Industrial designers within the Soviet Estonian design ideology of the Late Socialist period, 1965-1988

  • Triin Jerlei

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis argues that a unique design ideology manifested in Soviet Estonia during the Late Socialist period. It was a combination of broader Soviet design ideologies concerned with material practices and the control of production, and Western design influences that were more apparent in Estonia than elsewhere in the Soviet Union and provided aesthetic guidance in a vacuum of Soviet style. This research allows for the first time a determination of the characterising qualities of Estonia’s Late Socialist industrial design, as well as provision of a new contextual framework for considering Soviet design ideas more broadly. To date, studies of Soviet design have focused on object aesthetics, leaving authors who are then faced with the absence of a consistent Soviet style to assume an equally absent Soviet design ideology. However, while it is not necessarily visible in the appearance of products, a tangible Soviet design ideology existed in bureaucratic apparatuses, material practices and accompanying textual materials. This thesis uses oral history and archival research to provide a detailed analysis of the Soviet ideology operating within one cultural monad of the wider USSR. In doing so it breaks away from the emphasis on Russia as the totality of 20th century Soviet socialism to make a first important step toward a more substantial history of Soviet production. Estonia can be understood as a meeting point between two major world design cultures, and from its example we can better understand the characteristics, functioning, and impact of different design ideologies.
Date of AwardJul 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Brighton

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