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As one of the earliest forms of human

A form of primordial text, called

communication, drawings known as pictographs (an elementary picture or sketch representing the thing depicted), petroglyphs (a carved or scratched sign or simple figure on rock), and lastly ideographs (a symbol that represents an idea or concept).

cuneiform, also appeared. these

symbols and visual signals were developed by the Sumerian cultures of Mesopotamia, “the land between rivers,� as civilization became more advanced. Initially, these glyphs evolved from earlier cave drawings made by Neanderthals.

15000 35000 ---4000 BCE


The ancient Greeks devised

750 BCE

their own form of writing -- the Greek Alphabet. Influenced by Phoenician/Semitic heritage, the Greeks applied a geometric structure to establish a form of visual ordr and balance.

2800 BCE


Advancing civilization gave rise to new ways of communicating;

The Phaistos Disk.

cultures like the Minoan civilization of Crete developed an alphabet (a set of visual symbols or characters used to represent the elementary sounds of a spoken language). Evidence of this new system was found on the unearthed Phaistos disk. It was also discovered that the Minoans used principles of moveable type (type-like stamps used to impress characters onto substrates to create words and sentences).



Egypt began using their own system of

Unfortunately, this language died out as

glyphs known as hieroglyphics (another picture-writing system, Greek for “sacred carving” after the Egyptian term “the gods’ words”). These cultures were all dominated by religion, so many records were often done by scribes (literate subjects).

no one knew how to interpret it. Until Napoleon Bonaparte’s troops in Egypt uncovered the Rosetta Stone, hieroglyphics were indecipherable. The stone was comprised of several languages: demotic Egyptian hieroglyhics and Greek; this enabled researchers like Jean-Francois Champollion to decode the ancient pictographs.

An excerpt of text from the Rosetta Stone. 31000 -394 BCE


As communication developed, so did the

3000 BCE 3000 BCE

medium on which it was inscribed. Shifting from a stone substrate (writing surface) to a paper-like invention made from reeds called papyrus, it was used for manuscripts and became a huge step forward in Egyptian visual communication as well as human civilization. Papyrus manuscripts were often employed as funerary texts, which were buried with the dead in their journey to the afterlife.


The famed Latin Alphabet ap-

Greek forms were writ-

ten in a technique known as boustrophedon (“to plow a field with an ox,” which is exactly the path in which scribes carved their sentences. Each line read in the opposite direction).

250 BCE

peared in the Etruscan civilization when they modified the Greek Alphabet. This new system, later adopted by the Roman culture, included capitals (capitalis monumentus, capitalis quadrata, capitalis rustica-- all forms of lettering for specific occasions), as well as serifs (small accenting lines that extend from the ends of major strokes on letterforms).

Writing soon began to makes its way onto scrolls consisting of parchment, papyrus, vellum (the finest

parchment comprised of smooth animal hide), and other substrates for documentation. These could be woven in signatures, or gatherings of sheets stitched together like a modern book,



In the western reaches

More alphabet systems began developing, such as the Aramaic Alphabet developed by the

of the Mediterrenean, Semitic writing (early alphabetic writing of Semitic people. Ras Shamra is an example of their script) appeared. Alongside them, the neighboring land of Phoenicia created the

Phoenician Alphabet, known as sui generis (this alphabet

had signs influenced by cuneiform and hieroglyphics but lack any pictoral meaning).

Around this same time

in China, advancements had led to the invention of the printing with stamps. Chinese calligraphy was produced both beautifully and perfectly via stamps. Korea was introduced to its own alphabet: Hangul, one of the most scientific writing systems ever developed, it was based on complex Chinese characters with logograms and was widely understood by Korean citizens.

850 BCE

tribes of Aram and derived from the Semitic script. It was superseded by the later Arabic and Hebrew alphabets (featured calligraphic gestures and twenty-two original sounds of the Semitic language). These languages are known to be read and written from right to left.

