Until August 29, the Museo der Dinge in Berlin is hosting the exhibition, Masse und Klasse: Graphic Design in the GDR (German Democratic Republic). An interesting overview that brings together different perspectives of graphic design in East Germany, such as book covers, magazines and records, as well as posters, advertising, packaging and other commercial graphic design work created for mass production. The exhibition examines the cultural and aesthetic characteristics of the GDR. Which images, typefaces, colors and materials were used? What traits, qualities or references to international trends were adopted?
The exhibition explores the characteristics of different designs for the consumer sector through anonymous creations, as well as recognized names in the cultural sector, with illustrative examples of the individuals and organizational structures involved, exploring the possibilities and shortcomings of graphic design in East Germany. Making known the distinctive features of design at a particular point in time in Europe, which was then governed by a scarcity of resources and political demands, explains the major impact of improvisation.
While the design of books and posters from East Germany were applauded and much appreciated both at home and abroad, the minimalism of household products’ packaging was regarded as a pale zone. The gray German design considered not very effective. It failed to find favour with a broad base of consumers in constant comparison with Western goods, which were highly distinctive, colorful and aesthetically pleasing.
The exhibition is interesting as you can really see the contrast between the “pale” or grayish tones in designs from the East and the “golden” tones of the West, as well as the different design criteria which they had in East German products. They criticized Western aesthetics and consumer culture which was perceived as unsustainable and too driven by fads.
Studying it from a contemporary perspective, design in the GDR is not simply an expression of nostalgia, it is also framed within the parameters of sustainability and self-sufficiency, a precursor to the Do It Yourself mentality.
The exhibition is complemented by conferences, events and discussions as well as workshops for children, young people and families on the topics of packaging, magazine design and the illustration of children’s books.