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COP3 - Secondary Research - Iron Fists

Iron Fists : Branding The 20th Century Totalitarian State (Book)

This provocative survey reveals how four of the most destructive dictatorships of the 20th century - Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Soviet Russia and Communist China - used graphic design to sell their messages. Explores each regime's distinctive strategies for seducing public opinion and infiltrating people's lives, in media ranging from logos, flags, typefaces and posters to children's books and figurines Remarkable archival photographs set the disturbingly powerful graphic devices in historical context. The perceptive text analyses how these four regimes established the most effective modes of visual propaganda, which were later adopted and adapted by many other dictatorships.

I'll be focussing primarily on the Nazi Regime for one of my case studies for the essay;



Page Numbers highlighted in Orange

Quotes highlighted in Yellow 

Meanings of Quote / Notes in Bold Underneath



 Page 8 

"Starting in the twentieth century, totalitarian states began using the same techniques as modern industries and corporations. Despots and businessmen alike strove to establish branding techniques, supported by visual images - logos and trademarks - that were used to trigger instantaneous recognition of their ideas and products. The goal was to ensure "brand loyalty", the ultimate objective of every branding strategy."

Nazi Germany use the same techniques as Corperations. Examples being Visual Images, Logos, Trademarls. BRAND LOYALTY

"Hitler was systematically exploring and exploiting the secret fears and hopes, the cravings, anxieties and frustrations of the German masses." wrote Aldous Huxley in Brave New World Revisited."

Interestingly and Ironically says cravings of the german masses. Cravings obviously can be easily related directly to Food. 

"Modern Totalitarian states market themselves both to reinforce their power over a captive populace obliged to consume the dominant ideology and to extend the reach of that ideology to the hold-outs, the not yet captive and the next generation. Corporate branding on the other hand, is ostensibly a benign practice intended to convince consumers to make informed choices."

This basically is saying that modern totalitarian states market themselves to reinforce their power but to also reach other people like the 'not yet captive' and more importantly, the 'next generation'. This means planting the idea early on in a young persons mind. This can easily be compared to children and Mcdonalds. 

"infiltrate the subconscious in order to trigger conformist behaviour (i.e. fealty to the brand)...capture the loyalty of the targeted and hopefully malleable demographic.

Malleable Demographic is the key word here. capturing the loyalty by brainwashing, much like Mcdonalds does.

"The design and marketing methods used to inculcate doctrine and guarantee consumption are fundamentally similar...public awareness and brand loyalty can be measures in sales - or votes."

This is basically saying that to 'inculcate doctrine' which means to stamp in a teaching uses very similar marketing techniques to 'guaranteeing consumption'. both is measured in sales or votes - corporations and political parties. 

"Nazi Germany... proved to be extremely creative in their use of new branding strategies to sell their political messages...their propaganda machinery created powerful visual narratives to seduce their respective popultions."

"The symbols and design objects devised as rallying points were so alluring on asthetic as well as formalistic levels that they captured the attention of the world."

Page 9

"The major component of any brand strategy is the logo---here, the swastika---but other mnemonic elements are also useful. Branding campaigns often rely on characters, based on real or imagined people or things, to catapult the brand into the mass conciousness. Many corporations invest heavily in the creation of these"trade characters":the common (and often comic) metaphoric or anthropomorphic personifications seen on television commercials and in print advertisements, like Mr. Clean, Joe Camel, and Ronald Mcdonald. by imbuing products with fanciful--indeed likeable--human characteristics, the trade character puts on a friendly face on an otherwise inanimate (or sometimes inhumane) product."

"These commercial examples are benign compared to the ways totalitarian regimes create mesemrising auras around the stern visages of their leaders , but the principal is the same."

Hitler "deliberatly emphasized certain personal characterisitcs" such as his moustache "with the aim of transforming their corporeal selves into icons. Then in every possible public venue, they made themselves omnipresent.

IMPORTANT QUOTES : comparing the use of characters such as 'Hitler' with commercial ones such as 'Ronald Mcdonald.  

"The Nazis for example, who paid unrelenting attention to the minutest details, prohibited flagrant commercial use of Hitler's image, was was restricted to official party or state documents...with royalties going to hitler himself. To make certain that the Hitler brand was untouchable...nobody but Hitler could be caller "Furer" (leader)."

"Effective branding is centred on a core narrative, and these totalitarian regimes offered two parallel sotries, one rooted in hate,m the other in projecting a utopian future. 

