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THE HISTORY OF GRAPHIC DESIGN


There is a German word, Zeitgeist, that does not have an English equivalent. It means the spirit of the time, and refers to the cultural trends and tastes that are characteristic of a given era. The immediacy and ephemeral nature of graphic design, combined with its link with the social, political, and economic life of its culture, enable it to more closely express the Zeitgeist of an epoch than many other forms of human expression. Ivan Chermayeff, a noted designer, has said: the design of history is the history of design.


Speech---the ability to make sounds in order to communicate. Writing is visual counterpart of speech. Marks, symbols, pictures, or letters drawn or written upon a surface or substrate became a graphic counterpart of the spoken word or unspoken thought. Early Paleolithic cave paintings, Sumerian cuneiform, Egyptian hieroglyphics, and the Phoenician alphabet enabled society to stabilize itself and laws to be created. The Egyptians were the first people to produce illustrated manuscripts in which words and pictures were combined to communicate information. The invention of writing brought people the luster of civilization and made it possible to preserve hard-won knowledge, experiences, and thoughts.

the history of graphic design


Hall of the Bulls. Lascaux. c. 15,000 - 10,000 B.C. early Sumerian pictographic tablet The Rosetta Stone c. 197 - 196 B.C. Papyrus of Hunefer c. 1370 B.C. Code of Hammurabi c. 1800 B.C.

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An alphabet is a set of visual symbols or characters used to represent the elementary sounds of a spoken language. The hundreds of signs and symbols required by cuneiform and hieroglyphs were replaced by twenty or thirty easily learned elementary signs. The Minoan civilization that existed on the Mediterranean island of Crete ranks behind only Egypt and Mesopotamia in its early level of advancement in the ancient Western world. Minoan or Cretan picture symbols were in use as early as 2800 B.C. While the alphabet’s inventors are unknown, Northwest Semitic peoples of the western Mediterranean region are widely believed to be the source. The earliest surviving examples come from ancient Phoenicia, now Lebanon and parts

of Syria and Israel. The development of the alphabet may have been an act of geography, for the Phoenician city-states became a hub in the ancient world and the crossroads of international trade. They were able to absorb cuneiform from Mesopotamia in the west and Egyptian hieroglyphics and scripts from the south. The Phoenician alphabet was adopted by the ancient Greeks and spread through their city-states around 1000 B.C. The Greeks applied geometric structure and order to the uneven Phoenician characters, converting them into art forms of great harmony and beauty. This alphabet would eventually father the Etruscan, Latin, and Cyrillic alphabets and, through these ancestors, became the grandfather of alphabet systems used throughout the world today.

the history of graphic design


The Phaistos Disk Semitic tablet Timotheus. The Persians. 4th century B.C. Trajan’s column. capitalis monumentalis. A.D. 114 capitalis quadrata & capitalis rustica

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Legend holds that Tsang Chieh, who was inspired to invent writing by contemplating the claw marks of birds and footprints of animals, first wrote Chinese about 1800 B.C. Chinese characters are logograms, graphic signs that represent an entire word. The earliest known Chinese writing is called chiaku-wen script, which was followed by chin-wen script, Hsiao chuan, and chen-shu; of which has been in use for nearly

two thousand years. Dynastic records attribute the invention of paper to the eunuch and high governmental official Ts’ai Lun in A.D. 105. This process continued almost unchanged until papermaking was mechanized in the nineteenth century England. Printing, a major breakthrough in human history, was invented by the Chinese. Because of this, China became the first society in which ordinary people had daily contact with printed images. An early form of Chinese graphic

the history of graphic design

design and printing was playing cards. A benchmark in block printing—reproducing beautiful calligraphy with perfection—was established in China by A.D. 1000 and has never been surpassed. The Chinese contribution to the evolution of visual communications was formidable. During Europe’s thousand-year medieval period, China’s invention of paper and printing spread slowly westward, arriving in Europe just as the Renaissance began.


