Commercial Graphic Design

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Commercial Graphic Design


a type of applied graphic art. Commercial graphic design plays a role in packaging and marketing by providing designs for labels, trademarks, colophons, and advertising materials (including catalogs, booklets, and prospectuses). Graphic designers also provide such materials vital to industry as business forms and envelopes. Commercial graphic design is closely related to advertising and is often a component thereof.

In modern commercial graphic design, equally important roles are played by typeface, ornamentation, drawings (primarily of a symbolic nature), photographs, and various color and printing solutions. The first examples of commercial graphic design are stamps and trademarks produced in early antiquity. As commodity-money relations developed, commercial graphic design became a special branch of artistic activity, subordinate to the development of production and the market. It matured in the late 19th century, when groups of professional artists specializing in advertising and package design appeared. This period was also marked by the first attempts to create a uniform commercial style for the design of industrial buildings and of industrial products and their packaging (the works of P. Behrens).

The stylistic development of commercial graphic design is closely associated with the overall development of the plastic arts. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the drive to aestheticize man’s material environment that was characteristic of art nouveau resulted in the rapid development of commercial graphic design in this style. In the 1920’s the influence of functionalism appeared in works by the Austrian H. Bayer, the German J. Tschichold, and the Dutch P. Zwart. In the 1930’s and 1940’s eclectic tendencies were often strong. At present, commercial graphic design outside the USSR is often included in what is known as graphic design proper. There is an orientation toward collective design, with a tendency to depersonalize the work of the artist who actually executes the work. Special art agencies are engaged in commercial graphic design. Recognition for the artwork done for a firm is accorded to the art agency rather than to the individual artist responsible, who remains anonymous.

In prerevolutionary Russia, commercial graphic design did not develop into an independent field of art, and imitation of foreign designs predominated. After the October Revolution of 1917, new Soviet state emblems were created, as were new designs for documents used by institutions and industrial enterprises. In the 1920’s and early 1930’s an important role in the development of Soviet commercial graphic design was played by L. M. Lisitskii, A. M. Rodchenko, and V. V. Mayakovsky. E. E. Lansere worked in graphic design in the 1930’s, and the Kukryniksy in the 1940’s. Exhibitions of commercial graphic design have been held since the 1950’s. In the artists’ unions of some Union republics, subsections have been established to unite the professional artists working in commercial graphic design.


Murina, E. “Prikladnaia grafika.” Tvorchestvo, 1964, no. 2.
Gerstner, K., and M. Kutter. Die neue Graphik. Basel- (Teufen, 1959).
Neumann, E. Functional Graphic Design in the 20th Century. (New York) 1967.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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