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The History of Graphic Design Timeline


Early Writing Systems •The Paleolithic Period is a prehistoric period of human history distinguished by the development of the most primitive stone tools discovered and covers roughly 99% of human technological prehistory. Also, speech and writing were developed at this time. (“Paleolithic “) •The earliest Neolithic societies arose in the modern-day countries of Turkey and Israel. In these settlements, people began farming, building permanent shelters, making better tools and clothing, and developing trade and craftsmanship. (“Early Humans Unit: From Paleolithic to Neolithic - Identifying Changes in Daily Life”)

Vignette from Papyrus of Ani C1420BCE

•Over time Homo sapiens have developed enormously, in particular with speech and writing. One of the very first writing systems found were cave paintings of pictographs and Petroglyphs in the South of France. It consisted of abstract signs, human and animal figures. It was done using mineral pigments and incising. •Mesopotamia was the cradle of civilization and is where people started using cuneiform. Which was using reeds to make Clay tablet 3100BCE


symbols on clay. Clay was very prominent around this time and they often used clay tablets to write cuneiform on. •In Egypt they used a pictured writing system called hieroglyphs, which were sacred carvings. As time went on these became more and more abstract and simplified. Starting from Hieroglyphs, to Hieratic script and then onto Demotic script. Although they all co-excited which made it confusing at times. The materials they often wrote on were called Papyrus and were used for rolled manuscripts.

Rosetta Stone C197-196BCE

Cuneiform tablet from Drehem 2040BCE

Cave painting from Lascaux C15000-10000BCE


Alphabets •In China they used woodblock printing, which was done on bark cloth. There writing system was called Calligraphy and it is still used today, although it has become a lot more abbreviated. •Trade routes were important in spreading knowledge between Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, Crete, turkey and other countries during this time. •In Rome they used basically what we use today, with only a few changes. Which is very remarkable. All these writing systems helped develop civilization and social order to all these areas. •Rome was developing a Phonetic alphabet. Which is where each letter represents a basic sound of a spoken language. Romans did not add space between there words and did not use lowercase letters. In Rome at around age 7, if it was affordable children were sent off to school to learn. •Cuneiform + Demotic Hieroglyphs= Rebus Principle (single-sound consonant signs) This is when picture symbols began to represent sounds of objects depicted regardless of their meaning. •The Greeks also used a Phonetic alphabet. They took Phoenician and added vowels. There writing directions changed from Right to Left to Left to Right in about 800BCE.

The Pyrgi Lamellae: Phoenician and Etruscan Panels. C500BCE


•The Etruscans were the liaison between Greeks and Romans and were established in Italy. •Three different types: Capitalis monumentals, which were propaganda art on stone. Capitalis Quadrata which were square capitals that were hand written. And Capitalis Rustic which used clay and was also hand written. •San Serif typefaces were rarely used. Timotheus, The Persians, Papyrus manuscript, 4th century BCE.

Trajan’s column, Rome C114CE

Neville Brody, The Face, no. 50-55, 1984


Asian Contribution •Chinese calligraphy is considered logograms, which is when a sign can represent an entire word. Earliest known Chinese writing is called chiaku-wen (bone-and-shell script) and it was pictographic (1800-1200 BC). It was found incised on turtle shells and animal bones, commonly used to communicate between the living and the dead. The next phase of Chinese calligraphy was chin-wen (bronze script). It was inscriptions on castbronze objects and contained well-formed characters in orderly alignment. The third phase was called bsiao chuan (small-seal style). The lines were thicker and it was much more abstract compared to the others. Artists in different places developed different writing styles, until Chinese calligraphy was unified by emperor Shih Huang Ti (259-210BCE). (Meggs and Alston 34-35) •In early times the Chinese wrote on bamboo slats or wooden strips until they invented paper. It was believed to be founded by Ts’ai Lun and his paper making process was almost unchanged until it was mechanized in ninetieth centaury England.

Pages from the Pen ts’ao 1249CE


•The Chinese also invented printing; the first form was relief printing. It is uncertain if it evolved from chops, rubbings from stone inscriptions or a synthesis of both. By about 770CE the printing technique was well developed and used all over china. In woodblock print the wood around each calligraphy letter would be cut away, around 1045CE Pi Sheng extended this process by developing movable type. He made his types from a mixture of clay and glue.