Chinese calligraphy. chin-wen inscribed oracle bone / shell Li Fangying. From “Album of Eight Leaves” The Diamond Sutra. A.D. 868

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All decorated and illustrated handwritten books produced from the late Roman Empire until printed books replaced manuscripts after typography was developed in Europe around A.D. 1450 are called illuminated manuscripts. Two notable traditions of manuscript illumination are the Eastern in Islamic countries and the Western in Europe, dating from classical antiquity. The use of visual embellishment to expand the word became very important, and illuminated manuscripts were produced with extraordinary care and design sensitivity. The invention of parchment, which was so much more durable than papyrus, and the codex format, which could take thicker paint because it did not have to be rolled, opened new possibilities for design and illustration. After the Western Roman Empire collapsed in A.D. 476, and era of dislocation and uncertainty ensued. Christian monasteries became the cultural, educational, and intellectual centers. Celtic design flourished and was abstract and extremely complex. Charlemagne’s Caroline miniscules of the ninth-century A.D. become the forerunner of our contemporary lowercase alphabet. During the 1200’s the rise of universities created an expanding market for books. Textura, a lettering style whose repetition of verticals capped with pointed serifs, became the dominant mode of Gothic lettering for scribes. During the same years when the Limbourg brothers were creating handmade books, a new means of visual communication—woodblock printing—appeared in Europe. The production of illuminated manuscripts continued through the fifteenth-century A.D. and even into the sixteenth-century, but this thousandyear-old craft, dating back to antiquity, was doomed to extinction by the typographic book.

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The Vatican Vergil. early 5th century A.D. The Book of Durrow. A.D. 680 The Book of Kells. Chi-Rho page A.D. 800 Ormesby Psalter. early 1300’s A.D.

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Xylography is the technical term for the relief printing from a raised surface. Typography is the term for printing with independent, movable, and reusable bits of metal or wood, each of which has a raised letterform on one face. The invention of typography ranks near the creation of writing as one of the most important advances in civilization. Several factors created a climate in Europe that made typography feasible. The demand for books had become insatiable. The emerging literate middle class and students in the rapidly expanding universities had seized the monopoly on literacy from the clergy, creating a vast new market for reading material. The slow and expensive process of bookmaking had changed little in one thousand years. The value of a book was equal to the value of a farm or vineyard. Papermaking had made its way to Europe by now, so a plentiful substrate was available. Early European block printing, movable typography, and copperplate engraving, marked milestones in bookmaking technology of this time.

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Jack of Diamonds. woodblock playing card. 1400 A.D. woodblock of St. Christopher 1423 A.D. Biblia Pauperum 1465 A.D. Jost Amman. woodcut for Standebuch 1568 A.D.

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The Latin word incunabula means “cradle” or “baby linen.” Its connotations of birth and beginnings caused seventeenth-century writers to adopt it as a name for books printed from Gutenberg’s invention of typography until the end of the fifteenth-century. By 1480 twenty-three European towns, thirty-one Italian towns, seven French towns, six Spanish and Portuguese towns, and one English town had presses. Typography is the major communications advance between the invention of writing and twentieth-century electronic mass communications; it played a pivotal role in the social, economic, and religious upheavals that occurred during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Design innovation took place in Germany, where woodcut artists and typographic printers collaborated to develop the illustrated book and broadsheet. German style traditionally focused on Gothic text, and complex realistic woodcut illustrations in primarily black and white,

with some color added in later as highlights. German artists and printers transferred the craft to England, France, and Spain. Because printing required a huge capital investment and large trained labor force, Nuremberg, Germany became the center for printing and housed Germany’s most esteemed printer, Anton Koberger. The broadsheet—a single leaf of paper printed on both sides—became a major means for information dissemination from the invention of printing until the middle of the nineteenth century. Italy employed its own printers in 1465 A.D., France in 1470, and Spain in 1473. During the remarkable first decades of typography, German printers and graphic artists established a national tradition of the illustrated book and spread the new medium of communication throughout Europe and even to the New World. At the same time, a cultural renaissance emerged in Italy and swept graphic design in unprecedented new directions.

