- How was the state design system formed in the USSR?
- When we talk about the USSR, one gets the impression of a terrible deficit and dullness. The industry worked mainly for military needs, for the defense industry, and behind the wall in the room it was difficult to sign up for three years. But the design was there. And it was very different from the West due to the political and economic characteristics of the USSR. After the war, it was necessary to restore industry and orient its work towards civilian needs, it was necessary to provide people with consumer goods, which were not available.
In Russia, personality has always played a decisive role in history. There was such a person - Yuri Borisovich Soloviev. He grew up in a military family, his father was in charge of a large aircraft plant. Yuri Soloviev graduated from the Moscow Polygraphic Institute with a degree in graphic artist, then studied at the Moscow Architectural Institute, but most of all he wanted to do industrial design. Then such a profession simply did not exist, but once he got to know a high chief in the field of car building and offered to arrange his office. Solovyov was told that offices are not needed now, but there is a large migration of people around the country after the war and wagons are needed, and Soloviev from common wagons, which people called "cattle trucks", made reserved seats with folding shelves and compartment wagons.In 1962, Solovyov headed the All-Union Scientific Research Institute of Technical Aesthetics (VNIITE). In two years, he completely changed the team twice, because there were almost no people in the country who knew about design. And gradually the system began to develop, and branches of the institute were opened in different union republics.
The building of the "Center for Technical Aesthetics" in Moscow © archive of the Moscow Design Museum
Different institutions were responsible for meeting different needs. Legmash - for the light industry. New styles of clothing were developed here. In Zagorsk, near Moscow, there was a research institute of toys, from where the famous tumbler doll came out. There was a branch of the Union of Artists specializing in industrial graphics. They developed a corporate identity for Soviet enterprises.
- To what extent did the Soviet government support the design industry?
- To be honest, she was still on the periphery of their attention. Yuri Soloviev, when he presented his projects to the Soviet government, created models on a 1: 1 scale. Can you imagine building a whole carriage? This was done so that the authorities could go inside, sit down, sit, - so they tried to convince them.
In the West, there is an opinion that the USSR copied many things. Indeed, at first, when we did not have designers, this happened. There were so-called assortment rooms where Western samples were brought. The representatives of the factories chose what they needed, untwisted, looked at the device, tried to repeat it, but the materials and technologies were different, so things did not turn out exactly the same. In VNIITE, on the contrary, all developments were their own. There were parallels influenced by style and fashion, but still the result was a different product from different materials.
Portable TVs. 1980s © archive of the Moscow Design Museum
- How did Soviet design differ aesthetically from Western design?
- Soviet design, perhaps, was angular, ascetic, but there was honesty in it - the truth of the thing. Often the items were minimalistic but functional. And also intuitive. Because if we were talking, say, about the design of medical equipment, then the patient's life could depend on how quickly the surgeon understands which button to press. Therefore, everything had to be as simple and intuitive as possible.
There was also a department for advanced design. He had to engage in "trendsetting", to understand what would be in demand in 10-20 years. It was in many ways a flight of fancy, as, for example, with the prototype taxi, which could be rolled into a baby carriage, or the Sphinx computer station, which had a flat screen, like the ones we now use in tablets and smartphones. And for such developments, designers had to engage in real battles. For example, the ergonomics department believed that it could not be such that a flat phone was attached to a round head.
1 of 4 Experimental Soviet taxi / Promising taxi (1964, designers Y. Dolmatovsky, A. Olshanetsky, A. Chernyaev) © archive of the Moscow design museum RAF-977 (1960, designer S. Mirzoyan) © archive of the Moscow design museum BelAZ-540 (1965, designer V. Kobylinsky) © archive of the Moscow Design Museum
- Your project "Discovering Utopia", which won a prize at the first London Design Biennale, is dedicated to these very developments that never made it to the conveyor.
- There were a lot of such unrealized things. For example, we thought about how to introduce separate waste collection in the country. And everything was thought out. What will the trucks look like? How will the scavengers be dressed? Even psychologists worked at VNIITE who thought over how to motivate Soviet citizens to separate waste collection. These were such global stories. But, unfortunately, most of the ideas never materialized. Partly because of the inertia of leadership and bureaucracy.
- And what of the developments of Soviet designers did reach the stage of implementation in production?
- Most often, these were consumer goods: bicycles, telephones, radios. These products have been put into production by many factories. But all the same, they were produced in insufficient quantities for a huge country. Sometimes even the designers themselves did not have time to buy their own products. For example, his friends sent Alexei Kolotushkin a hairdryer from Yekaterinburg, which he himself developed. Finding him in Moscow was simply impossible. Demand greatly exceeded supply.
"Sphinx" (D. Azrikan, A. Kolotushkin, M. Kolotushkina, I. Lysenko, M. Mikheeva, E. Ruzova), 1987 © archive of the Moscow Design Museum
- To what extent were ordinary citizens of the Soviet Union, who lived in Khrushchev houses with a carpet on the wall, interested in design?
- The life of people and their way of life were sometimes rather modest. And Soviet designers wanted to change that. There were enthusiasts in the Union, as once upon a time in the days of the avant-garde, who believed that a new country should have a new way of life. The designers wanted to create a comfortable environment for people both at home and in the workplace, they wanted to change the gray and monotonous life. But they fought against the wall, because there were too few ideas introduced.
Valentin Kobylinsky, designer, head of a group of designers - developers of BelAZ-540 © archive of the Moscow Design Museum
- In the West, successful designers were known no less than artists and musicians. And in the USSR, the names of Soviet specialists were known outside the walls of the research institute?
- What are you, nobody knew them. I myself had an amazing story. When I was preparing slides for an exhibition in London, I saw the signature in the book “A. Kolotushkin and M. Kolotushkina ". They turned out to be the parents of my friend, with whom I studied at Stroganovka. I spent every summer at their house and did not know that Uncle Lesha worked at VNIITE.
The horror is that when the Soviet Union collapsed, all the archives were thrown away. The Center for Technical Aesthetics, which was a kind of Soviet design museum, was closed. Prototypes were stored there, exhibitions were held, and the best developments were shown. And from there, in the nineties, they took two trucks to a landfill.
I met Yuri Borisovich Solovyov just when I was preparing the exhibition "Soviet Design" in the Manezh, which took place in 2012 and attracted 150 thousand people. He began to introduce me to his colleagues, to invite me to dinners. And gradually people began to donate their archives to our museum. And when we thought about what to do in London, we decided: why invent and invent something, we need to show what is. These are the same archives. It was a four-year study, a four-year collection of materials. And so happily it happened that the theme of the Biennale was thought up as if for us and our archive.>