon paper
El Lissitzky


Poster for Pelikan Ink (1924)
El Lissitzky

Alexander Rodchenko


Novyi lef
(Cover for Lef, no. 3) (1923)
Alexander Rodchenko

A biplane bearing the magazine logo drops a fountain-pen bomb at a gorilla representing the traditional arts of the czarist regime.


•  In 1923, Rodchenko began to design a magazine for all the creative arts called Novyi lef ( Left Front of the Arts).

•  He experimented with overprinting, typography, and photomontage as he sought to innovate an illustration technique appropriate for the twentieth century.

•  Some of the techniques he explored coincided with developments in cinema, such as simultaneous action, superimposing images, extreme close-ups, and rhythmically repeating an image.



Cover for Lef, no. 2
Alexander Rodchenko


Cover for Lef, no. 3
Alexander Rodchenko


Pictures taken at the MOMA in NYC



Paperback book covers
Alexander Rodchenko

There are consistency in all the covers, thus creating a standardized format:
Montages illustrate each story.


Check out the MOMA site on Constructivist Books







Poster urging Soviet citizens to become stockholders (1923)

Alexander Rodchenko

Poster Advertising Leningrad Publishing House (1925)

Alexander Rodchenko

Picture of Lily Brik 1924


See the photographic works of Rodchenko


Stenberg Brothers

The Stenberg Brothers, Georgy and Vladimir,
are considered to be masters of the
1920s and 1930s Russian film poster.
They embraced constructivism, which became
the avant-garde of Soviet art in the turbulent era after 1917.

The Stenbergs simulated the "magic realism" of photography
and only on rare occasions did they use actual photographs in their work.

A book about the brothers


The Man with the Movie Camera.
Film Poster
Georgy and Vladimir Stenberg

Spatial dislocation is achieved by extreme perspective, circular type, and fragmented figure.

Six Girls Seeking Shelter
Georgy and Vladimir Stenberg
Battleship Potemkin

Georgy and Vladimir Stenberg
The Traitor - Film Poster
Georgy and Vladimir Stenberg
A Woman of Paris - Film Poster
Georgy and Vladimir Stenberg
Which of the Two -Film Poster
Georgy and Vladimir Stenberg
Little Lord Fauntleroy,
Russion title was "The Pretender."
-Film Poster
Georgy and Vladimir Stenberg
The Man from the Forest
-Film Poster
Georgy and Vladimir Stenberg

Forty First
-Film Poster

Georgy and Vladimir Stenberg

Shown here is Mary Pickford (1893-1979), an actress during the sileint film era. (Read about her)


The Spread of Constructivism

  • During WWI, Russian suprematism and the Dutch DeStjil movements were completely isolated from one another.

  • The influence of the Netherlands and Russia remained a major force for the visual disciplines throughout the twentieth century.

  • Among the greatest influences on graphic design were the use of geometric construction in organizing the printed page and the incorporation of pure shape as a design element.


Exhibition Poster (1925)
Henryk Berlewi


Putos Chocolates brochure, page 6, (1925),
Henryk Berlewi

Copywriter Aleksander Wat closely collaborated
with Berlewi to integrate text and form.


Cover Design for Getting Married,
Ladislav Sutnar



Cover design for i10 (1927),
Laszlo Moholy-Nagy



poster for CBS Records(1979)
Paula Scher


Advertisement for
Saks Fifth Avenue
Shepard Fairey

(See online article)

Saks Fifth Avenue,
Spring 09 shopping bags
Shepard Fairey



Say Yes!
Shepard Fairey

Inspired by a song of the same name by a band called the Afternoons. This poster was seen on the streets of LA shortly after the Obama posters.