Page 10

"A dictatorship, on the other hand, maintains itself by censoring or distorting the facts, and by appealing, not to enlightened self-interest, but to passion and prejudice but to the powerful 'hidden forces,' as Hitler called them, present in the unconscious depths of every human mind. Each totalitarian brand story was designed to enrage and engage the populace."

dictatorships distorts facts and plays on the hidden subconscious of the human mind. 

"objects were stamped with the symbols and signs that made the regime seem omniscient and thus integral to the individuals daily life."

"The swastika is what in the branding field is called an 'ancillary' symbol designed to reinforce the "brand experience." In commercial terms, this means anything from stickers to clothes emblazoned with logo and trade characters. In political terms it means badges, armbands, posters, and other effluvia that are easy to mass produce."

The swastika is a symbol that was stamped into the daily lives of the german masses in order to get the message across, the brand across. 

"These elaberate uniforms, impressive badges, and other branded regalia were available in abundance, as were events to which to wear them including spectacles that subsumed individuals into a branded mass"

Page 11

Marching is the indispensable magic stroke performed in order to accustom the people to a mechanical, quasi-ritualistic activity until in becomes second nature. 

GREAT QUOTE ON MARCHING. This could be linked to queuing at Mcdonalds? The idea of queuing in Mcdonalds on a day-to-day basis or driving through the drive through and into the same exact routine. Even working there is very much a quasi-ritualistic activity and has become second nature to most of us. 

"Explaining the visual language and branding strategies of these totalitarian regimes is essential to an understanding of how they developed, communicated and perpetuated their core ideologies through word, picture, and design; how they seduced their followers and, curiously, their enemies as well...These totalitarian states used branding strategies for diabolical purposes, and they did so with undeniable effectiveness which is what made them so dangerously beguiling."

GREAT INTRO QUOTE which explains how Nazi Germany used branding strategies for diabolical things and effectivly. Again this could be linked to McDonald's is seen as diabolical by a lot of people and is a major factor in the obesity rise in USA and world. 


Creating Symbols

Page 14


the leader as designer

"He frequently said that art, not politics was his true calling...he promised that after winning the war Hitler would focus exclusively on matters of art."

"...he had a perverse vision, too, for in some of his studies he conceived and elaborate dystopia where the overall imagery, including uniforms, flags and symbols -- constituted a kind of sociopolitical art project"

"Culture and politics were intricately woven into a grand opera in which aesthetics integral to his extremist ideology played a leading role in an absurdist fantasy."

Comments on Hitlers as an artist and how he creating the symbols, uniforms and flags as some kind of sick art project.

Page 16


"When the Nazi's seized power in 1933, Hitler's entire conceptualisation was immediately put into practice...they commissioned extensive research on the physiological effects of posters...the book assessed English, American, French and German political poster design during World War I. It was destined to be used as a text book by German propagandists."

Nazi's researched into physcological effects of propaganda and poster design in order to control the masses. 

"Hitlers visual mission was his profound envy of the Bolshevik red flag and hammer-and-sickle emblems."

Hitler jelous of this.

"More than once in my youth, the phycollogical importance of such a symbol had become clearly evident to me,"

"A sea of red flags, red armlets and red flowers was in itself suffient to give that huge assembly of about 120,00 persons and outward appearence of strength."

 Hitler explained in his 1925 prison memoir 'Mein Kampf' (My Struggle). 

"One of the things he Nazi's purported to be offering the German population was the dream of social unification -- glorious Teutonic cohesion...and a common mission to "purify" the Ayran race, all symbolised by co-oridnated graphic signifiers that served as visual reinforcement of the common heritage"

Graphics used to brainwash.

Page 17

The use of intials became integral to the Nazi Branding Scheme ... "It became the model for the Nazi's who reduced all party and government departments to intials and acronyms, and was eventually widely adopted by businesses."

Hitler "insisted that visual idenity and graphic design be given the highest priority. "Up till then movement had possessed no party badge and no party flag" He wrote in Mein Kampf. "The lack of these tokens was not only a disadvantage at the time, but would prove to be intolerable in the future."

Page 18


" would be absolutely unthinkable that the future they should remain without some sort of token which would be a symbol of the movement and could be set against that of the [Communist] International." .... He immediately called for a well-definedidentity system to distinguish his party and it's members from the opposition --- as well as from the past. 

"In addition to the party's emblem and membership badge, Hitler designed it's stationery, rubber stamps... and the masthead of the party's newspaper."

"He convicingly sets down rationales for a systematic design program based entierly on signs and symbols.."             (again in hitlers book 'mein kampf'.)

