FGD1 The Archive
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FGD1 The Archive

IQ by Uwe Loesch 1986

This eye-catching, self-commissioned piece by Uwe Loesch was made to be a statement about the devastation and damage caused by the Chernobly nuclear disaster a few months prior (see Analysis and Influences). Similar to IQ, Loesch regularly created self-commissioned pieces of work for non-profit charities and emotionally charged protests. This piece give a voice to the innocent victims of Chernobyl and helped spread the story of the disaster, which was especially important since the Government, at the time, wrongly tried to hide it from the world. Loesch’s stance on this piece also questions the role of the Graphic Designer and how he values the strength of the message that is given in the design, as appose to the monetary gain from it.

Analysis and Influences:

The damage spread all across Europe days after the disaster

Chernobyl nuclear disaster

The basis of this piece is to make a statement about the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster that occurred a few months before the piece was created. In 1986 the Chernobyl nuclear plant experienced a sudden surge of power leading to some of the radioactive reactors being destroyed, instantly causing the release of huge amounts of deadly radioactive material which had spread so far across Europe that scientists in Norway noticed unusually high nuclear levels in the air days after the disaster (see left). This tragedy sparked lots of anger, protests and controversy as the Soviet Government initially attempted to cover up the disaster, leading to Chernobyl residents being unable to evacuate in time causing critical injuries to humans and livestock alike, hence the basis of this piece.

The subconscious link between the piece’s colour scheme and the real world.

The fact that Loesch designed IQ in the most contrasting colour combination achievable creates a visual link in the viewer’s mind of hazard markings and warnings: as black and yellow patterns are not used in the real world for much else. This link therefore makes the reader aware of the dangerous message in the piece, perhaps even before they consciously realise it.

The toxic yellow colour that is featured in this piece emphasizes the deep nuclear damage caused by the nuclear disaster to animals and nature alike, much of which is still effecting the area 3 decades later. The choice of contrasting black and yellow makes the viewer feel startled and invites them to look closer at the piece, as the longer that you view the piece, the more the hidden figure of the cow and nuclear symbol and symbolism become clear.

‘Radiation’ by Bill Ray and George Walrick

Radiation by Bill Ray and George Walrick

Loesch’s contrasting colour choice of vivid yellow and black used in the piece was influenced by the widely recognizable nuclear hazard symbol designed by Bill Ray and George Walrick in 1946, more formally named Radiation. The likeness on these two pieces creates a visual tie between Loesch’s toxic scene and Radiation which sybolises intense nuclear damage caused by Chernobyl devastated everything in its immediate radius.

The small nuclear symbol by the cow’s mouth reiterates this message of nuclear damage as it has been positioned to look like a flower the cow is chewing, therefore showing that not only did the disaster effect the animals directly but also effected what they ate and how they were innocent victims in this disaster. This use of discreet symbolism invites the viewer to think about the deeper meaning of this piece and relays the nuclear theme.

The print als makes a shocking wall adornment, as shown in the Von der Heydt Museum in 1995

The piece makes the scene look toxic and uninviting and the fact that the cow blends into the venomous background shows how nothing was spared by the disaster and everything had been devastated. The fact that the figure of the cow is unclear and warped may also be a link to the mutations and deformations that were suffered by livestock and humans in Chernobyl as a result of the exposure to the radioactive waves.

Was it successful?

Social and Design influences

Minimalistic, vibrant, repetitive designs soon started becoming popular (Left to Right: GG allin poster by 1989, Fiera di Milano annual cover, Esprit LA Superstore Advertising 1986/7)

To summarise, Loesch’s piece played an important part in helping spread the message of the Chernobyl diasater and successfully conveyed the damage and destruction suffered, by humans and animals, at the hands of the disaster. The design was very successful as a statement piece as it caught peoples eyes, conveyed a strong message and made people more aware of the Chernobyl disaster thanks to it’s vibrant, contrasting colours and consistent Radioactive/nuclear theme.

At the time of when the piece was made in 1986, bright artworks like this were just were becoming popular with the pop art movement gaining popularity. However Loesch’s piece is clearly indiviudal and was not similar to anything being produced at the time, therefore emphisisiing it’s eyecatching nature and making more people talk about it, something really important when the piece is trying to make a political statement.




An Archive of Graphic Design by Year 1 Graphic Design Students at Edinburgh Napier University

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