In the 1980s, in the struggle against apartheid, activists used different forms of media to win ‘the hearts and minds’ of the public. Initially, these posters were largely used to publicise mass meetings, public rallies, mass funerals and demonstrations. Later, they were also used as a means of education such as posters of the Freedom Charter.
But posters are more than just a means of mass communication. In the Russian Revolution, constructivist designed posters and book covers were regarded as art forms and had a major influence on design in the 20th century. The Bauhaus movement through individuals like Joseph Müller-Brockmann brought constructivism into popular use in western mainstream media design.
That influence reached right into South Africa in the 1980s. Not so much the straight lines and angles but definitely the stoic faces staring into bright future, the raised fists, the fluttering banners and the limited use of colour.
When I started at my first real job at New Era magazine, I came across Müller-Brockmann’s grid design for all page layout, not just posters. Through his book, Grid Systems in Graphic Design, he had systematised Russian constructivism. He also saw graphic design as a discipline, a philosophy, a calling.
It is in light of this that I will be sharing (soon) my own poster designs influenced by constructivism and grid system design. This matches nicely with my fascination of Kufic art which is, sort of, an Arabic calligraphic expression of the same.