"All those who busy themselves with the tastes of the public will recognise and appreciate the great importance of these apparently petty matters. In hundred of thousands of cases a really striking emblem may be the first cause of awakening interest in a movement" hitler wrote. 

This quote is really great because Hitler himself explains how important an emblem is in creating interest in a movement and this could be directly linked well with the golden arches. 

"Hitler...had an instinctive understanding in the emotive power of symbols... and applied this in designing the party's iconography"   writes Frederick Spots in Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics. 

Page 19

"In addition, he held that only certain colours were capable of attracting and focusing public attention, especially during a period of revolution. Using a semiotician's logic, he rejected pure white (too insignificant) or black (strong, but incapable of attracting attention alone, and any "weak" colour combinations. 

"Hitler decided upon a final form -- a red flag emblazoned with a white disk and a black swastika in the it's middle. He explained that the red expressed the social thought underlying the movement; white, the national thought; and the swastika signified the struggle for the victory of 'Ayran' makind."

Interesting comment on how Hitler come to choosing the colour combinations and design of the final flag.  This could also be easily linked to Mcdonalds as they use similar colour combinations to that of what the Nazi's did. 

Page 24


Hitler as Icon, Trademark and Mascot.

"Hitlers's image was designed to become the face of the Nazi State" 

Just like how Ronald Mcdonald was designed as the face of Mcdonalds. 

Page 25

"Hitlers identity was carefully crafted and skilfully managed to represent both the omnipresent leader and the protector of the nation. He was at once the proverbial 'Big Brother' and the 'Saviour of the German Race'."

"Nobody but Hitler could be caller the furher (leader)"

"Hitlers visage became as ubiquitous as the swastika."

Page 26

"The illusion of proximity of the people was further emphasised by the fabrication of a sympathetic Hitler. Images of the fuhrer patting dogs, pinching the cheeks of young boys, and accepting flowers from young maidens were widely propagated. "the whole nation loves him, feels safe with him at the relm" the images said...."Our Hitler" as some posters stated."

His effectiveness as orator was not achieved though words alone...but through his hypnotic rapport with the audience --- the image he projected, the look he assumed. For every speech his opening movements were choreographed. 

Hitler portraying his innocence and choreographing his every move to perfection.


Page 49


Wielding Graphics

"The Nazi's politicised art and nationalised aesthetics in an attempt to control all aspects of German life. In this endeavour, no detail was too minute, no facet of everyday existence too mundane to be controlled."

GREAT QUOTE on how the Nazi's controlled every aspect of the German masses lives. 

.....all output was rigorously scrutinized to ensure strict conformity with the Nazi visual identity. Type was deemed critical; it was examined as much for it's readability---and it's astethics--- as for it's German origins. 

Quote on how type was used and scrutinised. 

"There was prolonged disagreement within the Nazi part regarding which style would best distinguish the new Germany from the old. Gothic (or blackletter)became the preferred typeface, while more modern sans serif faces were rejected."

More on type and how there was disagreement with styles.

"Control was exercised and had an impact on every calligrapher, type designer, and graphic designer working in a Third Reich "creative" office, agency or studio."

Every designer had to obide by rules in Nazi Germany. 

Page 54

"To be German means to be clear!" Hitler said, which to him meant infused with political purpose. Anything that might be confusing, including typography, endangered the political program. So a significant shift in policy started in the precincts of graphic design, and although black letter was never entirely rejected, it was eventually marginalised. "

a switch from blackletter to sans serif was used for clarity.

Page 55

"The German nation in World War I, he added was not beaten on the battlefield, but lost the war of the words --- the absence of an effective slogan left people with broken spirits. So official catchphrases like Deutschland erwache (Germany awake) and Ein Volk, ein Reich, en Furher (one people, one empire, one leader), or even the word JA! (Yes!) when juxtaposed with Hitler's portrait were integral ro rhe mind-infitrating branding campaign."

HADAMOVSKY WROTE THIS . basically meaning that the first world war was lost because the Germany army didn't have enough slogans to get their troops going like a lot of the other countries involved did have. This meant that this was a vital necessity when it come to doing. 

Page 56

"Abbreviation takes the tangle out of tongue-twisting words and titles; they can make something more friendly than it is --- or more threatening than it might be. Kripo, the abbreviation for the Nazi Kiminalpolizei (Criminal Police) takes an inauspicious term and enshrouds it it in mystery. On the other hand, BDM sounds somewhat more impressive than the Nund Deutscher Madel (League of German Girls), a young girls organisation. All these sub-brand names of the Nazi uber-brand contribute to the illusion of a vast centrally controlled network that inspires either confidence or fear (and sometimes both). And of course the term Nazi itself derived form the first two syllables of Nationalsozialistishe Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (as pronounced in German: Na and zi), the National Socialist Party."