Oracle bone inscribed with Chiaku-wen C1300BCE

Diamond Sutra 868CE


Illuminated Manuscripts

•They were illustrated handwritten books produced from the Late Roman Empire for monastery libraries and wealthy people. •Classical style- numerous small illustrations drawn with crisp, simple technique and inserted throughout the text. Invention of Parchment because it was more durable than papyrus and the codex format which could take thicker paint because it didn’t have to be rolled. •Celtic Book design- Abstract and extremely complex. Bright, pure colors used together closely. Also, space left between words to enable reader to separate string of letters into words more quickly. •Holy Roman Empire- Book design and illumination had a low, became poorly illustrated and composed. Reform and standardization of page layout, decoration, paragraph structure and punctuation. Writing style was Caroline Miniscule, forerunner of our contemporary lowercase alphabet. •Spanish- Moorish influences, flat shapes of intense color, intricate geometry and Ghastly creatures from pagan tradition of totem-like animals. •Romanesque and Gothic- Large liturgical books, like the bible were produced in scriptoria. Universal design characteristics seemed possible. Linear drawings, willingness to distort figures to blend with overall designs and figures were placed against gold leaf or textured backgrounds. •Later illuminated manuscripts- Visual organization, Abstraction to realism and illustrations dominated.

Classical- The Vatican Vergil, the death of Laocoon, early 5th century CE

Celtic- Book of Durrow 680AD


Romanesque and Gothic- Ormesby Psalter early 1300s CE

Parachemnt and writing tools-The Vatican Vergil, the death of Laocoon, early 5th century CE

Savoy Book of Hours, Paris C1334-1340

Spanish- Commemorative Labyrinth from Pop Gregory’s Moralia in Job 945CE

The Holy Roman Empire- Coronation Gospels C800CE

Codex-The Pauline Epistles, mid-12th century


Rise of Printing in Europe, Renaissance Graphic Design •The 1400s in Europe were dark times when the Plague also known as the Black Death swept through wiping out almost half of its population. •Cambridge University opened and books were on high demand and were of high value. Paper Production started with the start of paper mills in Italy and France. •The renaissance period (14th-15th century) marked the transition from medieval to the modern world. •Block printing began with the making of playing cards, which introduced everyone in Europe to graphic design. The concept of moveable type began also. •Johann Gutenberg, a metal smith from Germany created the Printing Press, one of the most important advances in civilization. He invented a type mould, which created individual moveable and reusable type. This allowed for economical and multiple production of alphabetic communication. Creating mass communication. •The foreman of Gutenberg’s press was Peter Shoeffer, he later formed the most important printing firm at the time with Johann Fust. It was called Fust and Schoeffer. It created a dynasty of printers, publishers and booksellers for the next 100 years. •In the 1500’s there was a great increase in presses and amounts of books produced. Broadslides were invented, which were singles-leaf pages printed on one side, which eventually evolved into printed posters, advertisements etc. •Copperplate engraving was invented by an unidentified artist called the Master of the Playing Cards.

German Illustrated Book-Anton Koberger, pages from the Nuremberg Chronicle 1493

Copperplate Engraving: The Master of the playing cards 1450

Broadsides (posters): Albrecht Durer Broadslide 1515

Gutenberg, movable reusable type, mass communication: Early ninetieth century engraving showing Gutenberg’s system for casting type.


•The effects from typography printing were enormous. It created human dialog on a global scale, illiteracy declines and it altered education forever.

Aldine Press- Aldus Manutius, Printers trademark 1500

•During the 14th and 15th centuries in Italy, innovative book design was developed and Roman typeface. •In 1501, Aldus Manutius invented Pocket books in Italy. They were economical books with italic typeface. •Four decades of religious wars began, ending the innovation of the golden age of French typography.

Simon de Colines, title page for De Natura Stirpium Libri Tres, 1536

•The 16th centaury was the Golden Age of French Typography. Claude Garamond created the font ‘Garamond’ which fit perfectly and had a great harmony of design. It is n fact still used today. •Design centers were set up in Germany, Italy, France and Switzerland. •In 1609 the first newspaper was printed. It was called ‘Avisa Relation oder Zeitung’ and was published in Wolfenbüttel, Germany, in 1609 by Lucas.

