In a centrally planned economy things like branding and advertising are close to irrelevant. Goods are often labeled just for convenience and people don’t have a variety to choose from, they consume what they are offered by the state committees.
I spent my whole childhood in such a world and (shockingly) it wasn’t as bad as it sounds. We didn’t have ads on TV. We didn’t have ads in newspapers. I can’t remember seeing them on the streets either. Modern pseudo-diseases like shopping mania or its universally efficient treatment called shopping therapy were beyond science fiction. It’s not that we didn’t enjoy an occasional purchase, we just didn’t make a fuss about it.
If I remember correctly, the word “logo” wasn’t part of our language. Several years ago, before I began to produce logos myself, I could have sworn that they didn’t exist in communist Bulgaria. But I would have been wrong.
They were all around us. We didn’t notice them consciously because brands didn’t compete with each other as they do today. Usually you could spot an occasional logo on the back of a poorly designed package, the problem was few people really cared to see that back.
You may think those logos were ineffective and poorly designed, too. But here’s the paradox – they weren’t. Few years ago I stumbled upon a summary of the works by one of the greatest Bulgarian designers, Stefan Kanchev. And as I went from logo to logo I had a flashback after flashback – not just about the products but about events in my life that were absolutely unrelated. It was one of the first times when I realized how powerful symbols could be, not just the obvious ones that we notice consciously but the more subtle ones, which are lurking underneath your attention threshold. And when they come from someone who is so immensely talented like Stefan, they become part of your own identity. A part so deep that it remains rooted in your mind forever.
His tribute site is online now, showing many of his truly amazing projects.