Honouring VNIITE and its place in Soviet design

The Russian organisation VNIITE strived to better Soviet society through design. While remarkably ahead of its time, few of its designs reached the wider public, and until recently much of its work threatened to be forgotten. A new book by Unit Editions tracks its history

The story of the All-Union Scientific Research Institute of Technical Aesthetics (VNIITE) is relatively unknown, even in its native Russia. There are scant references to the organisation in Western design histories and, in the country where it was founded in 1962, the history itself has been gradually slipping away, largely unrecorded.

Thanks to the efforts of the Moscow Design Museum, however, the role of the VNIITE (pronounced ‘vinyiteh’) in the establishment of Soviet design is being pieced back together. Our new book, VNIITE – Discovering Utopia: Lost Archives of Soviet Design, by the Museum’s Alexandra Sankova and Olga Druzhinina, aims to honour both the remarkable work the institute produced during its existence and the people who made it.

The authors’ research was initially exhibited as part of the 2016 London Biennale’s ‘Utopia’-themed exhibition and the expanded collection of photographs in the book act as a visual record of the VNIITE’s approaches, programmes, seminars and publications. They reveal the intentions of a unique network that strived to better Soviet society through design, or what was, until 1989, officially known as ‘technical aesthetics’.