French PrintingGeoffroy Troy, pot casse emblem 1526

Newspapers: First issue of the German “Avisa Relation oder Zeitung”, dated 15 January 1609

Henri Estienne the younger, title page from Ciceronianumi Lexicon 1557

Design Centres1. Nuremberg, Germany 2. Venice, Italy 3. Paris, France 4. Basel, Switzerland 5. Lyons, France


Typography in 18th century •The 1700s were relatively quiet for graphic design innovation. Although an awakening of literary genius occurred with the immortal works by British playwright and poet William Shakespeare. •In the 18th centaury the French King Louis XIV ordered a committee of scholars to design a typeface on scientific principles. It was called Romain du Roi. There were further editions and this introduced the new style of typeface, which looked less handwritten. This meant the Calligrapher was no longer a dominant typographic influence. •From about 1720-1770 there was a lot of Fancy French art and architecture, which was called the Rococo period. Fournier Le Jeune initiated the idea of a “type family” that are visually compatible and can be mixed.

France: Louis Simonneau, master alphabets for the Romain du Roi 1700

•In England there was a civil war and lots of religious persecutions. The government even had control over printing. •William Caslon, a metal engraver, created the first size of Caslon Old Style with Italic in 1720. For next 60 years, basically all English printing used Caslon type. •John Basketville Represented the peak of transitional style bridging the gap between Old Style and modern type design. He also achieved even, overall impressions with his own press and invented a new process that produced a smooth, refined paper surface. •In about 1822 Information Graphics was introuced. Its foundation was analytic geometry, a branch of geometry

Rococco- Pierre Simon Fournier le Jeune, title page from Manuel typographique, volume 1, 1764


developed by Rene Descarters. It was later used by William Playfair to convert statistical data into symbolic graphics. He introduced the line graph, bar chart and pie chart to graphical represent his findings. •Giambattista Bodoni introduced the modern style of typography. He redesigned roman letterforms with hairline Serifs that formed sharp right angles and extreme thick and thin. They were mathematical, geometric, mechanical, precise, measureable and repeatable forms. This marked the death of handwriting and calligraphy as inspiration for type design. He also developed Page layouts; with “severe purity”, large areas of white space, generous margins and wide letter and line spacing.

William Caslon, broadslide type specimen 1734

•François Didot introduced the Point system of measurement. •In England during 1760-1840 there was an industrial revolution. It caused a radical process of social and economic change. During this time steam engines were developed and there was a shift in social power because of new supply and demand. There was greater human equality public education and literacy increased. John Baskerville, title page from John Milton’s Paradise Lost 1760

Information Graphics- William Playfair, Chart no.1 from A Letter on Our Agricultural Distresses 1822

Alston.Pierre Didot, title page for Lettres d’une Peruvienne by Francoise de Grafigmy 1797

Giambattista Bodoni, page from Manuale tipografico 1818.


Industrial Revolution and Typographic Explosion •The Industrial Revolution was a period from the 18th to the 19th century where major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transport, and technology had a profound effect on the socioeconomic and cultural conditions starting in the United Kingdom, then subsequently spreading throughout Europe, North America, and eventually the world. (“Industrial Revolution”) •This transition included going from hand production methods to machines, new chemical manufacturing and iron production processes, improved efficiency of waterpower, the increasing use of steam power and the development of machine tools. It also included the change from wood and other bio-fuels to coal. (“Industrial Revolution”)

Industrial Revolution Steam engines were invented in the 1780s, factories established major assembly lines, gasoline powered engines were invented and Iron and Steel.

First Steam Engine There was a major power shift, the money went to those who worked for it. Everything was being mass-produced and there was more money. This was all due to the increase in supply and demand. The standard of living increased, although people were often overworked.


Fat-face types 1821.

•The population increased and many people living in rural areas moved to cities. There was a high supply and demand so everything became mass-produced to keep up with the high demand, which caused handicrafts to almost disappear. There was a social power shift, causing greater human equality. The standard of living increased, with higher public education and literacy, although people were often overworked. •During this time there was a shift in social and economic roles of type communication. It was needed at a much larger scale and it has a big impact. •New types such as Fat-face, Egyptian, Tuscan, 3-D, Reversed and Sans Serif were invented.

