the history of
the history of
table of contents
chapter one chapter two chapter three chapter four chapter five chapter six references
7 15 22 30 42 54 62
early writing systems Cuneiform Cuneiform tablet from Drehem, 2540 BCE
By this time, civilization was beginning to arise in Mesopotamia. Tools and weapons were starting to be made, and agriculture was just beginning. The Sumerian people arrived in Mesopotamia, and with their arrival, the change from “village culture” to “high civilization” started to occur. The Sumerians also had a system of gods, and religion became extremely important to the Mesopotamian civilization. Writing possibly evolved because of the need for religious and economic record keeping. Early records were kept on clay tablets, as clay was abundant in the area. An
early writing form called Cuneiform evolved from pictographs into abstract signs. As the Mesopotamian culture fell, Egypt became more prominent. Egyptian hieroglyphs were largely made up of pictographs, and at times used these pictographs to depict sounds or consonants. Papyrus scrolls were created out of the papyrus plants that grew along the Nile River, which led
to further evolution of hieroglyphs. Scribes simplified the earlier carefully drawn pictographs into much simpler symbols. Ancient Egyptians were fixated on death and strongly believed in the afterlife, so they produced a lot of illustrate manuscripts, which combined words and pictures to convey a message. Ancient Egyptian culture lasted for over three thousand years. Mesopotamian cuneiform and the hieroglyphs of the Egyptians eventually lead to the development of alphabets in other cultures.
Egyptian Drawing of the Sarcophagus of Aspalta, King of Nubia, c. 593-568 BCE
alphabets Greek Timotheus, “The Persians,” papyrus manuscript, fourth century BCE
The Greeks adopted the Phoenician alphabet around 1000 BCE, and over time developed it into what we now call the Greek alphabet. The Greek alphabet was adapted in different regions until around 400 BCE when Athens started using a version that became the standard. A “cultural renaissance” occurred around 700 BCE, and included accom-
plishments such as Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, stone architecture, and Athens moving toward a republican government. Athens eventually began to practice democracy, and the alphabet played a huge role in citizens’ voting. The Greek alphabet came to Rome by way of the Etruscans, and like everything else Greek, the Romans changed it to make
Roman Carved inscription from the base of Trajanâ€™s Column, c. 114 CE
(Top) Capitalis quadrata from a manuscript, Vergil, c. 400 CE
(Bottom) Capitalis rustica from a manuscript, Vergil, c. 400 CE
it conform to Roman society. They added new letters and serifs. Ancient Romans mainly used this alphabet for political campaigns and propaganda, as well as notices and advertising announcements. Romeâ€™s alphabet became the basis for most languages in the Western world.
asian contribution The Chinese also developed their own writing system, calligraphy, which had nothing to do with the way the language was spoken, unlike the alphabets in the Western world. The Chinese system evolved a lot through the years, until a final development into “chen-shu” style, which has been in continuous use for two thousand years. They originally wrote
on bamboo slats until the invention of paper in 105 CE by Ts’ai Lun. His process for making paper was used until papermaking became mechanized in England in the nineteenth century. The Chinese also invented printing, with rubbings, reliefs, and eventually woodblock printing. In woodblock printing, the wood around each character is cut away. A Chinese alchemist named Pi Sheng developed the concept of movable type. Moveable type never became a widely used technique in Asia, but it was a concept that would later be used by the inventor of the printing press.
Woodblock Printing Pages from the Pen ts’ao, 1249 CE
illuminated manuscripts Sacred texts held a lot of meaning for Christians, Jews, and Muslims during this time. Illuminated manuscripts used visuals to help “expand the word” and were made with extreme care. With the invention of parchment and the codex format, there were new possibilities for design and illustration. Parchment was much more durable than its predecessor, papyrus. The codex format was similar to what we know as a book today, so the parchment didn’t have to be rolled and paint could be applied more thickly. Christian religious writings became the main purpose of creating these books, and monks cre-
Spanish Commemorative labyrinth from Pop Gregory’s Moralia in Job, 945 CE
Celtic The Book of Kells, the Chi-Rho page, 794-806 CE
Islamic Islamic illuminated manuscript, 13th-19th century
Late Medieval Limbourg Brothers, page from Les tres riches heures du duc de Berry, 1413-1416
ated most of them. Other religions eventually made similar books. The creation of illuminated manuscripts lasted over a thousand years, and different styles emerged over that time. By the end of the medieval period, woodblock printing was beginning to appear in Europe. Moveable type appeared in the West not long after, and since it was much easier to print a book than to letter the entire thing by hand, the production of illuminated manuscripts faded away.