Kufic (type of Arabic lettering of extended and thick characters) was emblazoned on currency, manuscripts, and inscriptions, and the cursive form Naskhi (used in writing on papyrus) later evolved into modern Arabic scripts. The Qur’an or Koran (Holy Book of the Muslims written in the Arabic language) is scripted in this form of Arabic lettering.


Meanwhile new innovations were found by the Chinese. A form of Chinese calligraphy (ancient writing system that utilized graceful, gestured brush strokes), consisting of logograms (graphic signs that represent a word) is actually still used today by more people than any other types of visual languages. Early Chinese writing was tied to divination, with the use of oracle bones (animal bones). They, too, devised a process for papermaking by using wood pulp, which was used throughout their society for merchants andtrade, for example.


The Chinese had

1800 BCE, 250 -105 BCE

invented their own moveable type and printing process, using a chop (seal with a raised surface applied to ink and then used for stamping), cinnabar paste, and woodblock printing.

Artifacts of printed Chinese text include the Diamond Sutra (oldest surviving printed manuscript on a scroll with the revelations of Buddha), and the Pen ts’ao (medical book on herbs with illustrations and calligraphy, as well as a Graphic Design grid system).


Back in Europe, the late

4 -- 5 CE

Roman Empire produced illuminated manuscripts (handwritten books, decorated and illustrated with gold leaf and vibrant colors) that gained popularity as far as Ireland. In the Christian era, these books were written by scrittori (educated

scholars that understood both Greek and Latin and directed the design of the books) in scriptoriums (writing rooms), while illuminators illustrated the pages. The oldest surviving manuscript is the Vatican Vergil, a completely Roman and pagan creation.


Just as block printing existed in China, the same technique 1400s CE

appeared in Europe. This form of communication revolutionized civilization by increasing literacy in the general populace as well as spreading knowledge. Chinese relief prints (known as xylography) and papermaking contributed to the development of typography on the European continent.

Printing type blocks. TYPE AND PRINTING IN EUROPE

Technology takes a leap forward when Johann Gutenberg of

Mainz, Germany invented the printing press. Using typography

1450 CE

(used in printing with wood or cast metal blocks, which had raised letterforms on one face) and movable type, the process of producing books becomes dramatically faster rather than the hand written technique used before. PRINTING

In his printing technique, Guten1450s CE

berg utilized a compact typeface called Textura, or Blackletter. The rest of the process included ligatures (used for spacing), metal punches, and copper matrices to create impressions of letterforms on paper.


harlemagne (King of the Franks and ruler of the Holy Roman Empire) brought order to the dark times of humanity by re-establishing literacy in Europe. Book designs were standardized, the alphabet was reformed, and the Caroline minuscule founded (set of letterforms set apart which were easy to write and use so that legibility was restored). Much of what was produced were important religious texts due to a theocratic rule; many of these texts depicted the Apocalypse (the Christian judgement day foretold in the Holy Scripture), as well as the Book of Hours (the most popular manuscript of Europe containing religious texts read at each hour of the day, including prayers and a calender of the days of holy saints).

742 -814 CE


With the fall of the Roman Empire, the Medieval Ages (“middle� ages, a thousand year

period of dislocation, uncertainty, and illiteracy). This age saw the invention of new letter forms and styles, such as uncials (rounded, freely drawn majuscule letters), majuscules (capital letters), minuscules (lowercase letters), ascenders/descenders (strokes rising/dropping above/below the guidelines), Celtic style (abstract, complex, and geometric linear patterns), and Textura (lettering style that streamlined letterforms and text to open more space). New styling was incorporated into books as designs.

476 CE


While Gutenberg developed his printing press, an artist in Ger1450s CE

many known as the Master of the Playing Cards created images called copperplate engravings. These involved printing from an image that is incised into a prnting surface; ink is applied to the depressions the surface wiped clean, and the paper pressed against a plate to recieve the inkd drawing. Copperplate engravings pioneered the printing of images alongside the production of type and text.

Copperplate engraving.