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Philippe Pigouchet. Horae Beatus Virginis 1498 A.D. Albrecht Durer. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse 1498 A.D. Auerswald’s Ringer-Kunst 1539 A.D. Albrecht Durer. Nuremberg Chronicle 1493 A.D.

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It was Venice who led the way in Italian typographic book design. Renaissance designers loved floral decoration. The book continued to be collaboration between the typographic printer and the illuminator. The printing press eliminated the manuscript, but gave new jobs to calligraphers that now taught people how to read and write. During this time, there was a bit of conflict due to the church trying to control the flow of information. Erhard Ratdolt changed the initials and borders into design elements when making layouts instead of just decoration, and was famous for the three-sided border. One primer artist of the Aldine Press, Griffo was a typeface designer and punch cutter. He researched older styles to produce a more accurate Roman type font. Aldus Manutius influenced typefaces such as Garamond, and also invented the idea of a small pocket book. Geoffrey Troy was an illuminator, typesetter, and all around artist. He made stylebooks that influenced the style of type for years to come. Claude Garamond is the father of the font Garamond that is still used today; characterized by its ease of readability. Christophe Plantine tried using copper sheets instead of woodcuts, changing the way in which printing was done. The first printing press was set up in North America was by Stephan and Mathew Daye, sparking affordable printing in the colonies.

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Geoffroy Troy. Champ Fleury 1529 Geoffroy Troy. Les heures de Jean Lallemant 1506 Johann Oporinus. De Humani Corporis Fabrica 1543

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This era is characterized by a simultaneous standardization and increase in creativity. For the longest time typesets were proprietary to the press they were intended to be used on. Fournier le Jeune changed all of this by instituting a standardization method. King Louis the XIV also wanted this and established the royal printing office. The result was a mathematically designed font called Romain du Roi, the official type of the royal family. The fanciful French art and architecture that flourished from about 1720 until around 1770 was called rococo. Florid and intricate, rococo ornament is composed of S and C curves with scrollwork, tracery, and plant forms derived from nature, classical and oriental art, and even medieval sources. William Playfair designed information graphics by using Rene Descartes’ Cartesian plane with its x and y-axis. Type and design ideas were imported across the English Channel from Holland until a native genius emerged in the person of William Caslon. This man designed almost all of the fonts that were used exclusively in Britain for almost sixty years. While his designs were not as dramatic, fashionable, or innovative as some, they were easily readable and legible making them “comfortable”. Another typographer, John Baskerville was involved in all elements of book making, he made a ton of money selling “Japaned” wares and returned to typography. His style is a bridge between the old style and the modern type design, and the font still bears his name today. John was obsessed with perfection and developed new inks and other improvements for the press. Giambattista Bondi was a private printer who started the trend of clean and very balanced modern page layout. Bondi focused on perfection cleanliness and an over all mechanical precision of his works. Fancoise Didot invented a more efficient means of printing in which individually type set letters were used not to make a print but to make a single plate which was then used in the press. This technique was called stereotyping. William Blake designed illustrations that incorporated the letterforms into the illustration. His new style of free flowing illustrations however was not as widely accepted and he died poor.