rise of printing in europe
Broadsides Lucas Cranach the Younger, broadside, 1551
Johann Gutenberg, page from the Gutenberg Bible, 1450-55
By the 1400s in Europe, the demand for books was high. Paper was now being produced, and block printing had made its way to Europe and was now in common practice. The concept of movable type came around, but the type was made out of wood and therefore didnâ€™t last very long. Johann Gutenberg introduced movable type created from metal and his printing press around 1450. With the introduction of this new technology, mass communication became much easier. By 1500, 1.9 million books and religious tracts had been produced, leading directly to the Christian Reformation and the Protestant
Aldine Press Aldus Manutius, Printer’s Trademark, c. 1500
Copperplate Engraving The Master of the Playing Cards, “The Three Birds,” c. 1450
German Illustrated Book Anton Koberger, page from the Nuremberg Chronicle, 1493
French Printing Geoffroy Tory, from Champ Fleury, 1529
Claude Garamond, Garamond typeface
movement. Nearly all of this early moveable type was still in a Textura style, imitating the handwriting of the earlier Illuminated Manuscripts. As the Renaissance progressed, a more Roman style type began to appear, including those by Claude Garamond and Geoffroy Tory. During this time, copperplate engraving also replaced woodcut printing as the major technique to create illustrations.
typography in the 18th century France Louis Simonneua, Master alphabets for the Romain du Roi, c. 1700
Rococo Pierre Simon Fournier le Jeune. pages from Manuel Typographique,â€? 1764
William Caslon, broadside type specimen, 1734.
Information Graphics William Playfair, Chart no. 1 from A Letter on Our Agricultural Distresses, 1822
John Baskerville, title page for John Milton’s Paradise Lost, 1760
At this time in France, the wealthy were “unaware” of the general public who lived in poverty. King Louis XIV was interested in printing, and had the Romain du Roi created to be used for official royal printing. Many other typefaces were used during this time as well, but there was no universal sizing for them yet. Pierre Simon Fournier le Jeune began to try to standardize type sizes when he published his Table of Proportions, measured in “pouce,” which is a little bit longer than an inch. In England, there was a civil
Giambattista Bodoni. pages from Manuale Tipografico, 1818
war happening, along with religious persecution and government control of printing. Still, English typefaces appeared, including Caslon, Baskerville, and Bodoni, all of which are still commonly used today. Information graphics also started to appear during this time, thanks to RenĂŠ Descartes who used algebra to solve geometry and invented the Cartesian grid. William Playfair used this grid to make statistical data into symbolic graphs.
Pierre Didot, title page for Vergilâ€™s Bucolica, Georgica, et Aeneis, 1798
Egyptian Vincent Figgins, Two lines pica, Antique, c. 1815
Tuscan Vincent Figgins, Tuscanstyle letters, 1815
3-D Vincent Figgins, In Shade, 1815
Fat-Face Robert Thorne, fat-face types, 1821
During the Industrial Revolution, there were many social and economic changes, along with changes in technology. The steam engine was introduced, along with electricity and gas powered engines. Factories became a common workplace and assembly lines started. The standard of liv-
Reversed William Thorowgood, Reversed Egyptian Italic, 1828
3-D Vincent Figgins, In Shade, 1815
industrial revolution ing increased, though most people were overworked. This was a period when humans showed their domination over nature. Handicrafts almost disappeared during this time. There was more public education and literacy available to people now, which led to a high demand for mass communication. Type design was developed massively over the course of the Industrial Revolution. Many new kinds of typefaces were introduced, including Fat-Face, Egyptian (also known as Antique or Slab-serif), Tuscan, 3-D, Reversed, and the very first sansserif. New printing methods were also introduced. William
Photography Louis Jacques Daguerre, “Paris Boulevard,” 1839
Cowper patented a new kind of press, using curved plates wrapped around a cylinder, which could produce 2400 impressions per hour. In 1827, Cowper and his partner Ambrose Applegrath were commissioned to create a fourcylinder steam-powered press. This press could print 4000 sheets per hour, double-sided. A paper making machine was introduced in Frogmore, England, which poured a suspension of fiber and water onto a vibrating wire-mesh conveyor belt, producing an unending sheet of paper. Ottmar Mergenthaler introduced his automatic typesetting machine, the Linotype, in 1886. Photography was developed during this time as well. Joseph Niépce figured out a way to
transfer images onto a printing plate using light sensitive materials, which was further refined by Louis Jacques Daguerre with his daguerreotypes. In 1871, John Calvin Moss introduced a photoengraving method for making line artwork into metal letterpress plates, which eventually evolved into halftone printing. Another new printing method called lithography was introduced. Lithography is based on the principle that oil and water don’t mix. This process further developed into chromolithography, which gave the ability to print in full color for the first time.
