Designing a Socialist Man


  • Koraljka Vlajo



graphic design, political poster, performativity, political performativity, socialism, Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia


This paper asserts that graphic design can be analyzed as a performative act, particularly in relation to political performativity, a term coined by Reuben Rose-Redwood and Michael R. Glass after Judith Butler’s theory of performativity. Graphic design as a mass media tool enables persistent and everyday reiteration of regime authority, thus enforcing the construction of preferable identities of ideal citizens. In the text, the scope of political performativity of graphic design as an example of socialist Yugoslavia is analyzed, based on the cultural theory and the theory of political performativity, and by using examples of poster, magazine and catalogue cover designs created for political and cultural events in Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY) from the 1940s to the 1980s. It will be shown how graphic design has had an impact in shaping and reshaping the image of Yugoslav citizens through an everyday representation of men, women and youth in order to consistently reassert the dominant state/regime narrative. At the same time, it will be shown that graphic design, even when used within that narrative, is a powerful tool for subverting the regime’s authority and challenging the perceived ideal thus helping shape new identities.

Article received: April 29, 2019; Article accepted: June 15, 2019; Published online: September 15, 2019; Original scholarly paper

Author Biography

Koraljka Vlajo

Museum of Arts and Crafts, Zagreb

Koraljka Vlajo is the Head of Design Collections at the Zagreb Museum of Arts and Crafts (MUO). She is the author of many exhibitions and catalogs, among them: Porcelain Gleam of Socialism (MUO, 2010), on Jugokeramika’s design department; Maria’s Industry of Beauty, on Croatian graphic designer Marija Kalentic (MUO, 2013); and Hidden Design, on Rade Koncar’s design department (CDA-Croatian Designers Association, 2011). She is the co-author of the exhibition Design for the New World at Belgrade Museum of Yugoslav History (2015). Koraljka coauthored following exhibitions at the CDA: Zvonko Beker i poslijeratna ekonomska propaganda (2015), Davor Grunwald: Retrorama industrijskog dizajna (2017), Baggizmo 2015– / Making of (2018). She is the author of the section on industrial design for the catalog and the exhibition Sixties in Croatia (MUO, 2018). She has been appointed by the Croatian Ministry of Culture as the curator of In a Nutshell (2012), a touring exhibition on contemporary Croatian design.


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How to Cite

Vlajo, K. (2019). Designing a Socialist Man. AM Journal of Art and Media Studies, (19), 15–27.