Women Designers. USSR/ Russia

A research project
by Alyona and Natalia Sokolnikova

Despite worldwide recognition of the “Amazons of the Russian avant-garde”, further achievements of the Soviet women in art and design field are relatively poorly covered in professional and popular science literature.
Authors of the current research will consider a huge list of undeservedly forgotten names and undervalued design projects accomplished by Soviet women. For the first time, there would be carried out a detailed scientific analysis of the gender aspect impact on the Soviet design development and specifically on the formation of the professional identity by women designers in the USSR and the post-Soviet Russia.

The results of this study will not only demonstrate the features of professional contribution of Soviet women designers in the material and visual culture of the XX-XXI centuries, but also draw attention to a set of economic and socio-cultural reasons that hindered the professional self-realization of women designers, artists and architects in different periods of the USSR history. Many of the identified factors (including gender-specific boundaries and stereotypes within the design profession) still remain relevant in contemporary Russia.
The subject of gender issues in Soviet design history was addressed by Alena Sokolnikova in following talks:

“Social values in Soviet design history” the lecture and participation in the panel discussion “Social design: European (Dutch) and Soviet perspectives” in the framework of the exhibition “Red Wealth: Soviet design 1950–1980”, Rotterdam Kunsthall, Rotterdam, Nederland (February 2016).
Lecture “Beyond nostalgia. What can we learn from the experience of Soviet designers?” at the Russian design Day, The First London design biennale, Somerset house, London, UK (September 2016).

Presentation at the International interdisciplinary conference “THE BODY OF THINGS: Gender, Material Culture and Design in (Post)Soviet Russia” an interdisciplinary conference, Aarhus University (2018), Aarhus, Denmark Report by Alena Sokolnikova “A new wave of women: the formation of a professional identity of women designers in the USSR in the 1960—80’s”.
The first draft of the book was made and sent to some major international publishers editorial offices in may 2018. In December 2018, the “Women designers of the USSR” book got a grant in the framework of the Garage.txt. publishing program. Currently, we are intensively preparing the material for publishing.
In June 2018, we formed a concept and a presentation of the “Women In Design. 1918 — 2018 / USSR — Russia” (work title) exhibition; we also submitted the first application for a research project on the exhibition at The Garage Contemporary Art Museum.

At the moment, we are looking for partners and an exhibition venue for this project. The promotional presentation is available upon request.
Audio and video recordings of exclusive interviews for this project are carried on from May 2015 up to the present time. Here you will find links to all published interviews.
1. Svetlana Ysova (video interview): part 1, part 2, part 3.
At the moment, the authors of the study collected brief biographical information about more than 1,500 women who carried out projects in the field of graphic, industrial and environmental design, costume design and accessories, as well as certain types of arts and crafts in the period from 1917 to 1990. In the future, this time frame will be expanded.

If you, your relatives or friends were designers in Soviet times, and you are ready to share some information about the professional activities of women designers, please contact us! As the project progresses, we are planning to publish all collected materials in the form of an online database with a free access.
If you want to learn more about the project to become its partner or sponsor, or just share some information on the research topic, please contact us!

Alyona Sokolnikova
PhD in Pedagogy, associate Professor, member of the Russian Designers Association,
an independent curator, researcher and lecturer in design history, founder of “Design in Details”

Natalia Sokolnikova
D.Ed, Professor, member of the Russian Designers Association, specialist in the theory and history of fine arts, design and art education, Professor of Moscow State Pedagogical University

Design by Hint
Programming by Vlad
© 2019