As a result of power strugglings in Germany (birthplace of move1462 CE

Example of the Blackletter typeface.

able type and printing), merchants, craftsmen, and young printers alike fled to other parts of the European continent. Soon enough, more printing presses were esablished in neighboring countries such as France and Italy, opening the doors of opportunity once more.



Picking up where Spira left off, French printer and cutter of dies Nicolas Jenson 1480s CE

set up the second printing press in Venice. He had learned the printing technique in Mainz, Germany and devised a way to incorporate more space between letters when setting type and increase legibility. Jenson and other printers alike began branding their prints with trademark symbols (emblems reminiscent of revived Egyptian hieroglyphics) to identity their work. Renaissance designers began incorporating headpieces and tailpieces (ornamental designs at the top and bottom of a page, respectively) on printed pages as a form of art.


Some German printers had fled to Italy, establishing themselves in 1469 CE

Venice. There, the book design formatting of the printers combined with the revival of classical literature from Rome and Greece among Italian humanists to kickstart the Renaissance from the 1400s - 1500s. Humanism, a philosophy pertaining to human diginity, worth, and use of reason to achieve an understanding of the world and self-meaning, characterized the importance of the Renaissance to humanity.

German goldsmith Johannes de Spira was one such Venetian

printer and published his first book by this year, using roman type in the first typographic book with numbered pages.

Perfecting the anatomy of type.


The invention of the spinning machine dramatically changes human life socially and economically.

People move out of agrarian lifestyles into urban cities established around factories. Because of the introduction to machinery, demand for goods by ordinary citizens increases as production quickens exponentially. Thus, the purpose of print in books and religious texts switches over to advertisements in new media, such as newspapers, posters, billboards, labels, and broadsides. The Graphic Design industry, as a result, is cast into the spotlight as a legitimate and much needed profession for design work and advertising. Papermaking evolved from a handmade process to a mechanized one, making it more avaliable for companies to use in linotype typesetting.

1760 CE

In this time, colored lithography as well as Chromolithography (images printed onto greased stone slabs) became more popular and introduced lush, vibrant hues. TYPOGRAPHY

During the industrial period, typography bounced from wood type to stylized art 1827 CE

nouveau; the old Textura typefaces are swapped for a transitional and modern styles that became bigger, bolder, louder, and somewhat unattractive to grabbed the audience’s attention. Darius Wells innovated a wood drill that helped manufacture wood type that could be sized larger for advertising purposes. Bigger was better, and more decorative typefaces were installed by Robert Thorne, who produced “fat faces� -- heavier fonts based on Roman typefaces.

William Carlson IV, type designer, introduced san serifs (typefaces without the serif strokes) though these were regarded as ugly at the time and not often used.



Serif typefaces were classified further in Humanist (Venetian), Old Style (Renaissance), Transitional (Baroque), and Modern (Rococco).

Humanist typefaces, also referred to Venetian, were Roman style and used throughout the

1460s and the 1470s. Italian printers in Venice developed these fonts based on geometric, Roman letterforms, which retaied the humanist feel of the hand and were spaced to fit evely on the page of print work.

Old Style is characterized by refined letterforms with a cleaner and more legible look,

4 -- 5 CE 1700s CE

having greater contrast between thick and thin strokes of the letters, bracketed serifs, and an adjusted axis. Both type designers Francesco Griffo and Claude Garamond fashioned typefaces still used in contemporary times (Bembo and Garamond, respectively) during the Renaissance period.

Transitional type was the result of shifting away from Old Style to a more modern feel of the Baroque period. An example of a transitional typeface is Baskerville, which also had contrast between thick and thin strokes yet with a new lightness and elegance of its letterfroms.

