The History of Graphic Design
Every since early man first scratched images onto cave walls, humans
have sought to communicate with each other with visual
representations of objects and ideas. Today, this communicative
device is called graphic design. No other form of communication has
educated, entertained and enlightened so many throughout the
generations. Graphic design has sold products, it spread ideas, and
even helped build and destroy cultures. Below is a comprehensive
timeline of the rich history of graphic design.
14,000 B.C.E. A nameless Paleolithic man scribes colorful, dynamic
representations of animals on a cave wall of what is now known as
Lascaux, in the south of France.
3100 B.C.E. The Blau Monuments, most likely from Mesopotamia (now
southern Iraq,) are the first known artifacts to combine text with
pictorial representations to convey meaning. Most scholars believe
that they were used to show land ownership.
1300 B.C.E. Ancient Egyptians began creating detailed,
representational symbols know as hieroglyphs. This form of graphic
communication was unique in its ability to record lofty concepts
such as religious beliefs and mathematical theory.
105 C.E. Ts’ai Lun, introduced paper to Emperor Han Ho Ti in China.
This discovery of this portable substrate forever changed graphic
3rd -6th Centuries C.E. Religious illuminated manuscripts, books
with painstakingly embellished text and illustrations, began to
appear in Byzantium and Southern Europe. These elaborate,
hand-written texts originally depicted tales of Roman gods, but
later became exceptionally popular with Christians and Muslims
800 C.E. Irish monks produced one of the quintessential examples of
an illuminated manuscript, an illustrated and hand-written copy of
the Christian Bible known as The Book of Kells.
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868 C.E. A Buddhist text called The Diamond Sutra was created using
wood block prints by monks in northwestern China. It is the earliest
known printed manuscript.
1450-1455 C.E. Johann Gutenberg invented the printing press with
movable type, and used it to produce the iconic Gutenberg Bible.
19th century C.E. Dutch artist Piet Mondrian helped separate graphic
design and studio art by creating the foundation of the grid system
that is still used for graphic layouts today.
1881 C.E. Fredric Ives of Philadelphia, PA patented the first
successful halftone printing process. This gave graphic designers
the ability to incorporate photography in their work.
1890 C.E. Art Nouveau emerged as the first major artistic movement
to include graphic design.
1900 C.E. An American typeface designer, William Addison Dwiggens,
first used the term “graphic design.”
1919 C.E. The iconic German design school, The Bauhaus was founded.
Its simple, industrial style greatly influenced modern design.
1969 C.E. American inventor Douglas Engelbart developed the computer
mouse. This enabled the use of computers in graphic design.
1984 C.E.Apple introduced the Macintosh Computer. Its bit-map
graphics started the digital desktop publishing phenomenon.
1990 C.E. Tim Berners-Lee helped develop the Internet and HTML.
Adobe Systems released Photoshop.
The last three historical land marks all helped graphic design to
transcend the page and become preferred means of digital
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