Two lines pica, Antique 1815

•There was a printing revolution with the creation and improvements of Press construction, Paper, Mechanization of Typography, Photography and Lithography. •In 1803, in Frogmore England the first paper machine was built and Ottmar Mergenthaler a German-born inventor, invented the Linotype machine, the first device that could easily and quickly set complete lines of type for use in printing presses. •The invention of chromolithography by Godfroy Engelmann in 1837 was a major step in history, allowing colored prints to be made.

Eqyptian type designs 1821

Typical Tuscan styles.

Decorative three-dimensional fonts 1835

Reversed Egyptian Italic 1828


Two-line Great Primer Sans-serif 1832

Slab typeface 1830

Printing RevolutionLithography- The process of printing from a flat surface treated to repel the ink except where it is required for printing.

Pages from A Complete Course of Lithography

Photography- The art or practice of taking and processing photographs.

First Photograph from Nature


Mechanization of Typography- Ottmar Mergenthaler created the Linotype machine in 1886.

The model 5 Linotype

Paper improved- In 1803, Frogmore England the first paper machine was built. This was revolutionary.

Victorian Paper Mil

Press Construction- Large posters were done with wooden type, which cost less and weighed less. Also there were improvements to Gutenberg’s press, it was a high speed factory operation.

Printing press of all Iron parts


Victorian Era •The Victorian era of British history was the period of Queen Victoria’s reign from 1837 until her death in 1901. It was a long period of peace, prosperity, refined sensibilities and national self-confidence for Britain. (“Victorian Era”) •The inventions of useable electricity, steel, and petroleum products during the 19th century lead to a second industrial revolution (1865–1900), that featured the growth of railways and steam ships, faster and wider means of communication. (Bellis) •During this time designers had absolute freedom. Chromolithography was very popular and bright colors never used before became available. Packaging design started to appear, which was the start of Branding. •Advertising agencies developed with a strong emphasis on selling the narrative. Also, copywriting started in Philadelphia. Great Exhibition of 1851- The Great Exhibition was an international exhibition that took place in Hyde Park, London, from 1 May to 11 October 1851. It was the first in a series of World’s Fair exhibitions of culture and industry that were to become a popular 19th-century feature. Numbering 13,000 in total, the exhibits included a Jacquard loom, an envelope machine, kitchen appliances, steel-making displays and a reaping machine (“The Great Exhibition”)

Poster for C.W. Parker Company’s Carry-Us-All portable carousels


Era of Pictorial Magazine - It was the Era of Pictorial Magazines. The Harper Brothers printed a weekly Harpers magazine. Making them the largest printing and publishing firm in the world by the mid 1800s. This launched the golden age of American illustrations.

L. Prang & Company and others 1880-early 1900s

Package designs chromolithographed on tin for food and tobacco products 1884 Herman Ihlenburg, typeface designs.


Arts and Crafts Movement •The Arts and Crafts Movement was an international design movement that flourished between 1860 and 1910. It was led by the artist and writer William Morris. The movement developed first and most fully in the British Isles, but spread across the British Empire and to the rest of Europe and North America. It was largely a reaction against the perceived poor state of the decorative arts at the time and the conditions in which they were produced. (“Arts and Crafts movement “) •This time period viewed the mass produced goods from the Victoria Era as “cheap and nasty” It was a very progressive time that encouraged the individual to express something. •Writer and Artist John Ruskin had a big influence during this time. He believed beautiful things were valuable and useful. Ruskin thought machinery was to blame for many social misfortunes and that a healthy society depended on skilled and creative workers. He had concern for social justice, the elderly and the national education system.

Mackmurdo, Title page for Wren’s City Churches 1883

•In 1884 the Century Guild of Artists published The Hobby Horse, a quarterly Victorian periodical in England. It was the first magazine exclusive to visual arts and introduced the arts and crafts philosophy to the rest of Europe. •In January 1891, William Morris and William Bowden founded the Kelmscott Press at Hammersmith, London. The Kelmscott Press was founded to refashion Victorian typography and to create beautiful books based on medieval manuscripts. (“William Morris”)

Morris, Title page for Wren’s City Churches 1883


•In 1920 William Dwiggins a book designer was the first person to use the title “graphic designers” which has stuck even today. •Some major world events that also occurred during this time were; the 1861-1865 American Civil War, In 1865-1877 slavery is banned in the United States by the thirteenth amendment to the United States. There was a ten-year war between Cuba and Spain from 1868-1878. Between 1870-1890 was the long depression in Western Europe and North America.

