At first sight the brown cover and its Russian text suggest that this is some treatise from the archives of the Communist Party dating back to way before glasnost. In fact the association isn’t all that crazy, as the book is about an art project on the theme of Russia under Communism and afterwards. Back to the USSR has been ingeniously designed with all sorts of subtle visual references to the period. It also has something of a Russian matryoshka, one of those painted wooden dolls that open up, each one containing another one inside it. In the book the analogue of these is the smaller sections in two different formats. The smallest is used for the English and Russian translations, the medium-sized one has illustrations of the work of Gerbrand Volger and Willeke van Tijn, with enlargements of details, and the largest presents a wider view of the artists’ work and working environment: the studio. Appearing at regular intervals through the book are black rectangles in the proportions of the works included. Because they are a nod towards constructivism, they give the book a nice conceptual layeredness.
Alongside Times Cyrillic for the cover and T-Star Mono Round for the captions and English translation, the book’s typographic appearance is determined principally by Paul Renner’s Futura – an excellent choice that at once makes the book look modern and with a beautiful symbolism links present and past.
The binder, finally, deserves high praise for the way in which he has sewn the various papers and paper sizes into a wonderfully flat book block with an open spine.