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Signs of life under an iron fist by Steven Heller

The first two volumes of Graphics Without Computers (a third is in preparation) are packed with Romanian street signs, industrial placards, stencils and other indoor and outdoor vernacular and quotidian graphics, with accompanying essays relating to the manufacture and conception of the work according to specific kinds (hand lettering, architectural lettering, etc.).

This critical mass of design genres is indeed impressive. The materials range from metal to paper, from enamel to neon. Letters are screen-printed, embossed, debossed, hand-drawn and hand-painted. Most are technically rendered, though some are quite raw. With a few exceptions, they were produced during the Communist period (1945-89), and look beautifully drab and elegantly pedantic. Read more


IRON CURTAINS GRAPHICS - Exploring the graphic expertise and vision behind Communist-era posters

The ideological imagery from the height of Communist rule in central and Eastern Europe has become a familiar motif in the west in the decades since its fall. From the illustrations of bourgeois fat cats to the classic "Niet" posters depicting a stern and handsome man refusing alcohol, the political and cultural lines drawn by these materials are clear. What is less recognized on this side of the former Iron Curtain is the technical ability and graphic skill that went into composing posters representing the industrious superiority of the former Communist empire. Read more

new publication Iron Curtain Graphics features examples of socialist graphic design, illustration and typography from the 1950s to the 1970s. Featured in May's iPad edition is a gallery of posters from the book. Read more
IMPRINT by Steven Heller
When I think of Romania (Rumania), alas I think of this song in Yiddish by Aaron Lebedeff (you'll need to click to play). I also think of Saul Steinberg, who left Romania in the 30s and brought with him to America a native sense of the absurd. Now, thanks to the typographer Ovidiu Hrin from Timisoara, I'm thinking of Romania in terms of its Cold War design. He writes: A couple of Romanian designers (living & working in Bucharest) have launched a brilliant book about Romanian graphic design (1930’s - 1990’s), I bought a copy instantly for you and want to send you one asap as the information I saw there was flabbergasting even for me.
Graphics Without Computer: 50 Years of Modest Achievements by Atelierul De Grafica, with essays by Vivana Iacob, Calin Torsan and Mihai Tudoroiu, is a fascinating collection of commercial, government, and industrial posters and other graphics. Some of it recalls the Socialist Realism of the Iron Curtain, others suggest the influence of Polish and Czech design that through wit and abstraction bypassed the censors. Read more

Commie covers '48 - '89

Here something very spectacular: GRAFICA FARA COMPUTER / GRAPHICS WITHOUT COMPUTER is a book about the history and evolution of Romanian graphic design during the communism era 1948-1989. It's the only book published after the Ceausescu communist regime crashed with more than 400 images: - covers of magazines, books & booklets, ads - theatre, festivals, propaganda, labour protection posters - labels of matches, games, packaging, envelopes - stamps drawings Bilingual in Romanian & English. [...]
1968 Romanian Labor safety posters, courtesy of
Grafică Fără Computer / Graphics Without Computer 160 Pages 16.5 x 23.5 cm
Texts in English and Romanian Viviana Iacob tells us about representation and its role in building society and Călin Torsan evokes personal experiences. Both texts are accompanied with quotes of Irina Nicolau, Iosif Cova, Marin Sorescu [important Romanian cultural personalities] etc. The book starts with [...]
PRINTMAG by Steven Heller
Rumania had a vibrant graphic design industry – and produced some superb designers and illustrators too (think Saul Steinberg). But one of the only ways we in the West could know about it is through the group Graphic Front, which archives and publishes books on design before computers. The images here are from Graphics Without Computers: 40 Years of Modest Achievements, a delightful volume of everyday marks, icons and packages. (read more)

Grafică fără computer-Graphics without computer è una raccolta in tre volumi dell’immensa produzione grafica realizzata in Romania prima dell’utilizzo del computer.

Fa parte del progetto Graphicfront, lanciato nel 2010 dallo studio Atelierul de grafică per riscoprire la grafica locale che ha caratterizzato gli anni tra il 1940 e il 1989.

Un progetto romantico che recupera un patrimonio trascurato e rivela l’alta qualità dei materiali visivi prodotti nel passato, in contrapposizione alla produzione grafica degli ultimi anni. (read more)