Cenutary Guild, Title page to the Century Guild Hobby Horse 1884

Goudy, Booklet cover 1911 Specimen of Neuland 1922-23.


Art Nouveau •In 1893, New Zealand became the first country in the world to grant women the right to vote. In 1894 the Sino-Japanese War begins and in 1896 the first modern Olympic games were held in Athens, Greece. •There were many wars around this time, The Spanish-American War began in 1898 and the Russia Japan War was in 1904. •The Commonwealth of Australia was created on the 1st of January 1901. •The first commercial film was released in 1894 and the Wright brother’s first flight was in 1903.

iUkiyo-e and resulting Japonisme:Utamaro, portrait of a courtesan late 1700s.

Audrey Beardsley,”The Eyes of Herod” 1894.

Alphonse Mucha, poster for Job cigarette papers, 1898


•The world was no longer looking to the past for inspiration; people were inventing their own new forms. The walls between the different art disciplines were breaking down. •Jugend was a German art magazine that was created in the late 19th century. It featured many famous Art Nouveau artists and is the source of the term “Jugendstil”, the German version of Art Nouveau. The magazine was founded by writer Georg Hirth and was published from 1896 to 1940. (“Jugend (magazine)”)

Henri de Toulus-Lautrec, “La Goulue au Moulin Rouge 1891

Henri Van de Velde, poster for Tropon food concentrate 1899. Peter Behrens, The Kiss 1898.


Modernism •World War I, a global war centered in Europe began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918. •In 1927 the first talking picture is invented, called the Jazz Singer with Al Jolson in it. And in 1936 Edward VIII abdicates to marry Wallis Simpson.

America: Frank Lloyd Wright, first chapter opening spread for The Hous Beautiful 1896-97

•Some factors that shaped Modernism were the development of modern industrial societies and the rapid growth of cities, followed then by the horror of World War I. (“Modernism”) •In 1939 Hitler invades Poland and war breaks out across Europe. World War II begins, a global war that is considered to have lasted from 1939 to 1945. •The Cold War was a war between the United States and the Soviet Union. The reason the cold war started was because the S.U. and the U.S. wanted to see who was more powerful. It started during WW2 on Aug. 6 1945 after Truman ordered the drop of the atomic bomb.

The Four (The Glasgow School) – Scotland: Margaret and Frances Macdonald with J.Herbert McNair, poster for the Glassgow Institute of the Fine Arts 1895

Vienna Secession – Austria: Alfred Roller, cover design for Van Sacrum initial issue 1898

Germany: Peter Behrens, guidebook covers for the AEG pavillon at the German Shipbuilding Exhibition 1908


•Einstein’s Theory of Relativity contributed to the development of cubism. The developments in psychology also greatly influenced the subject matter of artists throughout Europe. The rapid rise of technology impacted artists both directly and indirectly, from the invention of new artistic materials to subject matter and themes. >> Leading to Akzidenz Grotesk Akzidenz-Grotesk is a grotesque (early sans-serif) typeface originally released by the Berthold Type Foundry in 1896. It was the first sans serif typeface to be widely used and influenced many later neo-grotesque typefaces after 1950. ("Grotesque (typeface classification)")

Hannah Hoch, Da-Dandy collage and photomontage 1919

Pictorial Modernism: The Beggarstaffs, poster for Kassama corn flour 1894.

Influence of Modern Art: Filippo Marinetti, foldout from Les mots en librete futurists 1919.

Netherlands: Theo van Doesberg, cover for De Stijl 1922


Bauhaus •1919-1933 was considered the Prohibition Era. It began with temperance movements throughout the United States before the Civil War. Alcohol consumption had become closely related with poverty and crime by the early 20th century, causing states to pass local prohibition laws. National prohibition did not become a foreseeable goal until World War I, when food shortages caused the government to restrict alcohol production so grain could be used for food. The 18th Amendment created national prohibition and began an era of organized crime. (“The Prohibition Era, 1919-1933”)

Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, proposed title page for Broom 1923

Herbert Bayer, exhibition poster 1926.


