Art and Design Science

Read Soviet Space Graphics

Read Soviet Space Graphics: Cosmic Visions from the USSR

This otherworldly collection of Soviet space-race graphics takes readers on a cosmic adventure through Cold War-era Russia. Created against a backdrop of geopolitical uncertainty, the extraordinary images featured, taken from the period’s hugely successful popular-science magazines, were a vital tool for the promotion of state ideology. Presenting more than 250 illustrations – depicting daring discoveries, scientific innovations, futuristic visions, and extraterrestrial encounters – Soviet Space Graphics unlocks the door to the creative inner workings of the USSR.

I truly appreciate when an art book is primarily art — I’m here to look at the pictures 😉 Love the cover on this. They chose a nice matte paper that complemented the soft style of artwork throughout. I appreciated that they mostly dedicated full pages to each piece. I was drawn by the bright color palettes in use through many of the illustrations. Overall the selection felt relatively limited, representing mostly the same few magazines.

Illustrated by K. Artseulov, 1958

The color palette is striking, the blue nearly glowing against the orange sky. I like the soft, colorful illustration style applied to technology.

Illustrated by V. Skumpe, 1966

The gray-green background scattered with energetic white dashes is what catches my eye here. You’d think it would be too distracting, but it complements the main illustration instead by adding more liveliness. I have fountain pen ink similar to that greeny-blue color, which feels properly retro.

Illustrated by R. Avotin, 1969

I like the combination of vibrantly colorful illustration contrasted with spare, high contrast black and white photography. The perspective is slightly skewed, the cross-sections slightly inconsistent, casting a hint of outsider art to the style.

Two illustrations by S. Lukhin for Knowledge is Power, 1969 & 1971

In the 1969 piece, I see the influence of psychedelia, with its rainbow overlays on a black and white photo by V. Brel. The 1971 piece almost feels art deco with the bold symmetrical design and repeating background pattern.

Illustrated by V. Davydov, 1972 — for a drawing competition “The World in the Year 2000”

With its sweeping curving lines, detailed and confident outlines, and a geometric illustrative figure, the style of this piece feels art nouveau inspired, which had a resurgence in the 60s and 70s. It’s interesting to me to see the visual influence of the western world leak over into Soviet illustrations — or perhaps it’s the reverse given Mucha’s slavic roots.

By Tracy Durnell

Writer and designer in the Seattle area. Freelance sustainability consultant. Reach me at She/her.

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