Modern style of typefaces emerged in Italy and France as Rococco type designers like Giambattista

Bodoni advanced Roman type to a new category. The serif letterforms of Modern type were hairline-thin snd formed sharp right angles with upright strokes. GARAMOND

476 CE 1500s CE

By this time, the Italian Renaissance as diffused into the French Renaissance and another designer rose in history -- Claude Garamond designed typefaces and punch cutters so well that French printers were able to publish books of incredible legibility and beauty, better than in the decades priors. Operating separate from printing mills, the typefaces he fashioned were perfected in that they were visually appealing. As his work progressed, the art of typography became more of a language of form than imitating handwritten calligraphy of the past.


The world’s eyes were opened to a new form of art -- photography, further developed by Joseph

Niepce, redendered actual scenes of the world into flat and beautiful images. While the concept of photography existed for hundreds of years prior, it further evolved by using chemicals to hold the light and retain the image. It was made avaliable to the general public and made its way to print; halftone screens were innovated to reproduce photographic images by breaking them up into a seris of dots of varying sizes and tones. These dots, tiny in size, created the look of a picture from afar.

Example of an image produced with halftone dots.


1850s CE 1827 CE

Graphic design advanced in the way of magazines; by the 19th century, printing firms like that of the Harper Brothers had published pictorial magazines in which printed cartoons drawn up by artists and designers became popular.

A major contributor known as Thomas Nast (“Father

of American political cartooning”) designed compelling work laden with symbolism of societal issues he dubbed corrupt at the time. His drawings caused the circulation of magazines in Harper’s Weekly to triple.

One of Nast’s political

cartoons, in which he pokes fun at the criminal Boss Tweed.

With the growth of magazines, the concept of selling space for advertisement bloomed. Advertising agencies pioneered in the use of fine art in advertising; Ayer & Son Inc. established the first art department in the advertising industry.


Artists in America caught up to the improvements in typeface and book

1920s CE

design, like Frederick Goudy (designer of the renowned Goudy Old Style typeface). Bookmaking in private presses (which used handmade paper, quality inks, and its own typefaces) advanced with William Addison Dwiggins, who actually coined the industry name of Graphic Design for the first time and created the widely used typeface “Caledonia.” Book layouts were based upon the idea of orderliness or cleanliness, then structure of type and text. Designs were reminiscent of medieval patterns and illuminations, but on a scaled down level. By this time, the Arts and Crafts Movement had faded from people’s interest. It moved them away from cheap mass production to quality craftmanship, and brought impact on typograpghy and bookmaking. Eventually, people wanted something new and more modern. It even spawned the first high-quality magazine for the visual arts -- the Hobby Horse, designed by artists of Century Guild in London.


In reaction to the high demand and cheaply manufactured goods, a new movement swept the country

1880s CE

of England -- the Arts and Crafts Movement. This era was primarily launched by William Morris (a designer that abhorred the cheap products of the time) and John Ruskin. From buildings to bedding to seamless wallpapers, the style of this time were ornate, intricate patterns of plant forms and flowers. The beauty of this style spread to the art of bookmaking in private presses, covering the pages in complex yet captivating patterns.

This time was also a renaissance in type typeface design; Morris created his own fonts, such as “Gold-

en” and “Troy.” Both Germany, the Netherlands, and America experienced innovations with typeface design. A simplified, utilitarian belief in type was established where pictures should not interfere with typefaces or reading text. Rather, according to designers S.H. de Roos and Jan Van Krimpen, type should be practical, beautiful, and easily readable for book design.


New design styles were in the works as the Beggarstaffs advertising studio opened; design

1900s -1930s CE

became simplified to space, text, and form. The Beggarstaffs would influence poster design by cutting and pasting paper into a collage, with flat colors and an incomplete-looking, final image. The intent was that the audience’s imaginations would decipher the complete image. (1898) Lucian Bernhard would introduce plakatstil poster style, which simplified design to signage and shapes to create a basic form. (1914-1918) As the U.S. and Europe were sucked into war, poster design became directed at advertising for the war efforts. Visual and pictorial advertisement were the main way of communicating to the public to boost morale, support, and fundraising for both the Allies and Central Powers. Lugwig Huhlwein was a prolific designer for the Central Powers, who employed symbolic imagery, textures, and decorative patterns. The Allies poster propaganda was more illustrative and used literal imagery rather than text to influence its audience emotionally. James Montgomery Flagg and Joseph Leyendecker were hallmark war-poster designers, the latter using popular American motifs and symbols to promote patriotism among United States citizens.