•The first movie with sound, The Jazz Singer, was released in 1927 and the first scheduled TV programs broadcast in 1928. •In October 1929, the Stock Market crashed causing fortunes of investors around the world to be destroyed. •1930 was the start of the great Depression that swept worldwide, leading to closing of all German banks in 1931. In 1933 Hitler became the chancellor of Germany and the Boycott of Jews began in Germany.

Joost Schmidt, Bauhaus magazine cover 1929.

Walter Gropius, Dessau Bauhaus building 1925-26.


The New Typography •In 1900 German naval law introduces a twenty-year building program for a high seas fleet to compete with the British navy. •In 1905 Norway breaks away from Sweden and the Russian Revolution occurs. •In 1914 the battle of Tannenberg occured, it is between the Germans and the Russians, Germany is victorious. Gill, the Gill Sans type family 1928-30

Jan Tschichold, pages from “ Elementare Typographie” 1925

Paul Renner, Futura typefaces 1927-30.


•The first two decades of the 20th century witnessed enormous industrial, economic, social and cultural change. International trade brought with it increasing growth and prosperity, along with a rise in poverty and slums in major cities. Urbanization, advances in science and technology, and the spread of goods and information were markers of the times. (“Introduction- Europe 1900-1920”)

Times New Roman, Stanley Morrison, The London Times 1932

Isotype- Gerd Arntz and Otto Neurath, “ Gesellschaftsgliederung in Wien chart 1930

C. Beck, map for London Underground 1933.

Rudolf Koch,Kabel light 1928


American Modernism The Works Progress Administration was the largest and most ambitious New Deal agency, employing millions of unemployed people (mostly unskilled men) to carry out public works projects, including the construction of public buildings and roads. In a much smaller but more famous project, the Federal Project Number One, the WPA employed musicians, artists, writers, actors and directors in large arts, drama, media, and literacy projects. Headed by Harry Hopkins, the WPA provided jobs and income to the unemployed during the Great Depression in the United States. Between 1935 and 1943, the WPA provided almost eight million jobs. (“Works Progress Administration.”) A truly revolutionary moment in marketing history, the advertisements that were collected in the “Great Ideas of Western Man” series by CCA removed nearly all mention of the paperboard industry as well as the company who paid for the advertisement. Roughly once a month between 1950 and 1970, readers of national news magazines would find a visual rendering of a major philosophical idea as offered by a famous Western writer. Major artists such as Rene Magritte and William de Kooning created these works under the direction of CCA. The company gave the artists one guideline: Interpret the quotation in any way you choose. The results were unmistakably bril-

Beall. Poster for the Rural Electrification Administration, 1937

Brodovich, Harpers Bazaar cover 1940


liant interpretations of Benjamin Franklin’s views on freedom and liberty, George Santayana’s caution regarding history, and Henry Adam’s take on education. These three along with around two-hundred other commissioned works toured the country in well attended museum exhibits, they made their way into classrooms as part of the Encyclopedia Britannica’s efforts to place classic works of the Western Cannon at peoples’ fingertips, and they produced a tremendous amount of buzz in the advertising world.( “The Great Ideas of Western Man”) •In 1929 the stock market crashed causing the start of the Great depression. Depression swept worldwide from 1930-41, leading to the closing of all German banks. •In 1939 Germany invaded Poland and World War II began as France and England declare war on Germany. •In 1945 the United Nations was established and Adolf Hitler committed suicide causing Germany to surrender. •In 1941 the Japanese surprise attacked the US fleet at Pearl Harbor.

Cassandre, Advertisement for CCA 1938.

Matter, brocher covers introducing a knoll chair 1956.


International Typographic Style •During this time design was usually done on a grid, which made it very asymmetrical and organized. The verbal message being conveyed was very clear and minimal and there was a lot of clarity and order. •Design was seen as socially useful and an important activity. Personal expression was rejected for universal and scientific solutions. •Akzidenz-Grotesk is a realist 
sans-serif typeface originally released by the H. Berthold AG type foundry 
in 1896 under the title 
Akzidenz-Grotesk. It was the first sans serif typeface to be widely used and influenced many later neo-grotesque typefaces. 
Max Miedinger at the Haas Foundry used it as a model for the typeface Neue Haas Grotesk released in 1957, renamed Helvetica in 1960. (“ The International Typographic Style Timeline”) •The 1940s saw steps toward an original American approach to modernist design. European design was often theoretical and highly structured; American design was pragmatic, intuitive, and more informal in its approach to organizing space.

