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A Brief History of Graphic Design

Anthropologists studying prehistoric periods found cave paintings and markings on boulders and ivory created during the Old Stone Age. Some of the earliest graphics and drawings known to the modern world are those belonging to the Phoenician alphabeth, which was developed during the second millennium BC. One of the most important milestones in the history of graphic design was the birth of written language in the third or fourth millennium BC. Later, Johann Gütenberg’s introduction of movable type and mechanic print in Europe led to the massive production of books and printed material.

The advent of lithography and the changes introduced by the Industrial Revolution during the nineteenth century led to a significant increase in the amount of printed material and to a sharp decrease in traditional means of design. In 1890 William Morris, an English author and artist, set up the Kelmscott Press, a printing business that created books of great stylistic refinement. His designs included medieval ornaments, flowers and plants. The work produced by Morris and his contemporaries directly influenced Art Nouveau, and it was indirectly responsible for developments in early twentieth century graphic design in general.


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In 1919 architect Walter Gropius founded the Bauhaus, a school of architecture and design that was aimed at joining art and industry. Gropius was convinced that industrialization offered new opportunities for designers. Later, in 1930, Jan Tschichold -a German typography expert- created a new style by introducing the use of photography in his designs. He codified the principles of modern typography in his 1928 book, New Typography. During the 50s a new movement introduced the International Typographic Style, which tried to create designs that were legible and organized.

During the years that followed World War II the demand for graphic design increased markedly, mainly due to the growing need for advertising and packaging. Designers such as Adrian Frutiger and Paul Rand were of great influence to the developing of new techniques of graphic design during mid-century modern design. From the late 1930's until his death in 1996, Rand took the principles of the Bauhaus and applied them to advertising and logo design.

From post World War II years until these days, graphic design techniques have been under constant development. New technologies have led to the devising of a wide range of computer software that facilitate the work of designers and offer a wide variety of options regarding modern graphic design.


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