Words – Cosmonaut – Soviet space program propaganda

For the word ‘cosmonaut’ that I have selected for this current project, I will now be turning my attention to the inspiration that can be gained from the Soviet space program propaganda that was prevalent at the time. This will follow directly onto turning the sketches I drew (which can be viewed here) into fully fledged ideas that will eventually become the final piece although that will be for another blog post.

My starting point was the ‘mood board’ I created, which can be viewed here, but now I shall look in detail and analyse what makes them so successful in their purpose, what are the key design characteristics and how this will influence my designs.

First though, I want to look at the Monument to the Conquerors of Space in Moscow, as this features very heavily in the propaganda artwork of the era and also appeared on things such as coins and matchboxes. This shows how immensely proud the Soviet Union were of their achievements in space and wanted to show off to people the success and power Russia had. Something that is immediately clear from looking at this monument is its size being 350-foot tall. It forces the eye to look upwards as far as possible with the contrail from the rocket tapering into the rocket, which focuses the eye on it. I think it is a stunning design that stands out to a great degree. It has a titanium finish, which also helps to make it visible as it reflects the light from the sky. Below the monument are carvings of scientists and cosmonauts are serving Russia by progressing the Soviet space program. The shape is very bold and simple, a theme we will see across this topic. 

Below is a few images of Soviet space program propaganda that I really liked the style of and will be of value to the project. They, and many more examples of these artworks can be found on the RussiaTrek.org blog. They also provide translations for the text on the posters which can be seen by hovering the cursor over the individual poster.

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Connection with the Earth: It is important to see how in the vast majority of these posters, they make a connection to the Earth, showing it at the bottom of the image. The country of Russia is depicted on the globe, sometimes with the letters ‘C C C P’ placed across it to denote the country. This is an important point as it links the triumph of the Soviet space program back to all the people of Soviet Russia, an enormous morale booster. It also shows Russia as a dominant nation, one that is able to carry its authority on the world stage against America, which was very important in the era of the Cold War.

Cosmonauts: It can be seen how in some of the posters, the cosmonauts are seen as heroes for serving Russia and placing them at the forefront of the space race. This can be seen in three of the posters show cosmonauts serving the people, one holding a hammer and sickle, a communist symbol, one carrying the Soviet flag to the Moon and a couple of cosmonauts saluting from orbit down to Russia. This is helpful as it provides me with inspiration for how to place cosmonauts into the design to show the meaning of the word in a visual manner as it shows part of their job was not only to travel into space, but to be seen as representative figures of the Soviet Union.

Illustration: It is interesting to see how all of these posters have been illustrated (apart from the top right which I think uses a mixture of photo-collage and illustration) as it was an accessible style to many that allowed for the political message to be communicated most effectively. I believe photomontage was not that possible in the early days of the Soviet program (1958-63, the same era of these posters) as photographs from space missions of the moons or rockets in orbit were not readily accessible.

Style of illustration: For my designs, I think that vector illustration will be the best way forward as there are a variety of options within that for creativity, which I shall explore later on in this project. This is because looking at the example images above, Soviet propaganda made use of bold, blocky shapes and bright, visually strong colours that grabbed the attention of the masses, with a message that could not be avoided or mis-understood.

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Increasing my skill level:

With the ideas that I am currently thinking of, I am aware that I will need to learn some new skills to make them work. However, over the summer, I came aware of a couple of tutorials that I never got around to doing, but as this project is so relevant, I see an opportunity to do them now and use the techniques to benefit my designs.

While I am creating my ideas and experimenting, I also aim to look through these tutorials and see what I learn. If they go to plan, I’ll show what I have learnt in another blog post.

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