Two examples of pictorial modernism: “Two Girls Holding Hands” (pictured left) and “Priester” matches (pictured right). Both are simple, collage-based images produced in the early 1900s.


The style known as Art Nouveau bridged the Arts and Crafts Movement to contempory design. Its look,

much like the sophisticated floral patterns of the previous movement, had motifs based on organic forms, curving lines, birds, and the human female body. All areas of art (architecture, advertisment design, furniture, fashion, etc.) were affected by Art Nouveau. It found inspiration in both Rococco and Van Gogh’s swirling painting style, but also dated back to early Japanese artwork ukiyo-e. A prolific ukiyo-e artist, Katsushika Hokusai, produced work notable for its simplified forms and color palettes.

1890s -1910 CE

Le style moderne (early name for Art Nouveau) began initially in France, though it spreads as far as all of

Europe and North America. Artist Jules Cheret (Father of the Modern Poster) was acclaimed for his poster designs that incoporated the values of Art Nouveau and a new role for women in advertisement. The poster styles of this brief movement were as unique and diverse as the artists were.

In England, art nouveau was heavily influenced by Gothic art and Victorian painting; Aubrey Beardsley

made exotic and strange, monochromatic pen-work in his short-lived career. He used large black forms in his compositions as a form of Gothic art nouveau.

The Harper’s Magazine company introduced art nouveau to America by commissioning Eugene Grasset, though artists

Louis Rhead and William H. Bradley were profound designers of this period. Bradley made approaches to typographic design by spacing words and letters into rectangular shapes, while Rhead incorporated vivid, flat, and clashing color schemes to his artwork and the motif of women.

German art nouveau was paired with Jugendstil (youth style of German artwork), which was a mixture of English influences, traditional academic art, as well as the Gutenberg Textura type. German designers, such as abstract artist Peter Beherns, along with those of Scotland and Austria, broke with art nouveau to produce a more rectilinear and geometric design. This became the foundation on which twentieth-century design would rise.

In time, designers like architect Frank Lloyd Wright (whose organic architecture brought harmony to humanity and its

environment) and the Glasglow School of Art branched off and became aware of other forms of expression: architecture, fashion,and product design. Design became critical in publicity for the newly developed London Underground Railway, as well as the Vienna Secession (countermovement to art nouveau by younger artists of the Kunstlerhaus in Austria).


New artforms would arise in the Netherlands as Dutch artists found beauty in absolute purity -- better known 1917 CE

as the style De Stijl. Led by artists Theo van Doesburg, and Piet Mondrian, their artwork too became highly infuenced by geometric ideology. They sought to purify art by banning naturalistic representation, external values, and subjective expression after the Great War had expunged traditional design.

Hallmark elements of De Stijl are flat planes limited to squares and retangles of straight horizonal and

verticals, with the three primary colors against neutral-colored backgrounds. This style was also applied to typograpghy (which appeared as blocky letterforms) and architecture (buildings retained a geometric format with selective, primary colors).



A school in Germany, the Bauhaus, would foster a faculty and student population that would revolu-

tionize modern design aesthetic, by means of combining cubism, Constructivism, and De Stijl. The director of the institution, Walter Gropius, sought to unify art and techology; his goal for the students was to have art as open as possible, without any strict impositions on their concept of design.

The Bauhaus faculty boasted members like Constructivist Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, whose influence evo-

lutionalized the school. Passionate for both typography and photograpy, he believed in emphasized clarity and legibility; he advocated for uninhibited use of space in graphic design, either by use of distortion, englargement, montage, and double exposure. His employment of the camera led to different angles, such as worm’s eye and bird’s eye view, exteme closeups, and abstract collages, montages, and non-traditional photograms.

