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Iron Fists: Branding the 20th-Century Totalitarian State Hardcover – December 1, 2008

4.9 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

''Steven Heller's Iron Fists makes a sophisticated and visually arresting comparison between modern corporate-branding strategies -- slogans, mascots, jingles, and the rest -- and those adopted by 'four of the most destructive 20th century totalitarian regimes': Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, the Soviet Union under Lenin and Stalin, and Mao's China [...] Iron Fists has the dimensions and dazzling illustrations of a coffee-table book [...] Heller's prose is as clear and uncluttered as the graphic design he admires.'' --The New York Times Book Review; ''Designing Dictators''; Christopher Benfey; August 3, 2008

About the Author

Steven Heller, co-chair of the MFA Designer as Author program at the School of Visual Arts, New York, was a senior art director at the New York Times for 33 years. He has served as contributing editor to several magazines, including Print, Eye, Baseline, and I.D. and is currently editor of AIGA VOICE: Online Journal of Design. He is the author, co-author, and/or editor of over 100 books on design and popular culture and has produced and curated a number of exhibitions. Heller is the recipient of several design awards including the AIGA Medial for Lifetime Achievement in 1999 and the Society of Illustrators Richard Gangel Award for Art Direction in 2006. He lives in New York City
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Phaidon Press Inc.; First Edition edition (December 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0714848468
  • ISBN-13: 978-0714848464
  • Product Dimensions: 10.2 x 1.1 x 11.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,953,066 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Steven Heller's "Iron Fists" makes a sophisticated and visually arresting comparison between modern corporate-branding strategies - slogans, mascots, jingles and the rest - and those adopted by "four of the most destructive 20th-century totalitarian regimes": Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, the Soviet Union under Lenin and Stalin, and Mao's China. As he pursues his four "case studies," Heller, by means of unsettling images and shrewd analysis, amply restores the vileness to branding.
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A reasonable introduction to the way four totalitarian governments presented their public face. The book joins a slowly expanding library of titles dealing with State graphics in China, Germany, Italy and the Soviet Union. Steve Heller had an earlier look at Germany with his 2000 published book 'The Swastika: Symbol beyond redemption' and some of that is probably included in these pages, Prestel and Tashen have both published titles covering East German, North Korean and Chinese propaganda posters.

Of the four countries surveyed maybe the odd one out is Italy, the images in the book don't seem to have any distinctive feel about them, perhaps Mussolini was content to have his face everywhere and that was enough. So completely different to the Nazi way of presenting their leader and political culture. Pages fifty-two and fifty-three show a 1938 graphics manual published by the German Labor Front showing the correct types to use: Fractur; Rotunda; Futura. Rotunda in particular seems the type of choice in so much printed matter throughout the German chapter.

The Soviet Union is the clear winner for eye-catching persuasion. The 1917 revolution swept away existing design styles and new European art 'isms' influenced several designers to start afresh with bold graphics and especially photomontages. Alexander Rodchenko, El Lissitzky and Varvara Stepanova produced posters and photobooks that still look exciting today. Photography was an important part of Soviet propaganda but this didn't seem to influence the revolution in communist China where paintings inspired the masses, paintings and illustrations were part of their culture for centuries.
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A fascinating book, Iron Fists looks at the way in which Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Soviet Russia and Mao's China created cultural environments which promoted the state through the use of what we now call branding. Lavishly illustrated with artwork and photographs the book also includes instructional material the regimes created in order to provide consistency of the brand. Without going into too much detail the book also discussed the cult of personalities surrounding Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Mussolini and Mao, each of which were an integral part of their respective "brands." This is a neat book, a good collection of the "styles" without being a catalog, a discussion of totalitarian "branding" without becoming some sort of hyper-intellectual 500-page discourse. One thing I don't get is the black bars on the cover.
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Well depicted, and explained treatise on the graphic design in totalitarian states.
Especially insightful was the intersection of the styles more broadly employed world wide.
Those interested in graphic design and the people who capably labor in anonymity have a great champion in Steven Heller and his several collaborators.
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This is a great book that any graphic designer or history lover should have. It tells you how Hitler, Mussolini, Lenin and the chinese leaders were capable to move and brainwash the population of their respective countries by using the propaganda.
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This book contains an incredible amount of detail on 19th Century totalitarian states. Great depth of research and a well spring of engaging imagery bring the content to life. This is definitely worth the price.
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