Celebrating Sputnik’s 60th: A Collection of Vintage Soviet Designs

Call for entries: HOW Logo Design Competition

Deadline for entry: October 30, 2017


Today is the 60 year anniversary of when the Soviet Union launched the world’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, into space. The launch took place at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, which is now the world’s oldest and largest space facility that is still in operation. Sending Sputnik into orbit hurled the world into the infamous Space Race between Cold War enemies USSR and the US. 

In mid-1955 President Dwight Eisenhower declared that the nation would place a scientific satellite into orbit during the upcoming International Geophysical Year, a worldwide 18-month stretch of cooperative research. The IGY kicked off with much fanfare on July 1, 1957, with the U.S. envisioning a satellite launch later that year. But before the planned Vanguard satellite ever met its rocket, on October 4th a persistent beeping from orbit revealed that the Soviet Union had orbited the world’s first satellite, Sputnik 1, and in doing so had won the first leg of what would become a race to space.

Sputnik wasn’t much of a satellite, but it was a beefy 184-pound beach ball compared to Vanguard’s 3-pound grapefruit. Amateur skygazers, mobilized worldwide to track the first satellites, watched it pass overhead through their telescopes. And its simple beeping signal, powerful enough to be picked up by amateur radio operators around the world, left no doubt that the achievement was real.

Just a month later, on November 3rd, the USSR awed the world again by launching the first space traveler, a small mongrel dog named Laika, aboard Sputnik 2.

To read more about Sputnik 1 and 60 years of spaceflight, visit our friends over at Sky & Telescope. Or, to take a designer’s approach, celebrate this giant leap for mankind with an exploration of memorable USSR designs—from cigarette packaging to magazine covers. 


Smoke Signals

The former Sovet Union and Peoples’ Republic of China have used cigarette packages to commemorate heroes and national virtues. Explore several designs from both nations that blend political symbolism and cigarettes.   

Sputnik 1

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Hey Comrade, Got a Match?

Steven Heller talks with !Productive Arts! about their rare collection of Soviet-era cigarette packages.

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USSR’s Incredible Propaganda Magazine

Check out “USSR in Construction”—considered by many to be the most visually exciting magazine of the 20th century.

Sputnik 1

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Back in the USSR

Arthur Szyk, a Polish-born American artist (1894–1951), created a collection of 10 lithographs comprising his “Visual History of Nations” series.

Sputnik 1

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Visit Crimea’s Resorts

There has clearly been a great deal of conversation surrounding Crimea. Learn more about this city’s role in Intourist, the former Soviet tourism arm.

Sputnik 1

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Magazines for Soviet Tykes

The folks at !Productive Arts! have a knack for finding the most interesting Soviet-era journals. Here are two made for children.

Sputnik 1

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Soviet Literary Pulps

Take a look at Krasnaya Nov (The Red Virgin Land), the first Soviet literary magazine, which was established in 1921, along with several other examples.

Sputnik 1

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Soviets Covering Soviets

Soviet Union magazine is “the last of the extravagant photo journals of the Soviet era,”  write Howard Garfinkel and Larry Zeman at !Productive Arts!, the antiquarian resource for Soviet avant-garde design.

Sputnik 1

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Smoking Out the USSR

Steven Heller examines vintage Soviet cigarette packages (again), courtesy of !Productive Arts!

Sputnik 1

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PRINT’s 2017 New Visual Artists Are Here!

Get the latest issue of PRINT to discover our annual list of 15 of the best creatives today under 30. Plus …

  • A look at the rebranding of an old industry made anew: marijuana 
  • A Manifesto from Scott Boylston on the dire need for sustainability in design
  • Paul Sahre’s memoir/monograph Two-Dimensional Man
  • Debbie Millman’s Design Matters: In PRINT, featuring Jonathan Selikoff
  • And much more! 

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