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As the Industrial Revolution shifts into place, capitalism, mass production, and how advertising plays a key role in attracting customers and pushing products all emerge. French and American revolutions lead to better education amongst people, and graphic communication became very important. A parade of new technologies floods the nineteenth century with more type and fonts, the advent of photography and the ability to print photographs. New categories of typeface designs emerged ranging from novelty poster fonts, to functional san serifs. There were several new innovations in typography, including Cotterell, Jackson, and Thorne’s “fat faces,” the Egyptian style typefaces and 3D fonts, and the use of sans-serif fonts. American printer Darius Wells introduced wooden types to replace metal type molds for printing. They were half the cost and offered far more flexibility than casting metal molds. This led to a surge in advertising producing work posters, handbills, ads and more. As the demand for printing rose, something had to be done to maximize its efficiency, so Friedrich Koenig devised the steam press. Improvements were made and eventually 4,000 sheets per hour could be produced. Paper was mass- produced and supplied by Henry and Sealy Fourdrinier, whose idea is still in use today. Mergenthaler invents the linotype in 1886, and the machine could do the work of 8-hand composers and led to a surge in production, the lower costs of books, and new types of papers. At the same time, Joseph Niepce became the first person to produce a photographic image. Talbot was also working on his own methods of photography and first produced camera less shadow images called “calotype” style to be used in the camera obscura. Fredrick Archer introduced a wet plate idea that was far superior that the previous two, which went into the first camera. George Eastman introduces the Kodak camera to the public in 1888 and gave everyone the ability to capture images. As far as American editorial and advertising design, the Harpers brothers became the largest printing and publishing company in the world shortly after its creation in the early 1800’s. Thomas Nast was hired and went on to produce some of the most popularized woodcuts and was seen as the father of American political cartooning. The golden age of American illustration ran from the 1890’s to the 1940’s. Volney Palmer in Philadelphia opened the first ad agency in 1841.

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Daguerre. daguerreotype 1839 The Pencil of Nature 1844 Joseph Niepce. photolithographic print 1822 The first steam-powered cylinder press 1814

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As the nineteenth century wore on, the quality of book design and production became a casualty of the Industrial Revolution, with a few notable exceptions, such as the books by the English publisher William Pickering. Pickering played an important role in the separation of graphic design from printing production
, which this led him to commission new woodblock ornaments, initials and illustrations. His edition of “The Elements of Euclid” was a landmark in book design, using geometric shapes with primary colors within the text making it easier for readers to understand. The Arts and Craft movement took over England; this was an action against the social, moral and artistic confusion of the Industrial Revolution. Design had to return to handcrafted works, no more massproduced goods. The leader of this movement, William Morris, wanted to point toward the union of art and labor in service to society. Arthur H. Mackmurdo led a group called the Century Guild, whose goal was “to render all branches of art the sphere, no longer of the tradesmen, but of the artist.” Mackmurdo was the forerunner for the private press movement and the renaissance of book design. He anticipated art nouveau as well
--and sought out to regain the design standards of high-quality materials and careful craftsmanship. The Hobby Horse was the first 1880s periodical to introduce the British Arts and Craft viewpoints to a European audience
. The Century Guild disbanded in 1888. Morris studied large prints of Nicolas Jenson’s letterforms and drew them over and over. Punches were made and type founding of “Golden” began at the Kelmscott Press. At this location, Morris recaptured the beauty of incunabula books and taught that design could bring art to the working class, although the Kelmscott Press books were only available to the wealthy. Charles Ashbee founded the Guild of Handicraft in hopes of restoring the holistic experience of apprenticeship, which had been destroyed by the subdivision of labor and machine production. This school unified the teaching of design and theory with workshop experience. Able neither to secure state support nor to compete with the state-aided technical schools, the School of Handicraft finally closed January 1895. The Guild of Handicraft though, inspired by both socialism and the Arts and Crafts movement, flourished as a cooperative where workers shared in governance and profits. A vigorous revitalization of typography had been awakened and the passion for Victorian typefaces started to decline as imitations of Kelmscott typefaces were followed by revivals of other classical typeface designs. Garamond, Plantin, Caslon, Baskerville, and Bodoni— these typeface designs of past masters were studied, recut, and offered for hand and keyboard composition during the first three decades of the twentieth century. The long-range effect of Morris was a significant upgrading of book design and typography throughout the world, and continuing a century after his death.