Former student Herbert Bayer became a faculty member for his extreme influence in design, type,

and photography. Sticking exclusively to sans-serif typefaces, he experimented with type placement, from flush left to ragged right and establishing a visual hierarchy. He laid out his work on an implied grid to stabilize his designs.

1919 CE

Typography would further be revolutionized by Jan Tschichold, who introduced the Die neue Typographie (textbook for designers and lay people). He work was based on underlying horizontal and

vertical structures to achieve asymmetry, and utilized white space. Clarity, he believed, was far more critical than beauty. Excerpts from Tschichold’s “Die neue Typographie” book, detailing his teachings on setting type at the time. .


With the fall of its Czar and the introduction of communism, Russia would experience its own 1900s -1940s CE

flow of creativity, known among artists as Russian Constructivism, Suprematism, and Plakastil. Based upon cubist and futurism concepts, designers like Alexander Rodchenko focused on industrial design and visual communcation in the name of serving communist society and broke away from traditional art by using photomontage and geometric abstractions. Constructivism relied on the three components of tectonics, texture, and construction. El Lissitzky used constructivism to influence graphic design by employing mathematical properties of architecture, believing that designers could forge the link between art and technology of the new communist age.

The new socialist society utilized the propaganda assembled by prolific artist Gustav Kluntis, a master of combining photomontage with graphic design. While designers like Rodchenko and Kluntis strayed from traditionial art, brothers Georgii and Vladimir Augustovinch Stenberg collaborated to make meticulously realistic drawings for their posters by way of projected film frames and a grid. Their 3D drawings were offset by flat forms and vibrant hues.

Two hallmark examples of Constructivist

design: a photomontage poster by Rodchenko and the geometric type style of the time by El Lissitzky.


Post war poster art took a turn a turn to cubism with special attention to spacial

1920s -1930s CE

organization and synthetic imagery, known as Art Deco. Poster artist Edward MCknight Kauffer demonstrated strong communication use of cubism by reducing his work to interlocking shapes; in France, A.M. Cassandre used bold yet simple designs as iconographic symbols to revitalize Frech advertising. The artwork of Austin Cooper was directly cubist in that it broke down images into squares and color to represent his underlying messages, seen particularly in his advertisments for the London Underground.

Both of Austin

The trademark interlocking pattern of

the art deco style, set aroud the date of this period.

Cooper’s posters advertised for the London Underground using cubism and color schemes to depict his message.

1930s -1940s CE


European design influence reached America in the ‘30s. American graphic design had been dominated by traditionial illustration, until

self-taught artists like Lester Beall brought concepts to the design table. His work was comprised of planes of flat color, elementary signs, photomontage, wood type, and overprinting; over time, his designs were used by the coporate design movement among American businesses, such as the Rural Electrification Administration. In addition to Beall, an influx of foreign graphic designer immigrants arrived in the U.S. to escape Fascist regimes, bringing with them European influence on American design development.

Among these immigrants was designer Erte, Alexey Brodovitch, Joseph Binder - major contributors to modern American design as

well that also became involved in the corporate agency movement. Both Erte and Brodovitch were signed onto contracts with Haper’s Bazaar magazines to exercise their desin influence, including synthetic cubism and use of photography. Binder employed the airbrush to create exquiste designs of stylized realism that emphasized the subject matter and utilized powerful shapes. He also became involved in advertising posters for military recruitment using strong pictorial modernism.

The launch of the Work Progress Administration (WPA) aspart of President Roosevelt’s New Deal brought work to unemployed artists so as to continue their professional careers. In this project, a poster plan was implemented that included many cultural activities for the arts, which produced millions of copies of 35,000 poster designs of silk-screened printings. These had influences from the Bauhaus, pictorial modernism, and constructivism to produce a new modernist style.


