Berlin: Graphic Design in the GDR

This May Lara and I headed out to Berlin for a long weekend, the sun was out and it felt like the start of summer – with temperatures passing 25°C for the first time this year.

It was my third visit, Lara’s first, to the cosmopolitan city and we enjoyed the food, the drink, the hospitality, and the availability of vegan currywurst!

Vegan currywurst from Curry at the Wall Berlin Mitte, opposite the Topography of Terror
Vegan currywurst from Curry at the Wall Berlin Mitte, opposite the Topography of Terror

Berlin has a plethora of museums, with countless exhibitions on the go to, one that caught my eye was an exhibition on GDR graphic design at the Werkbundarchiv – Museum der Dinge (Museum of Things).

Masse und Klasse: Graphic Design in the GDR. Flyer, 2016.
Masse und Klasse:
Graphic Design in the GDR. Flyer, 2016.

The exhibition presented a wide range of designs, for books, periodicals and phonograph records, as well as packaging, advertising and posters – works of commercial graphic design for mass production that shaped the day-to-day visual environment of East Germany.

‘The exhibition examines the characteristics of this part of the GDR’s aesthetic culture. What images, typefaces, materials and colours were used; what traits and qualities or references to international trends can we discern?

‘“Masse und Klasse: Graphic Design in the GDR” introduces illustrative examples of the people and organisational structures involved, and investigates the potentials and limitations of graphic design in the East Germany. Themes include the improvisation driven by an environment influenced by scarce resources and political exigencies.

‘With a nuanced look at the various fields of graphic design, the exhibition questions widespread judgements on the aesthetics of day-to-day life in the GDR – often described “grey” or “pallid”.’

– words of Werkbundarchiv – Museum der Dinge (Museum of things)