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Raymond Loewy (1893—1986)


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(USSR Research Institute of Industrial Design, established 1962)

In the light of criticism on several fronts, including the Isvestia newspaper, which pointed to the poor design of consumer goods, the Soviet government established the VNIITE in Moscow in April 1962. Yuri Soloviev, a key figure in Soviet design in the second half of the 20th century with experience of design promotion at government level, was appointed as director, a post he maintained until 1987, during which period he played a powerful guiding role. The Institute's Moscow headquarters was divided into nine key divisions. Six of these (design theory, socio‐economic research, product testing, ergonomics, decorative materials and finishes, and information and documentation) sought to provide research findings and information to designers working throughout the USSR. The other three (interiors and transport, machine tools, and graphics and packaging) were devoted to major important design projects. VNIITE grew in size and significance and, within five years of its establishment, employed a total of more than 3,000 staff including those in the regional offices in nine industrial centres, including Leningrad, Kharkov, Minsk, Kiev, and Tblisi. In these early years there were also design offices (with staff of 50 to 200) attached to major industries, as well as about 200 groups of between two and fifteen designers working in individual factories. This was part of a wider Soviet governmental concern to improve design standards, further demonstrated by a ruling requiring Soviet manufacturers to use trademarks on their products. Nonetheless, the redesign of non‐essential goods had a low priority in an economy geared to satisfying the needs of the military and heavy industry. It was difficult to embrace the ideas of everyday product obsolescence common in Western industrialized economies when it was possible to build objects for a longer life. However, an improvement in the design of some capital goods and consumer goods was discernible to critics, albeit reliant on European and US precedents. This perhaps owed something to Soloviev's invitations to Russia to the American industrial designer Raymond Loewy and the director of the British Council of Industrial Design (see Design Council), Paul Reilly, as part of his official drive to improve Russian design before VNIITE was established. His friendship with Reilly resulted in an exhibition at VNIITE entitled The Role of the Industrial Designer in Britain. Organized by the Council and the British Central Office of Information it was visited by many Russian Ministers and key sectors of the public. This initiative was followed in 1966 by an Anglo‐Soviet cultural agreement that saw an exchange of designers arranged through the Council, with V. M. Munipov, B. V. Shekov, and M. V. Feodorov travelling to Britain and Frank Height, John Reid, and Edward Pullee reciprocating in the USSR. From 1964, under Soloviev's editorship, VNIITE published its Tekniecheskaya Estetika (Technical Aesthetic) design journal with its information supplement on Industrial Design Abroad. By the mid‐1970s the USSR was planning a closer integration with the economies of Eastern European countries and attention was focused on design in East Germany and Czechoslovakia in particular, countries where VNIITE's research and development policies were influential However, perhaps most important in terms of external relations was the link with ICSID, of which VNIITE became an institutional member in 1969, with Soloviev becoming a vice‐president in the same year. After organizing ICSID's 1975 biannual congress in Moscow on the theme of Man, Design and Society, he served as president of ICSID from 1977 to 1980.


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