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An increase in trade and communication between Asian and European countries in the nineteenth century caused a cultural collision; both cultures changed as a result. Asian art provided European and North American artists and designers with new approaches to space, color, drawing conventions, and subject matter that were radically unlike Western traditions. This revitalized graphic design during the last decade of the nineteenth century. Ukiyo-e means “pictures of the floating world” and defines an art movement of Japan’s Tokugawa period. Earliest works of this time were screen paintings depicting the entertainment districts called “the floating world” of Edo (modern
Tokyo) and other cities. Artists embraced the woodblock print. Hishikawa Moronobu was respected as the first master of the ukiyo-e print. Art Nouveau was an international decorative style that thrived during the two decades (1890-1910) that guided the turn of the century. Art Nouveau encompassed all the design arts; architecture, 
furniture
, product design, fashion, and
 graphics. The identifying visual quality of Art Nouveau is an organic, plantlike line. It is a transitional style that evolved from the historicism that dominated design for 
most of the nineteenth century. During the period there was a close collaboration between visual artists and 
writers. The new Freedom of the Press law led to a booming poster industry of designers, printers, and afficheurs. The streets became an art gallery for the nation.
 Even the poorest worker saw his environment transformed by images and color. English Art Nouveau was primarily concerned with graphic design and illustration rather than architectural or product design. Art Nouveau arrived in Germany where it was called “Jugendstil” (young style) after a new magazine, Jugend (youth). Jugenstil had strong British and French influences.

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The turn of the century invites retrospection. As one century closes and a new one begins, writers and artists begin to question conventional wisdom and speculate on new possibilities for changing the circumstances of culture. As the nineteenth century drew to a close and the twentieth century began, designers across the disciplines of architectural, fashion, graphic, and product design searched for new forms of expression. Art nouveau proved that inventing new forms, rather than copying forms from nature or historical models, was a viable approach. A new aesthetic and design philosophy moved away from the beauty of organic drawing. In need of addressing the changes in social, economic, and cultural conditions because of the turn of the century, Frank Lloyd Wright became at the forefront of the emerging modern movement. “The Four,� Charles Mackintosh, J. Herbert McNair, Margaret Macdonald, and Frances Macdonald met and collaborated creating the Glasgow School and developing a unique style. The Vienna Secession came into being on April 3rd of 1897, when the younger members of the Kunstlerhaus resigned in a stormy protest. This became a countermovement to the floral art nouveau that flourished in other parts of Europe. Peter Behrens played a major role in charting a course for design in the first decade of the new century. He sought typographic reform, was an early advocate of sans-serif type, and used a grid system to structure space in his layouts. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, pioneering designers in Germany, Scotland, and Austria broke with art nouveau to chart new directions in response to personal and societal needs. Their concern for spatial relationships, inventive form, and functionality formed the groundwork for design in the new century.

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The first two decades of the twentieth century were a time of ferment and change that radically altered all aspects of the human condition. The social, political, cultural, and economic character of life was caught in fluid upheaval. In Europe, monarchy was replaced by democracy, socialism, and communism. Technology and scientific advances transformed commerce and industry. The motorcar and the airplane radically altered transportation. The motion picture and wireless radio transmission foretold a new era of human communications. Beginning in 1908 with the Turkish revolution that restored constitutional government and the Bulgarian declaration of independence, colonized and subjugated peoples began to awaken and demand independence. The slaughter during the first of two global wars, fought with the destructive weapons of technology, shook the traditions and institutions of Western civilization to their foundations. Amidst this turbulence, it is not surprising that visual art and design experienced a series of creative revolutions that questioned long-held values and approaches to organizing space as well as the role of art and design in society. The traditional objective view of the world was shattered. The representation of external appearances did not fulfill the needs and vision of the emerging European avant-garde. Elemental ideas about color and form, social protest, and the expression of Freudian theories and deeply personal emotional states occupied many artists. Cubism and futurism, Dada and surrealism, De Stijl, suprematism, constructivism, and expressionism directly influenced the graphic language of form and visual communications in this century.

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The Beggarstaff brothers, James Pryde and William Nicholson opened an advertising agency in 1894 creating a new technique called collage where individual pieces were cut out and moved around to create the desired look. This resulted in flat planes of color. Their Kassama corn flour was artistically successful but a financial disaster. The reductive, flat color design school that emerged in Germany early in the twentieth century is called Plakastil or “poster style.” Its style included strong color panels, large typography, simple images, with a focus on brand name. After WWI, the nations of Europe and North America sought to return to normalcy. The war machinery was turned toward peacetime needs, and a decade of unprecedented prosperity dawned for the victorious Allies. Faith in the machine and technology was at an all time high. This ethic gained expression through art and design. The term art deco is used to identify popular geometric works of the 1920’s and 1930’s. To some extent an extension of art nouveau, it signifies a major aesthetic sensibility in graphics, architecture, and product design during the decades between the two world wars. Streamlining, zigzag, moderne, and decorative geometry—these attributes were used to express the modern era of the machine while still satisfying a passion for decoration.

