Günter H"hne at Design Boom writes about design in East Germany.

Unusually for a German, he also seems to hate capital letters. Oh well, politics, typography - they're the same thing.

(Well, all right. It's Design Boom that hates capital letters, but why let that spoil my fun with pre-reform German.)

Rather than simply sneer at the "Ossies", H"hne, a native of Zwickau in Saxony (not, incidentally, the Valley of the Clueless), "reveals a little-known side of German popular history."

H"hne notes the German manifestation of Stalinism's great aesthetic crime: Andrei Zhandov's destruction of modernism, which had briefly flowered in revolutionary Russia.


The regime had been against modernism, it favored historicism in product design, and thus was initially against the use of plastic because of its modern aesthetic. The products of socialist industry and construction should reflect the cultural heritage of Germany, imitating styles such as baroque, rococo, chippendale, ‘gründerzeit’, and others.

But still, plastic fought back. Its sheer usefulness is impossible to ignore.

Found at the Design Observer.

Of course, throughout the 1980s we all enjoyed laughing at design from the Eastern Bloc - Lada and Skoda cars being a prime example - but arguably in doing so we missed something: just how does design work in a command economy?

On one level, one of the main motivating factors in design is removed: marketplace differentiation. On the other hand, those charged with commanding command economies must know a thing or two about teleology. Clearly this something that is worth finding out about.

To contemporary eyes that have been comprehensively wiped by postmodernism much Ostdesign seems laughably kitsch. To which I can only say, isn't it wonderful how our preconceptions allow us to stop thinking?

In the meantime, here is a book that really look like they're worth reading - or at least gawping at: DDR Design.