Brief Graphic Design History
Brief Graphic Design History

Graphic designing is a huge part of this modern world. It is simply the art of creating visuals or graphics on surfaces. This did not begin just a few centuries ago. History of graphic designing dates back to thousands of years ago. The history of graphic designing stretches as far as the history of art does.

Before the Printing Press- Prehistory to the Renaissance

Graphic designing began when the first printing press was launched in 1440. But the roots of graphic designing or visual communication go back to the caveman’s time. Here are some of the events mentioned that act as proof that graphic design began a lot earlier than we think.

Cave Paintings~ 38,000 BCE

Cave paintings have been found all over the world with characters painted on caves. These characters are found to be hand prints, animals and hunting. These show that even in those times people were interested in art.

Sumerian written language- 3300-3300 BCE

Sumerians are known to create the first ever written languages. These were most likely to record trader inventories to ensure that couriers aren’t stolen when being delivered.

These languages were logographic icons. Instead of phonetic sounds these icons were used to represent entire words through them.

This suggests that humans have the natural ability to build visual communication through icons, images, signs, etc and communicate complex ideas.

Advancements in Chinese printing 200 CE – 1040 CE

China has various records of printing discoveries including paper making, woodblock printing or movable type. It goes back to 200CE whenChina used wood blocks to print or stamp designs on silk clothes and on paper later on.

In 1040, the world’s printing press was made out of porcelain which was invented by Bi Sheng.

Medieval Calligraphy- 700s

In the Middle Ages, people started expanding their horizons to letters and words and thus typography took birth.

In islamic cultures, this typography was considered more precious because such art was seen as one of the few ways of artistic expression.

European Heraldry- ~1100

In the 1100s, coat of arms were the first symbols to be used and they represented family houses or territories. It is known that this was practiced at the time of Crusades. It helped in distinguishing soldiers from different countries or houses through armor or battle flags.

As logo do today, these house’s coat of arms represented values, characteristics and also the styles of people. After some time, emblems like wax seals became popular.

Storefront Signage- 1389

In the 14th century, beer and ale were used as alternatives to water due to deteriorating conditions in those times. At that time, the water was very polluted. King Richard II got signs printed out of ale houses so that they became easy to find.

Beginning of Graphic Design- Renaissance and Industrial Era

In the industrial era, recreating text and art became much easier and cheaper on a massive scale. Similar techniques were used in the shopping market to gain high profits.

Gutenberg Press- 1439

Johannes Gutenberg brought a movable type of printing press in Europe. Mass communication was introduced to western culture in this manner.

With this invention, people didn’t need to buy lengthy scholarly books which earlier were the only option. Now, this opportunity was also extended to masses as it became affordable.

Birth of logos- 1400s logo design

First logos came into existence in the 1400s. Printing industry was the first to make use of logo design. These were just used on their own documents.

In those times, it was a way to show off printing skills. The better the logo was printed, the better printing skills are.

First Print Advertising- 1620s

First printing advertising named Coranta was featured in the 1600s. These acted as a precursor of newspapers.

Chromolithography- 1837

Chromolithography is referred to as the ability to print in colour. As more and more technological advancements were made, the printing industry got advanced as well.

Chromolithography was used to create paintings for home decor and as well as for advertisements.

Brands then started using similar colour schemes to build emotional connection with their audience.

Chromolithography led to artistic usage of colours which added another important page to the graphic designing history.

Modern Era Graphic Designing

Modern era was the time when the graphic designing we are today aware started budding. This happened in the late 1800s until World War 2.

With new technological advancements, graphic designing evolved.

As competition increased and printing became a hugely common technology, designers and artists started innovating. This gave birth to advertising and branding of today.

First Graphic Design Agency- 1903

The Wiener Werkstätte was the first graphic design agency that was created in 1903. It contributed to design styles and business. It was an organization of painters, artists, architects, and graphic designers. This became a popular agency that set design standards for generations of artists. Also, the work that was done at this agency also set a stage for Bauhaus and Art Deco styles.

Staatliches Bauhaus- 1919

Bauhaus was another graphic designing agency that opened in Weimer, Germany in 1919. They had a goal of creating a Gesamtkunstwerk. It was to bring several artistic pieces together and create a perfect one from them. And they succeeded in creating such a piece.

Bauhaus derived the popularity of modernist style through its work.

Usage of term ‘Graphic Design’

The term ‘graphic design’  was first used by William Addison Dwiggins. In his article, ‘New Kind of Printing Calls for New Design’ on August 22,1919, this term was used for the first time in history. He described his role about creating and managing visuals on books through his article. At that time, it was difficult to explain to non-designers what designers did. This article was an attempt to solve this problem.

Graphic Designing- Digital Era

After the 1950s, the graphic designing that we use today actually began. Adobe Photoshop was created in 1990 and was a big step to modern graphic designing. Photography, illustration and CGI combined together to create a subcategory of graphic designing.