Soviet graphic designers saw their work as a challenge to the old typographic order, and before Socialist Realism came to dominate the visual landscape (see below), avant garde typography was a defining element of the new Soviet aesthetic. Modern Constructivist typography was a melding of disparate typefaces in varying sizes. Typefaces were readable, but they were not composed on a page in the tradition manner of one or two typefaces in logical columns; instead there were multiple sizes and shapes within the same word or sentence.
Fonts were scrounged from wherever they could be found and the masters of the form, El Lissitzky, Solomon Talingater, Alexander Rodchenko and Gustav Klucis among them, combined serif and sans serif poster typefaces – with the type made in both metal and wood – to build veritable letterform word monuments. In this advertisement, Rodchenko uses bold sans serif letterforms that are skewed to give a sense of motion and dynamism.
This approach defined a short-lived Soviet style, but were eventually squeezed out in favour of Socialist Realism once Stalin came to power. Constructivist typography did, however, survive the Stalinist purge outside of the USSR, where it had a lasting impact on designers. In the 1920s, it fell under the umbrella of “The New Typography,” noted for its asymmetry, sans serif and slab serif geometry and lack of ornamentation. During the 1920s and 30s, this mode of communication was conveyed through professional trades and independent avant garde magazines, exhibitions and visiting professorships throughout the world, becoming the visual language and style of early design Modernism.