Morris Pére et Fils (letterpress printers) and Emile Levy (lithographer), “Cirque d’hiver” poster, 1871
The Victorian Era began in 1837 and lasted around 2/3 of the 19th century. The people during this time had strong moral and religious beliefs and were extremely optimistic. Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert came up with an idea of a large exhibition with exhibitors from all industrial nations. This idea led to the Great Exhibition of 1851, where 6 million visitors saw 13,000 exhibitors and their advancements in technology. In design, there was a love of complex ornament. Since chromolithography now existed, it became the norm to print in color with lots of de-
Richard G. Tietze, Harper’s Magazine, 1883
tail. Chromolithography gave designers absolute freedom. This was also the era of pictorial magazines. Harper and Brothers, a publishing firm in New York, published the first pictorial magazine, Harperâ€™s Magazine, which contained serialized fiction and woodcut illustrations, in 1850. This launched the golden age of American illustration. During this time, the amount of magazines published grew from 800 to 5000 nationwide.
arts and crafts movement Arthur H. Mackmurdo, title page for Wrenâ€™s City Churches, 1883
William Morris, title page spread from The Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1895
Selwyn Image, title page to the Century Guild Hobby Horse, 1884
During the end of the nineteenth century in England, the quality of the design and production of books became worse and worse. Some people started to view the mass-produced goods of the Victorian era as “cheap and nasty.” The Arts and Crafts Movement appeared as a reaction to this. Writer and artist John Ruskin believed that art and labor could be united in service to society. This heavily influenced William Morris, who started a art-decorating firm with six of his friends. Morris became a pattern designer for wallpapers, textiles, carpets, and tapestries. Arthur H.
Frederic W. Goudy, page 45 from American Type Founders’ Specimen Book and Catalogue, 1923
Mackmurdo was inspired by Morris’s ideas when they met. Mackmurdo formed a group called the Century Guild in 1882, whose goal was to elevate design arts’ reputation to the same level as paintings and sculptures. They published a magazine called the Century Guild Hobby Horse, which contained the work of guild members, and was the first magazine to ever be dedicated solely to visual arts. The Hobby Horse was used to spread the Arts and Crafts Movement around Europe. The Century Guild disbanded in 1888, but it influenced the Private Press Movement and Art Nouveau.
Ukiyo-e Kitagawa Utamaro, portrait of a courtesan, late 1700s
Art Nouveau Alphonse Mucha, poster for Job cigarette papers, 1898
Ando Hiroshige, â€œEvening Squall at Great Bridge near Atake,â€? 1856-59
During the late 19th century, trade and communication between the Eastern and Western world became more influential to each other due to an increase in trade and communication. When Japanese art, Ukiyo-e, made its way to the West, Europeans became obsessed with the style. Europeans came to be obsessed with its flat colors and abstractions, and the style came to be known as Japonisme. In 1881, a law was passed in Paris that
Aubrey Beardsley, illustrations for Salome by Oscar Wilde, 1894
allowed posters to be hung anywhere in the city other than at churches, polls, and sites designated for official notices. Many thought that applied arts were equal to traditional arts, due to the Arts and Crafts movement of the recent past, and so the streets became an art gallery. Japonisme also highly influenced these posters, which used organic lines, flat colors, and different subject matter than traditional art. This style became known as Art Nouveau. Art Nouveau artists, including Alphonse Mucha, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Henri van de Velde, and Peter Behrens, attempted to make art a part of everyday life. They no longer looked to the past for inspiration, making Art Nouveau the beginning of the modern movement. Art Nouveau soon spread around the world, including Germany, where it was called Jugendstil, after the new magazine Jugend which was published there starting in 1896.