Frutiger, Schematic diagram of the twenty-one Univers fonts 1954

Miedinger and Hoffmann, Helvetica typeface 1961


Zapf, Typefaces Palatino 1950; Melior 1952; and Optima 1958

Dietmar Winkler, poster for a computer programing course at MIT 1969

Hoffman, Poster for the Basel Civic Theater 1959

Müller-Brockman, “Musica Viva” concert poster 1959


New York School, Corporate Identity and Visual Systems, Advertising •New York City was the cultural center of the world in the 1950’s
. The New York School was born from an excitement about European modernism and fueled by economic and technological expansion. It became a dominant force in graphic design from the 1940s until the 1970s. The “New York School” gained prominence in the 1950’s and was a dominant force in graphic design. •More than any other designer Paul Rand initiated the American approach to modern design. A strong knowledge of the modern movement, particularly the works of Klee, Kandinsky, and the cubists movement contributed to his understanding. He believed that freely invented shapes could have a self-contained life, both symbolic and expressive, as a visual-communications tool. (“History of Graphic Design Blog.”)

Paul Rand, Cover for direction magazine December 1940.

Bass, logo for The man with the Golden Arm 1955.


•After World War II, there were many advances in the economy and there was prosperity because of technological development. There was a positive outlook on the future, and it was said: “Good design is good business”. Graphic design was used as a way to develop corporate identity for viewers. In the past, trademarks and symbols were used as identity systems, but during the 1950s, a design system was used in order to communicate. (“History of Graphic Design Blog.”)

Herb Lubalin and Bert pages from Eros 1962

Lubalin, Harpers Bazaar cover 1940

Classic VW Beetle Ad from Doyle Dane Bernbach George Lois and Carl Fischer, Esquire cover Arpil 1968


Postmodern Graphic Design in the Global Village •Postmodernism was the movement as a reaction against Modernism. Modernism was still going on at the same time, but some designers wanted to show that art and design did not have to be clean, structured, and easily legible or have a specific purpose. This was a movement that helped people to start thinking outside of the box and thinking of designs without having as much limitations. It got you thinking and looking at the design concept as a whole. David Carson and Stefan Sagmeister are some of the biggest influences in this area of graphic design. (“Postmodern.”) •Postmodernism includes skeptical interpretations of culture, literature, art, philosophy, history, economics, architecture, fiction, and literary criticism. It is often associated with deconstruction and post-structuralism.

Reid, God Save the Queen by the Sex Pistols 1977

April Greiman, CalArts Viewbook, cover of tabloid-sized overview 1979


•People at this time believed that everyone was completely unique and that there was no absolute truth. It also focused heavily on how the audience viewed the work and not so much about the artists’ intentions. •In 1979 Chinese troops invaded Vietnam and in 1980 Iraqi troops invaded Iran, beginning the Iran-Iraq war. •In 1990 Nelson Mandela was released in South Africa after 27 years behind bars.

Scher, The Complete Genealogy of Graphic Design, cover for print magazine 1985

Sagmeister, AIGA Detroit Poster 1999, Used an exacto knife and his own body.

•In 1993 The World Wide Web was born at CERN and in 1997 the first cloned sheep Dolly was born.

Art Chantry, The Night Gallery, performance art poster 1991


Allen Hori, Typography as disclosure, event poster 1989

David Carson’s infamous Zapf Dingbats spread, featured in a 1994 issue of Ray Gun.

Neville Brody, The Face, nos. 50-55 1984


PostPostmodernism •I consider Post-postmodernism to be a time period that is not necessarily against Postmodernism but is a result of it. The thing that sets them apart is creativity. Post-postmodernism embraces the postmodern developments and doesn’t mind breaking the rules in order to make something new. Post-postmodernism is the time we are currently in, it is a working progress that can be left up to you to define.

White Rabbit Starring Jonathan Jordan, Photo Dean Alexander. Produced by Design Army, 2012

The Heads of State, Wondermade brand 2012


Post Typography. Time Citizen's Election Guide, Cover design 2012

Munday, Oliver. Coffee & Cigarettes, 2 color silkscreen poster 2009

By Jess Heeps-Erksen

Graphic Design Timeline  

By Jess Heeps-Eriksen

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