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During the postwar years, when Kauffer and Cassandre were applying synthetic cubism’s planes to the poster in England and France, a formal typographic approach to graphic design emerged in Holland and Russia, where artists saw clearly the implications of cubism. Visual art could move beyond the threshold of pictorial imagery into the invention of pure form. Ideas about form and composing space from the new painting and sculpture were quickly applied to problems of design. Frank Lloyd Wright, the Glasgow group, the Vienna Secession, Adolf Loos, and Peter Behrens were all moving a heartbeat ahead of modern painting in their consciousness of plastic volume and geometric form at the turn of the century. A spirit of innovation was present in art and design, and new ideas were in abundance. By the end of World War I, graphic designers, architects, and product designers were energetically challenging prevailing notions about form and function.

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The Bauhaus was the logical consequence of a German concern for design in industrial society that began in the opening years of the century. Aldous Huxley wrote in 1928, “It is obvious, that the machine is here to stay. Whole armies of William Morrises and Tolstoys could not now expel it. Let us then exploit them to create beauty—a modern beauty, while we are about it.” Ideas from all the advanced art and design movements were explored, combined, and applied to problems of functional design and machine production. Twentieth-century furniture, architecture, product design, and graphics were shaped by the work of its faculty and students, and a modern design aesthetic emerged. Started by Walter Gropius, who combined the fine arts school Weimar Art Academy with applied arts school Weimar Arts & Crafts School to form the Bauhaus school. Students were taught how to build things, and also technical knowledge such as the use of space. No distinction was made between the two styles. In 1933 the school’s faculty members included: Walter Gropius, Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, Johannes Itten, Lyonel Feininger, Van Doesburg, Oscar Schlemmer, Joost Schmidt, and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy.

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The modern movement did not gain an early foothold in the United States. When the fabled 1913 armory show introduced modernism to America, it generated a storm of protest and provoked public rejection of modern art and design. Modernist European design did not become a significant influence in America until the 1930’s. American graphic design in the 1920’s and 1930’s was dominated by traditional illustration. However, the modern approach slowly gained ground on several fronts: book design, editorial design for fashion and business magazines catering to affluent audiences, and promotional and corporate graphics. When Tschichold’s “Elementare Typographie” insert was publicized in American advertising and graphic art venues, it caused considerable excitement and turmoil. Most disliked this new idea, but a small number of American typographers and designers recognized the vitality and functionalism of the new ideas. In 1928 and 1929 new typeface designs, including Futura and Kabel, became available in America, spurring the modern movement forward.

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During the 1950’s a design movement emerged from Switzerland and Germany that has been called Swiss design, or the International Typographic Style. The objective clarity of this design movement won converts throughout the world. It remained a major force for over two decades, and its influence continues into the twenty-first century. The visual characteristics of this international style include a unity of design achieved by asymmetrical organization of the design elements on a mathematically constructed grid; objective photography and copy that present visual and verbal information in a clear and factual manner, free from the exaggerated claims of propaganda and commercial advertising; and the use of sans-serif typography set in a flush-left and ragged-right margin

configuration. The initiators of this movement believed sans serif typography expresses the spirit of a more progressive age and that mathematical grids are the most legible and harmonious means for structuring information. More important than the visual appearance of this work is the attitude developed by its early pioneers about their profession. These trailblazers defined design as a socially useful and important activity. Personal expression and eccentric solutions were rejected, while a more universal and scientific approach to design problem solving was embraced. In this paradigm, the designers define their roles not as artists but as objective conduits for spreading important information between components of society. Achieving clarity and order is the ideal.

