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Quirky world of Yugoslav Illustration and Poster Design

Products of graphic design industry, posters and illustrations have always attracted attention of art admirers worldwide. However, today classical print illustration or poster has been largely replaced with numerous digital alternatives such as memes, while true design fans and collectors still exist albeit not in large numbers. But before the digital age and social media, posters and illustrations were not considered merely to be interesting and thoughtful graphic work regarding a current or ongoing topic, but were actually one of the main sources of information and marketing to the public. Companies, government and individuals all used the immense power of graphics in the 20th century to influence the masses, spread messages, promote various agendas and form collective opinions and attitudes. Yet, to make it all more appealing and attractive to public, these messages were concealed by being subtly showcased in a visually creative and satisfying manner. As one of quite developed countries in Europe at the time, Yugoslavia also had its fair share of talented designers and illustrators, whose job was to deliver information in the most thoughtful and witty way, including fun and colorful patterns, references and typography. Despite usual misconceptions, graphics in countries such as Yugoslavia were not used merely for political agenda and promotion of serious state matters. Today, hundreds if not thousands of graphics can be found related to film, music, books, magazines, travel and all things culture and entertainment. And while state affairs were in fact often promoted through graphic design, it was not exclusive as some might imagine today. Focusing on the world of entertainment and culture, it is very possible to find huge amounts of high quality graphic design work outside of political and state propaganda material. With varying topics, but unique and recognizable visual style and identity, Yugoslav graphic industry is widely recognized as imaginative and aesthetically pleasing, which is why it still holds prestige and inspires art community worldwide even after many decades that have gone by.

Film Graphics

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Largely made as promo materials for foreign films, posters had to be made exclusively for the Yugoslav market as many films that came from abroad at the time were synchronized, not translated. This custom produced some of the most unusual visual variations on the themes of world famous cinema hits, such as Waiting Women (1952, Sweden), Some Like it Hot (1959, USA), Mad Max (1979, USA) and The Man Who Fell To Earth (1976, UK). Quite interesting to foreigners, many people from other parts of the world are frequently surprised at Yugoslav versions of posters for the films they know of, and even more in awe at the level or artistic prowess that they showcase. Some of these posters are sold for hundreds of dollars online today as collector’s edition pieces of work, and their price is expected to further rise in the future as they move toward ultra vintage status.

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Also, Yugoslavia had quite an active cinematographic industry itself, which produced many films over the years. Today, many of them are considered cult classics in the Balkans, along with visuals that were made for them. Genre of films mostly varied between comedy and partisan films who celebrated heroic actions of Yugoslav army in the WW2. Both types of movies remain highly popular today, both among older and even younger audiences.

Music and Magazine Graphics

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Besides film, music also had its place in the entertainment of an average Yugoslav, which meant many music competitions were annually held both on republic and state level. Also, there was a large number of associations and organisations related to music, each of them in the effort of producing the most interesting promo material that will pick the interest of the public and support their work. Festivals and musical gatherings were regular events for young and old, and they were strongly advertised weeks or even months ahead with appropriate poster art which would be found all over newspapers and city spots designated for posters. Goes to show it sure wasn’t easy to advertise your event in the pre Internet era.

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Magazines were also highly popular in the print era, especially among youth, which found them to be one of the best ways to educate themselves in topics that were trending and up and coming. Sure, books contained lots of information as well, but they weren’t as current and provided zero insight into what was happening in the world of film, science, music and culture on a global scale. Frequently specialized for a certain topic, most Yugoslav magazines were niche, which meant they catered to specific audiences with specific tastes. So the choice was fairly easy, if you were into science, you read magazines like Galaksija, for music fans there was MOL, and for more casual readers there was Omladinske magazine among numerous other choices. In order to stand out from other publications that were available for purchase, each magazine tried to place the most eye catching and interesting graphic both on its cover and inside the magazine itself, inducing curiosity and interest of the public.

What do you think?

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