As design principles advanced in Germany, so did those in Switzerland. Swiss style boasted clean-

liness, readability, and objectivity with asymmetrical layouts, use of a grid, sans-serifs, and flush left and ragged right text. It also preferred the art of photograpghy over illustrations and used typography as its main design element. Pioneers of this refined, looser style believed that design was a critical profession in which the designer communicaed information to different parts of sociey. Intrumental designers of this time included Ernst Keller, Theo Ballmer, and Herbert Matter (his Swiss-inspired, photomonatge travel posters were widely recognized as successful).

1950s CE

A hugely significant - and extremely versatile - typeface founded in this time was Univers, even more so than its kin Helvetica. This font, developed by Adrian Frutiger, featured twenty-one variations and could be applied everywhere.

As always, typography is ever-evolving and new typefaces emerged in addition to the versatile Univers and widely acclaimed Helvetica font. Akzidenz Grotesk, a sans-serif or grotesque typeface, was applied for commercial use of publicity materials, adverts, tickets, and forms. Typeface designer Hermann Zapf developed new styles of type derived from traditional calligraphic and Renaissance typography; his work included both Palatino and Optima fonts, which were hugely regarded as major type designs.

Posters made in the Swiss style, designed by

Ernst Keller (left) and Theo Baller (right). This art was geometric and clearly made using a grided system, while the typography was arranged in a ragged right or flushed left technique.

Jean Carlu’s poster for America’s response to

WWII; like most artists during wartime, Carlu was employed to boost American morale among citizens.

Ludwig Hohlwein’s

One of the most famous WWII posters (produced by J. Howard Miller), promoting production during the war effort in te United States.

work is an example of Axis Power advertisment for the war. He was commissioned for the same reasons as designers in the United States, though working with the Nazi regime marred his reputation from there on out.

The typeface Helvetica is still celebrated as one of the most versatile

fonts in the world for its sleekness and timeless appearance. Its cousin, Univers, is arguably just as useful (if not more).


As the second World War erupted in Europe, graphic designers were roped into the war effort

to develop propaganda for production promotion. Outstanding poster artists were Jean Carlu (his posters promoted production in response to the war), Ben Shahn, and E. McKnight Kauffer; Joseph Binder also contributed his skill to advertising for the military efforts. Kauffer was commissioned to design morale-boosting posters for the Allied Nations, while Shahn addressed political and economic injustice to reach a larger audience in designs converying Nazi brutality.

1940s -1970s CE

After the war, the CCA set out to implement the “Great Ideas of Western Man” Campaign - a revolutionary move in marketing

history. The company gave designers a single quote to express artistically and let them go from there. Alexey Brodovitch, Herbert Matter, and Hebert Mayer made significant contributions to magazines like Vogue, Fortune, Harper’s Bazaar.

Also designed by Brodovitch, the

Haper’s Bazaar magazine shifed to promoting women’s beauty in lieu of the wartime poster mania.

A poster design following WWII, designed by Alexey Brodovitch for the Haper’s Bazaar magazine. Brodovitch’s work was prolific at this time for marketing.


Design continued to evolve in America as well; New York had by this time replaced France as the center of 1950s -1960s CE

art. A group of artists settled in America christened themselves The New York School, creating intuitive, pragmatic, and less formal artwork that focused on organizing space for the presentation of information. New York had by this time replaced France as the center of art, having its own originial approach to modern design apart from the influential immigrants of the century. Recognized artists of this period included Paul Rand, Bradbury Thompson, Saul Bass, Herb Lubalin, and George Lois.

Paul Rand’s deep understanding for modern movement enabled him to efficiently analyze a message,

reduce it to symbolic essence, and communicate it through dynamic visual forms like collage, montage, and universally understood signage. Bradbury Thompson proved to be a highly influential designer in that he used huge, bold organic and geometic shapes to create graphic and symbolic power through his understanding of printing, typeseting, and adventurous enthusiasm.