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, â€œLa Goulue au Moulin Rouge,â€? 1891
Peter Behrens, â€œThe Kiss,â€? 1898
Henri van de Velde, poster for Tropon food concentrate, 1899
modernism America Frank Lloyd Wright, â€œFallingwater,â€? 1935
Many things began to influence design in the early twentieth century. It was a time of a lot of turmoil, with both World Wars and the Great Depression happening in the first half of the century. There were a lot of developments technologically including the introduction of automobiles, airplanes, and new forms of communication. Frank Lloyd Wright became an inspiration for designers due to his rectilinear approach to architecture after the curvilinear approach of Art Nouveau. He believed that the form of any design should support its function. Many important ideas that affected graphic design were
Scotland Margaret McDonald, bookplate design, 1896
Vienna Secession Peter Behrens, AEG trademark and colatteral, 1907-1908
Vienna Secession Kolomon Moser, cover for Ver Sacrum, 1899
Influence of Modern Art Marcel Duchamp, “The Fountain,” 1917
Pictorial Modernism E. McKnight Kauffer, poster for The Daily Herald, 1918
De Stijl Piet Mondrian, Composition with Red, Yellow, and Blue, 1922
introduced during this time, including the grid system and consistent visual identity, both championed by Peter Behrens. There were many art movements during this time that highly influenced graphic design, including Cubism, Futurism, Dada, and Surrealism. With these movements, artists were no longer looking to the past for inspiration, an idea which led to Modernism in graphic design. All of these things had a profound influence on graphic design.
Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, typophoto poster for tires, 1923
The Bauhaus opened in Weimer, Germany, on April 12, 1919. World War I had recently ended and Germany was still in a time of conflict. The school wanted to unite art and technology and to form a new world order. They believed there was no difference between applied arts and visual arts. The German government disliked the Bauhaus and demanded that they have an exhibition to showcase their accomplishments in 1923, which led to the school being acclaimed internationally. The Bauhaus published a magazine and a series of fourteen books, which helped
Herbert Bayer, Bauhaus brochure cover, 1929
to spread their ideas about art and its application to architecture and design. Due to tension with the government, the Bauhaus moved to Dessau in 1924, where the Nazis eventually forced it to close. A brief attempt was made to move the school to Berlin, but the Nazis once again made it close, this time for good. Most of the faculty left the country. Many of them came to the United States, including Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, who formed the New Bauhaus in Chicago, known today as The Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology.
the new typography
Jan Tschichold, cover for Elementare Typographie insert, 1925
Jan Tschichold applied new approaches developed in the modern art movements and at the Bauhaus to everyday design. He designed an insert for the magazine Typographische Mitteilungen called “Elementare Typographie” that explained asymmetrical typography to printers, typesetters, and designers. He published his book Die neue Typographie (The New Typography) in 1928. In it, he claimed that all typographic work should aim
Eric Gill. “Gill Sans type family.” 1828-30
to deliver the message in the shortest, most efficient way possible. He was an advocate for sans-serif typefaces. Many others became passionate about The New Typography, and many new typefaces were introduced, including Gill Sans, Futura, and Times New Roman.
Paul Renner, Futura typefaces, 1927-1930
Rudolf Koch, Kabel Light, c. 1928
Stanley Morison, The London Times, 1932
Gerd Arntz and Otto Neurath, “Gesellschaftsgliederung in Wien,” 1930
american modernism The modern movement didn’t really happen in the United States until the 1930s, unlike in Europe where it began much earlier in 1913. When “Elementare Typographie” made its way to America, many designers began grabbed onto Tschichold’s ideas, including Lester Beall. Many immigrants also came to America during this time. 4 Russian-born, French educated immigrants-- Erté, Dr. Mehemed Fehmy Agha, Alexey Brodovitch, and Alexander Liberman-- brought European modernism with them to America when they started de-
Erte, ´ cover for Harper’s Bazaar, 1933
Lester Beall, poster for Rural Electrification Administration, c. 1937
Alexey Brodovitch, cover for Harperâ€™s Bazaar, 1940
A.M. Cassandre, Advertisement for CCA, Late 1930s
signing for fashion magazines such as Harperâ€™s Bazaar. After the Great Depression hit in 1929, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt created the New Deal to help make new jobs for Americans, which in turn created the Works Progress Administration (WPA), giving designers a huge opportunity. The WPA Federal Art Project began in 1935 and enabled actors, musicians, visual artists, and writers to continue their careers. A poster project was one of the many projects brought about. Over two mil-
lion copies of around thirtyfive thousand posters designs were produced between 1935 and 1939. In 1926, Walter P. Paepke founded the Container Corporation of America (CCA), which manufactured paperboard containers. In 1936, CCAâ€™s department of design started, creating ads that were extremely different and much simpler than typical ads of the time period. This included the earliest advertising campaigns, such as Paperboard Goes to War and Great Ideas of Western Man.
