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Brief History of Graphic Design

The very first written word of mankind was the beginning of Graphic Design! And its native land was none other then ancient caves and caverns! The very first symbol they had sketched through cave drawings, paintings, markings on boulders, bone, and ivory are the foremost indication and evidence where graphic design was born, nursed, nourished and grown! Nevertheless, the term Graphic Design was named by William Addison Dwiggins in the early 20th Century.

Anthropologists studying prehistoric periods on cave paintings leads us earlier than the Upper Paleolithic period from 40,000 - 10,000 B.C., where our ancestors were learning how to design signs and symbols that could be communicated visually; moreover they were successful on leaving their marks. The pioneers of graphic design are non other then our own ancestors, who had lived in the caves and sketched their drawing on rocks. History of graphics design roots to our own ancestors of ancient era where civilization was cultured in caves, and left their drawings and sketches for us on their canvas of cave walls and ceilings.

The earliest drawings known today are from 6,000 years ago, are that of carved stone and pottery containers. Drawings contained in Egyptian pyramids with signs, symbols and letters are known to all and it leads us back 5000 years.

Furthermore, from 600-250 BC evolution on geometrical shape and structures in Europe played a major role for the development of designing and sketching. As an applied art of arranging images and text for an attempt of visual communication; the hand written copy of the Christian Bible "The Book of Kells", created by Irish monks in 9th century AD with rich illustrations is a good example of the evolution of graphic design.

Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenberg, a German metal-worker and an inventor, introduced a printing technology allowing the re-use of individual letters. The first book produced by Gutenberg press was "The Incunabula". This book became the standard in the history of book printing and publishing and was a giant leap for printing and publication; though, block stamping on sheets of paper with text and signs carved, was in use in Europe and Asia long before 14th century; however, Graphic design of this era was formatting and we today have named it Old Style graphic design.

Guttenberg era of graphic design evolution was sluggish, until the 19th century, in Britain the division created between fine art and applied art boosted this evolution, and they successfully published some of the most major graphic design products through the Arts movement. William Morris made a great deal of business of publishing books with stylish printings and contributed a significant role to attract the potential market as well as commercializing graphic design; in addition he was the pioneer for the separation of commercial design and fine arts.

Another painter from the19th century was Piet Mondrian whose innovation has greatly influenced today's modern graphic designer. Though he was not a graphic designer, his uses of grids was the origin of modern day advertisement known as the grid system; widely used by graphic designer of our century today.

With the decadence of classical style, modern graphic design engrossed in the early 20th century with designs influenced by fine arts. The trademark of early modern fonts is the sans-serif typeface. In 1928, the book "New Typography" written by Jan Tschichold systemized the philosophy of modern typography.

Furthermore, the fathers of modern graphic design are still considered to be typographers such as Herbert Bayer, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, and El Lissitzky as they broke new ground on typography building techniques and stylizing. Modern computer technology has changed typography production altogether, but for the experimental and evolutionary approach their contribution was highly recognizable.

The booming and flourishing period for graphic design was after World War II; as the American economy thrived, the demand of graphic design, particularly on advertisement and packaging sectors blossomed.

I Love NY ad campaign (1973) and a famous Bob Dylan poster (1968) designed by Milton Glaser are examples of applied graphic design culture and its influence. Progressions in graphic design in the early 20th Century were mostly enthused by technological expansion in printing and also in photography. But at the mid of this century, the raising of the computer era in graphic design has faced little backwards as early computers were far weaker and computer memory was limited. However, within the end of this century with the immense development of computers and its corresponding technologies, modern graphic design has evolved into a business that is done almost entirely on computers.

In mid 1980, the arrival of desktop publishing and the launching of software applications like Illustrator and PageMaker introduced an era of designers to computer image manipulation and 3D image creation. Computer graphic design facilitates instantaneous effects of layout or typography changes.

Today, graphic design the visual communication, is yielded in the rich soil of computer ground, fertilized with latest hardware and software technologies. Graphic designers worldwide plough through computers loaded with the latest gadgets and gizmos, software and hardware, academic and technology, information and communication, and are generating the new history of graphic design in their design laboratories.

With express elevation of the hi-tech industry, the future assures more and today's designer are contributing their name and effort through their creativity for the next generation. History yet has to write all of her pages for new innovation and invention in this field.

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Author: Bharat Bista

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