Saul Bass brought the sensibilities of the New York School to the West Coast and used his talent to express the core concepts

of a design, often reduced to a single dominant form, with images of glyphs and pictorial signs. Other designers, like Herb Lubalin, abandoned traditional typographic rules to make the alphabet as a visual form so that mere words became ideographic typograms for his subjects. Although arrogant, artist George Lois had a firm understanding of graphic design. His style was deceptively simple yet direct, with no background to hamper the interaction between verbal and pictorial content.

Many of these designers, including Paul Rand and Saul Bass, were employed by the visual departments of corporations to provide consistent design systems for the company image and identity. One such artist, Raymond Loewy, understood the importance of his position and his streamlined aesthetics could be found on a range of industrial products, packaging, architecture, interior, and corporate identities. A giant in the corporate identity movement was Chermayeff & Geismar Associates, whose trademark design for Mobile Oil became one of their most renowned designs. Designer Massimo Vignelli founded his own firms, including Unimark and Vignelli Associates, and became know for his iconic designs for the New York City Subway system among a plethora of other fields he dabbled in, from environmental and interior design to furniture and product design.


The ‘60s and ‘70s were marked by poster mania in the design and advertisement world, fostered by

social activism due to America’s involvement in the Vietnam War as well as the Women’s and Civil Rights Movements. These posters made statements regarding social views rather than commercial ones, especially among the hippie culture as psychedelic posters for anti-establishment values, rock music, and psychedelic drugs. Psychedelic art is characterized by swirling curves of Art Nouveau, vivid colors, and dizzying pop-art optical illusions.

Design culture continued evolving into what is considered postmodernism, defined as more of

an expressive movement rather than a style exclusive to the designer as an individual. Graphic artists found themselves playing with new different techniques that diverged from mainstream design. During this period, designer Wolfgang Weingart introduced New WaveTypography - an intuitive and eclectic departure from the established internationial typographic style. He used wide letterspacing, alternating type weights, and set type in his designs, sandwiching them with images he photographed; these appeared strikingly advanced for the time and are achieved easily in Photoshop programs nowadays.

1960s -1970s CE

Fellow designer April Greiman jumped into new innovations of the time, like the emerging use of the computer as a potential tool for

artists. The files were huge and the software exceedingly slow, but this opened a new window as both art and the world were introduced to the World Wide Web amd computer electronics.

Retro Art began materializing in New York and soon throughout the world, reviving historical classics of the first half of the century.

Designers Paula Scher, Louise Fili, and Neville Brody produced work that integrated typography in new way, making it the center focus and innovating design styes.


The Mobil Oil logo, as designed by Chermayeff & Geismar Associates during the company identity movement of the mid-1900s. It is such a powerful logotype that it is still in use by the company today.

Psychedelic poster art of the ‘60s and ‘70s used vibrant and exceedingly

clashing colors, as well as images that played with the viewer’s mind. In effect, the posters gave off “trippy” vibes, like those of the psychedelic drugs used in the hippie culture of this period of history.


The computer held high potential among artists and its use irrevocably

transformed the profession of Graphic Design. Graphic artists experimented, creating page layouts; typesetters operated text and displayed typesetting equipment; production artists pasted all of the elements into the positions on boards; camera operators made photographic negatives, along with strippers who assembled the negatives; platemakers prepared printing plates; and press operators ran the printing process. Pioneers of the the digital age included Ed Fella, David Carson, Stefan Sagmeister, Chip Kidd, John Maeda, Nancy Skolos and Tom Wedell, Michael Bierut, and Muriel Cooper. By the ‘90s, the digital technology enabled an individual operating a desktop computer to control most - if not all - of these functions by oneself.

1980s -2000s CE

The digital era continues today, with Graphic Design transcending as technology continues advancing and providing huge opportunities to create, print, assemble, and design.

Examples of modern art achieved by designers

Paula Scher (left), Stefan Sagemeister (center), John Maeda (right) using the technology afforded by the digital era.

Timeline of Graphic Design  

A full-length timeline documenting the evolution of the Graphic Design profession.

Timeline of Graphic Design  

A full-length timeline documenting the evolution of the Graphic Design profession.