Friday, November 11, 2011
The Cold War of Design
(click image to enlarge)
by Gene Testa
For a sociology presentation I have been working on I was researching North Korean propaganda. As I gazed at the images on my screen the thought crept into my head that these posters looked strikingly similar to others I had seen before.
Upon opening another google window and a few dozen key strokes I was comparing side by side (sort of) the art of Soviet Russia and North Korea.
While the era's are relatively different in terms of when they take place the feelings behind them are the same. They show in almost unrelenting ways distinct hatred towards whatever subject it is they oppose.
For North Korea it the US for the majority of Soviet Russia, it's capitalism as a whole and Nazi Germany. It makes sense seeing as Russia was the first Marxist state to be born and actually survive for more than a few years before an upheaval. During the Korean War even, Russia fed the Communist North Korean's guns and money via China who aided by sending troops. So seeing similar styles in their posters is not surprising.
What is surprising is exactly how powerful these often simple images have on us. Even when it's written in a language we don't understand or if it's just a simple image. A good example is the image of the German soldier standing over top a fallen Russian woman while her still living daughter clings to her in fear. The image though simple defines clearly with very few words which are kept to the bottom off the image who is the enemy. It points a finger deliberately at the German infantryman of the time. In a similar manner the North Koreans have depicted American soldiers as monsters through a series of slanderous images.
It is the job of these images to evoke emotional response in opposition to the depicted message on the poster. Some of these posters have no words or words written in tastefully small pt sizes and tucked unobtrusively in a corner. While the messages and images are politically driven it is in its own unique way a form of design. A form of design that I personally feel should be studied more in depth in the art curriculum. Not because it's historical but these people who designed these posters know how to manipulate the minds of their viewers. And that is something every designer should want in their personal “tool kit”.