Herbert Matter, Advertisements for CCA, 1940s
international typographic style During the 1950s, the International Typographic Style, also known as Swiss style, emerged. It was based on the idea that the solution for a design problem should emerge from its content. Elements of the designs in this style are always on a grid system, with sans-serif typography and an overall harmony. Sans-serif typefaces began to become more readily available, as many were being designed. This included Adrian Frutigerâ€™s Univers in 1954 and Edouard Hoffman and Max Miedingerâ€™s Neue Haas
Adrian Frutiger, schematic drawing of the 21 Univers typefaces, 1954
Edouard Hoffman and Max Miedinger, Helvetica typeface, 1961
Hermann Zapf, typefaces, Palatino, 1950; Melior, 1952; Optima, 1958
Grotesk in 1957, later known as Helvetica. Helvetica became one of the most used fonts ever, especially in corporate America. The International Typographic style was a huge force for over twenty years, and it’s still a huge influence on design today.
Josef Müller-Brockman, “Musica Viva” concert poster, 1959
Armin Hoffman, poster for the Basel theatre production of Giselle, 1959
new york school & advertising Paul Rand, Cover for Sparkle and Spin, 1957
Paul Rand, advertisement for The Architectural Forum, 1945
Paul Rand, Westinghouse logo, 1960
Modern design came to the United States in the 1930s, but it really evolved with the New York School. One of the major players in the New York School was Paul Rand. His ideas and designs helped to bring European Modernism into the American media landscape. He had a direct influence on the Creative Revolution in advertising, including Big Idea thinking, putting the art director and copywriter together as a team, the soft sell, and branding. Other members of the New York School included Alvin Lustig, Bradbury Thompson, Saul Bass, Otto Storch, and Herb Lubalin.
Saul Bass, logo for The Man with the Golden Arm, 1955
Doyle Dane Bernbach, Volkswagen advertisments, 1954
Herb Lubalin, pages from Eros, 1962
Alvin Lustig, cover for Arthur Rimbaudâ€™s A Season in Hell, 1945
Otto Storch (art director) and Allen Arbus (photographer), pages from McCallâ€™s, 1959
Jamie Reid, single cover for the Sex Pistols’ “God Save the Queen,” 1977
Postmodernism began in the late twentieth century. Some of the first postmodern graphic design was associated with punk music in the late 1970s, specifically with Jamie Reid’s single cover for “God Save the Queen” by the Sex Pistols, which many consider to be the beginning of postmodern design. Postmodernism is a reaction against the Modernist movement. Whereas Modernists believe that there is an overall universal truth and rational order, Postmodernists believe that there is no absolutely truth, and that each individual and group has their own truths. With postmodern-
April Greiman, Design Quarterly #133 magazine poster, 1986
ism came fragmentation and indeterminacy, recycling of earlier forms, and multiple points of access. This in particular lets postmodern design be as open as possible to interpretation. â€œNewâ€? was no longer a goal. Postmodernism puts trashiness on the same level as high culture. Main qualities of postmodern design include deconstruction, appropriation, and the use of technology. There was much opposition to postmodernism from Modernist designers, but postmodernism continued for over two decades. Some people say that we are still in the postmodern era today.
Paula Scher and Terry Koppel, Great Beginnings self-promotional book spread, 1984
Tibor Kalman, M&Co, print advertisement for Restaurant Florent, 1987
Stefan Sagmeister, AIGA Poster, 1999
Eliott Earls, Dysphasia typeface family poster, 1995
Art Chantry, The Night Gallery poster, 1991
Jake Tilson, Breakfast Special No. 2 â€“ La Carte Propre, 1989
David Carson, “Do Not Be Satisfied,” 2001
(in order of appearnace)
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Published on May 4, 2014