MORE ON ABBREVIATION HERE! Great explanation of how the word Nazi came about and how they used abbreviation in everything to make it sound more or less baddass depending on how they wanted people to view it . 


The poster as a weapon 

"In the nazi brand campaign, posters played a crucial role....The not an end in itself but serves the political message."

"Great propagandists are just as unique as great artists wrote Schokel. They are the shining examples for the many who faithfully strive to fulfil their duty as helpers of the great men, as the latter pursue the role that fate has allotted to them. "

Good Quote on Propagandists.

"The first Nazi visual campaign took place in 1926, when hitler was forbidden to make public speeches in Bavaria (and soon in most other German states) after his release from prison. The Nazi's seized the opportunity."

Background info on how the first visual poster campaign cam about after Hitler was banned form speaking. 

"Some posters were astoundingly modern, and one image stands out above all others; a 1932 election poster so minimalist that it could easily be confused with modernist design. The black and white poster features Hitler's face (just a head with no neck or shoulders) against a stark background. It's simple caption-headline, "Hitler", is set in unusal white sans serif capital letters. The only typographical tic is a seemingly superfluous square over the top of the 'I' (perhaps a visual pun on his famously cropped mustasche."

Page 58

Posters & Billboards

"Our placards have become wonderful. The propaganda is being carried out in the best possible manner. The whole country has to pay attention."  49

"The poster was more than a branding tool, it become a means of communication."

"Posters were initially hung on whatever pillars or walls could be commandeered; eventually, glass cases were mounted in all cities for mandatory indoor and outdoor postings."

Glass casings, much like those found in cities today for much more corporate advertisers, for let's say, people like mcdonalds. And now they're even bigger. Billboards on motorways etccet etc.


Culture War 

Spreading Anti-Semitism

Page 63

The Nazi's used a local paper, read by the masses called the 'People's Observer' to spread his anti-semitism and to bury it deep within the German Nation. 

"The journel's prominently typeset motto, Die Juden sind unser Ungluck! (The Jews are our misery!), flagrantly announced it's content full of fantastical stories about fabricated crimes by Jews, including ritual murder and savage rape...."

"...It's message was conveyed through hideous pornographic depictions and gross characatures of Jews. At it's height, Der Stumer printed over two million copies per week, and the paper was posted in public display cases in every German town and city." 

This can be vaguely linked to how McDonnell's tell you what they want you to know and not necessarily the truth or the facts. 

Anti-sematic children's books were also published and one in particular is notable called (The Poisonous Mushroom) ..

"(Trust no Fox on the green heath and no Jew upon its oath). Aimed at children, these books laid out preposterous lies designed to justify anti-sematic policy. 

"How to Tell a Jew: The Jewish nose is bent. It looks like a number 6."

Starting kids off to hates Jews at an early age, Mcdonalds also start kids off at an early age. 


Nazi's : Branding Bodies

Page 72

"Ultimately, Nazi's resorting to the most degrading branding technique imaginable; tattooing identification numbers onto inmates' bodies. These were brands in themost literal sense, which could never be erased."

By 1942, all Jews in camps were tattooed.. and in 1943 almost all of the camp poulationrecieved this kind of brand, with the esception of Germans, Ciminal Prisoners and Political Prisoners. 

"The operation was not very painful and lasted no more than a minute, but it was traumatic. It's symbolic meaning was clear to everyone; this is an indelible mark, you will never leave here.; this is the mark which slaves are branded and cattle sent to the slaughter and that is what you have become. You no longer have a name; this is your new name. The violence of the tattoo was gratuitous, and end in itself, pure offence."


The legacy of Nazi Design 


"The impact of the Nazi's distinct visual language combined with a unique public relations rhetoric comes close to exemplifying how contemporary branding strategies operate."

"The American designer Paul Rand once said that a corporate symbol --- a logo --- is no better or worse than the business it represents. The swastika is not intrinsically evil, but the Nazi's put it to evil purposes. And because the power of a political symbol depends on it's ability to synthesise an event, ideal or policy, the Nazi brand is a textbook case of how successful critical mass communication can become."

"The legacy of the Nazi branding campaign is it's diabolical durability. Even while being horrified by the regime, one must acknowledge the effectiveness of it's propagaada. The fact that the swastika elicits such strong emotional responses --- that it can still inspire fear and conjure a world of horror - is a sinister testament to the power of Nazi campaigns. "

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