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Talented European immigrants seeking to escape the political climate of totalitarianism imported the first wave of modern design in America. The 1940’s saw steps toward an original American approach to modernist design. While borrowing freely from the work of European designers, Americans added new forms and concepts. European design was often theoretical and highly structured; American design was pragmatic, intuitive, and less formal in its approach to organizing space. Just as Paris had done in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, New York City assumed that role during the middle of the twentieth century. The city nurtured creativity and the prevailing climate attracted individuals of great talent and enabled them to realize their potential. Paul Rand initiated the American approach to modern design. Alvin Lustig, Bradbury Thompson, Saul Bass, Doyle Dayne Bernbach, and Herb Lubalin were also big players during this time.

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The technological advances made during World War II were immense. After the war, productive capacity turned toward consumer goods, and many believed that the outlook for the capitalist economic structure could be be unending economic expansion and prosperity. This development appeared closely linked to the era’s increasingly important corporations, and the more perceptive corporate leaders comprehended the need to develop a corporate image and identity for diverse audiences. Design was seen as a major way to shape a reputation for quality and reliability. William Golden’s CBS trademark, Paul Rand’s IBM, Westinghouse, and ABC logo, Chermayeff & Geismar Associates Chase Manhattan Bank of New York, Saul Bass’ trademark for Minolta and Bell, Muriel Cooper, Times New Roman, and the MTV logo have gained increased importance as the world entered the information age. In the last half of the twentieth century, visual identity gained increased importance as the world entered the information age. Complex international events, large governmental entities, and multinational corporations required complex design systems developed by graphic designers to manage information flow and visual identity. While accomplishing these goats, design systems can also create a spirit or resonance helping to express and define the very nature of the large organization or events. The identity of a large organization can be created or redefined by designed.

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After World War II, the conceptual image in graphic design was introduced. Images conveyed not merely narrative information but ideas and concepts. The illustrator interpreting a writer’s text yielded to the graphic imagist making a statement. A new breed of image-maker was concerned with the total design of the space and the integration of word and image. The entire history of visual arts was available to graphic artists as a library of potential forms and images. Particularly, inspiration was gained from the advance of twentieth-century art movements: the spatial configurations of cubism; the juxtapositions, dislocations, and scale changes of surrealism; the pure color loosened from natural reference by expressionism and fauvism; and the recycling of massmedia images by pop art. Graphic artists had greater opportunity for self-expression, created more personal images, and pioneered individual styles and techniques. The traditional boundaries became the fine arts and public visual communications became blurred.

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By the 1970’s many believed the modern era was drawing to a close in art, design, politics, and literature. The cultural norms of Western society were scrutinized, and the authority of traditional institutions was questioned. People in many fields embraced the term postmodernism to express a climate of cultural change. These included architects, economists, feminists, and even theologians. Maddeningly vague and overused, postmodernism became a byword in the last quarter of the twentieth century. In design, postmodernism designated the work of architects and designers who were breaking with the international style so prevalent since the Bauhaus. Postmodern challenged the order and clarity of modern design, particularly corporate design. Supermannerism and supergraphics were terms coined to discuss anything that broke away from the modern style. These styles featured bold geographic shapes and colors. And could be seen in design not only for print but in architecture as well. The term postmodernism does not tell the whole story, because graphic design is too diverse to fit such a simplistic system. Graphic design, rapidly changing and ephemeral, was never dominated by the international style the way architecture was. Postmodern graphic design can be loosely categorized as moving in several major directions: the early extensions of the International Typographic Style by Swiss designers who broke with the statements of the movement; new-wave typography, which began in Basel, Switzerland, through the teaching of Wolfgang Weingart; the lively mannerism of the early 1980’s, with significant contributions from the Memphis group and San Francisco designers; retro, the European vernacular and modern design from the decades between world wars; and the electronic revolution spawned by the Macintosh computer in the late 1980’s, which drew upon all of the earlier pushes.

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the history of graphic design

History of Graphic Design  

history of graphic design timeline by jacob shourd

History of Graphic Design  

history of graphic design timeline by jacob shourd

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