If there’s one source of inspiration beloved to most graphic designers everywhere, it’s the humble matchbox: particularly those from the Eastern Bloc. Now their little vintage labels are being celebrated in a heavenly updated book by Jane McDevitt of Maraid Design, made in collaboration with Neal Whittington of Present & Correct.

This is the second edition of Matchbloc, a popular book that features over 400 matchbox label designs from the 1950s through to the 1980s, covering themes on everything from animals and the arts to transport, children and space.

Straight out of Czechoslovakia, Poland, Russia and beyond, each one offers pleasing, muted tones and rich post-war typography, revealing a different era entirely when advertising still found its way onto the smallest of mediums and spoke to a mass audience.

As you’d expect from these Eastern Bloc creations, there are images of power and revolution, more than hinting at the industry and national pride of its time. But there are also messages to spread public service information regarding health and hygiene or perhaps road safety or alcohol abuse. In the book’s foreword, Jane McDevitt explains: “These messages were dispatched through eye-catching mid-century bold contemporary design and bright colours. They are not only a delight for collectors but leave behind an extraordinary and important social archive.”

How did the project begin? It was during a visit to her local library that Jane discovered a small book containing historical matchbox labels from around the world. Becoming instantly hooked, she started to archive images of the little objects on Flickr to share her inspiration. Today, that archive contains over 3,000 pictures – all available to browse at your leisure.

It wasn’t until a few years later, following a pint with her friend Neal of Present & Correct, that the idea for a book was born. Matchbloc was first published in 2019 and proved so popular it sold out within weeks. For 2021, Jane and Neal have released a second edition. Priced at £22.50, the paperback includes 421 labels that Neal designed with the proportions and details of a matchbox.

There’s a dedicated website where you can grab a copy of the book but also purchase various Giclée prints celebrating some of the matchbox designs. We personally love Soviet Man in Space and Smoking Cat. For further inspiration, follow Matchbloc on Instagram.

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