How much do we know about USSR art and design? I bet the answer is – pretty little. In fact, soviet logos and trademarks are now worth good sums of money, and can even considered as “lost” artistic style. Can you believe that? Well, then pore over. 

At some point, we all were into this collection thing: some were chasing after rare postal marks, some collected sea shells, others were almost obsessed with finding old beautiful coins. These are just random things people choose to assemble, and in most cases, chances are you collect something just for fun – it does not go beyond being a hobby. Rokas Sutkaitis from Lithuania has transformed his collection into a rapidly growing project with nearly 6000 Instagram followers, while having some strong background behind it.

Rokas Sutkaitis is a graphic designer based in Kaunas, Lithuania. He is currently studying Art History and Critisism at Vytautas Magnus University, and in his free time works as a freelancer. His focus studies – arts of Soviet Era – have a very close relationship with his collection project, “Soviet Logos” – logos and trademarks designed in USSR, but for some reason never published. Some of them date back to early 60’s of the 20th century, but most of them do not reveal any information about the date or the creator.

Rokas started collecting soviet logos a couple of years ago, as he recalls. Back then, he was surprisingly noticing soviet trademarks all around him – this fact together with his educational background made the decision to collect the logos as clear as a bell. The whole soviet design and art thing was a bit controversial – the power of government at those times made USSR artists blatantly copy cliché designs, but still some of them managed to break through the entrenched boundaries and rules, and created some truly unique pieces.

“In some ways it was easier to be a graphic designer in the USSR as designers back then had a steady flow of state commissions. On the other hand you had to satisfy needs of the propaganda machine. Even if graphic design was somehow freer than arts in general, it still had to follow the tone set by the government,”– Rokas told WelkerMedia in an email. He also mentioned the limited resources to be the common thing defining art of USSR: in those years, there only existed one sans serif typeface called “Zhurnalnaya Roublennaya”, which was broadly used for all possible purposes.

The trademarks and logos have a nice tendency to be found in all kind of places, Rokas adds, from various trademark exhibition catalogues and rare publications to Soviet-time things with a trademark on them, like books, souvenirs, home appliances, and others. Some of the logos are found in absolutely unexpected places – on a forum of Russian plumbers, for instance. While majority of Soviet trademarks are already forgotten, some of them managed to outlive the collapse of USSR and are still being used today. For example trademark for Šviesa Publishing House was designed in 1964, yet it is still being used today and even the youngsters are capable of recognizing it,” – Rokas explains.

Any interesting stories of finding a particular logo? – I ask the collector, and receive a positive response. Since being a kid, Rokas saw one logo (which peculiarly reminds that of Motorola) for “Morslas” Publishing multiple times. Years later, when he established his “Soviet Logos” project, he already knew that this trademark was going to be the first one to be shared with the audience. Neither did Rokas knew the designer, nor the year of creation; but after some research, he found out that Kestitus Ramonas designed the logo in 1975. “It just feels great to be some kind of design detective trying to trace small bits of information and then sharing it with people,” – says Rokas.

Mokslas (Science) Publishing House, Vilnius, 1975

As for the future of his logos collection, Rokas plans to keep sharing logos on the official Instagram page and invest efforts into the project’s natural growth. Right now, he is deeply involved into gathering more theoretical knowledge about the design and art of the Soviet era, and hopes to turn the project from something that once started as an Instagram page to a decent printed publication.

Subscribe to WM Daily. Be In Touch With Rebellious Voices