NESHAN, The Iranian Graphic Design Magazine

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Neshan 28

Design Today - 2

Ostengruppe – The chaos of diversity

Olga Severina

For many foreigners Russia is a dominion of grizzly bears, black caviar, and cellars stacked with bottles of vodka. Others see it as a realm of Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Tolstoy, Chekhov, Kandinsky, and Malevich. The stereotypes may vary, but the inevitable mystery, intrinsic to the seclusion of this distant land, nevertheless, persists. Situated between East and West, Russia has always been unpredictable, enigmatic and rich with visionary spirit and innovative creativity. In the early 20th century, this phenomenon of Russian cultural tradition manifested itself in the Russian avant-garde movement, a prominent milestone in the world of contemporary art, which is still relevant to this day. The continuity of this artistic heritage is very richly represented in the new designs of the modern-day Russia. Ostengruppe , is one of these novel design studios that emerged in Moscow in the early 2000’s. This inspirational alliance was founded by Igor Gurovich, Eric Belousov and Anna Naumova in 2002.
Ostengruppe is a team of artists, each with their own distinctive styles, specialties and passions, and it is their unique individualities what makes up a holistic “graphic” image of the group. In the heart of this design crew (they prefer to be called “creative laboratory”) are the principles of the new thinking, and in some cases even revolutionary protest, a rebellious rejection of the conventional taboos. Despite the fact that they each graduated with the degrees in different fields (in theater, industrial and furniture design), their joined creative direction became graphic design and the poster. Perhaps this professional diversity is what allows the team to look at the design field from unconventional angles; to see it free from traditional boundaries or restrictions. As their means of expression they employ eclecticism, innovative approach of their presentations and accentuated symbolism of the created imagery – exactly what became the basis for the explosion of the avant-garde movement in the beginning of the twentieth century.
Gaining momentum in the early 2000th, Ostengruppe quickly obtained a cult status in the sphere of Russian contemporary design. A number of prestigious international acknowledgments and awards also suggest that during this time the team has gained considerable recognition from the design community worldwide.
The style called “Art of the day” became a calling card of the group. It can be seen in numerous projects that designers made in collaboration with the cultural center “House”, for which the group has been creating graphic designs for concerts and festivals for over 10 years. A license to unrestrained expression given to the artists by the “House”, together with the fusion of contemporary music, has borne fruit – for a single project alone, the group created nearly 250 posters.
An alternative vision of equally alternative music found in Ostengruppe designs is an artistic chaos of random motions of stylus, pencil or a pen in a multitude of directions and paths in search of that one, unique solution where the precision of the poster composition would conceal the dynamic spontaneity of the graphic art.

A significant part of their work is solely dedicated to the theatrical poster. Because of the theaters’ small budgets Ostengruppe considers these projects to be non-profit, and they work on them simply because it is something that sparks their interest, and also because they consider the theatrical poster to be a vital part of contemporary urban typography. They see the “posters as chimney sweepers – they remain to preserve the continuity of the generations”.
Despite a popular opinion that the poster today is becoming more and more obsolete, it can still offer an author a great potential for an experiment and the artists at Ostengruppe take full advantage of this opportunity. It was the poster that became their first creative stepping stone during the initial stage of the studio. “The poster for us was like the art of the elite, the highest Everest of design” – says Gurovich. In the works of Ostengruppe the poster of the new generation is transformed from a street notice of the 20th century into a new method of visual communication – an Art House in graphic design.
Their poster is a dialogue between them and an aggressive and dynamic metropolis. The constitution of Ostengruppe posters, their basic composition is a multi-layered coat of details that can almost be called “trash” a kind of careless design found in street-art – the language of the streets, which provides an opportunity to have a fundamentally new type of a conversation with an urban environment. These posters are made with the dynamic display-oriented aesthetics, with elusiveness and ambiguity of their interpretation, with an aim for originality, and the irony in their design combined with the boldness and eccentricity of contemporary postmodernism.
Being a border genre, balancing between art and advertising, between conceptual design and social publication, the poster can still provide an artist with an inspiration that is innovative and in tune with the times. The poster is a unique canvas where designers are continuing the search for an alternative post-culture, assembling together a defiant revolt of personalized graphics, rowdy sketches and emblematic typography. This is what defines a diverse and at the same time recognizable style of Ostengruppe.
Today, the young designers have created a separate studio, named “Gold” which deals exclusively with commercial projects, leaving the art of the poster untouched under the name Ostengruppe. They are active in a variety of areas: they create designs for film festivals and business conferences, logos, and promotional items, toys and souvenirs, forming a new visual culture of modern Russia.
Rebellious spirit, love of the profession and of the experiment, creative drive, exhilaration of living and breathing design – this is Ostengruppe – a young and bold, bright and talented creative union. They say that design is one of the few battlefields that can make a person happy.  Look at the elusive and charming irony of their designs, see the irrepressible imagination, the clash of serious analysis, and impromptu in their art, and you will agree that happy is what they truly are.

Olga Severina

A Ukrainian graphic designer, Olga Severina obtained her Ph.D. in Visual Arts in 2010. Olga is an author, whose articles on the history and contemporary trends in graphic design are published in magazines around the world. Over the years her works were featured in a variety of design competitions and campaigns: Biennale Golden Bee (Russia), Warsaw Poster Biennale (Poland), International Poster Biennale (Mexico) and Mayakovsky 120 poster campaign are to name a few.  Olga Severina was always an active participant in the design community. In 2006 she became involved with an International Eco-Poster Exhibition The 4th Block (Ukraine), where she currently serves as the exhibition curator.  In her more recent ventures Olga focuses on art shows that celebrate design and promote balance between nature and men in the United States.

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