The History of Graphic Arts/Design Chris Hayes ( Graphic design or graphic arts often comes in many forms, from the writing on this paper to the annoying television commercials millions of people view everyday. Despite the very popular usage of graphic design, many people, perhaps the majority of people do not understand or realize when they are experiencing the work of a graphic designer. The work of a graphic artist can be seen anywhere a person looks in any room, in any household. Graphic design with all of its unknown, yet profound affects on people’s lives has always and will always be at the center of our lives whether we realize it or not. Graphic design is essentially any type of visual communication; it is the art of translating ideas and concepts into some sort of structural order and visual form. (Griggs, History of Graphic Design) Believe it or not even in prehistoric times, the concept of visualizing information to better understand it was around. The cavemen who we consider barbaric were the some of the first “graphic designers” ever known. They attempted to visually translate their ideas onto the dirt or on the walls of their caves.
This was the beginning of our modern day graphic design. The visual communication of ideas and information has since the earliest times involved various forms of pictograms. (Roberson, 22) Early examples of these pictograms can been seen in Chinese, Mayan and Egyptian hieroglyphics. Those pictograms or pictures that contained the ideas of those who drew them eventually evolved into alphabets. The alphabet we use today is derived from the first alphabet developed by the Phoenicians during the second millenium B.C.; this alphabet was the first graphic representation of any language. From this first alphabet came a string of other alphabets, many of which are still used today such as they Arabic, Greek, Russian and Roman alphabets.
The fact that the origin of most alphabets traces back to graphic design serves as a strong link between graphic design, reading, and therefore education. As the use of written forms of spreading information became more popular, there was a need for a way to effectively organize the information on paper; this was a call for a standard design for all documents. This design, now termed the “grid” was a way of organizing words either in columns and in lines as in this research paper. This grid was used as a way to divide the paper and more accurately communicate information to the reader. During this same period in history learning, which is closely related to reading and therefore graphic design was restricted to a select few.
After the Roman empire fell with its original alphabet, came the Dark Ages, which was an era during fourth, fifth and sixth centuries when reading, writing and learning was brought to an abrupt standstill. The advancement of learning as well as writing was set aside and therefore the graphic design would not further develop for a number of years. Charlamagne, who was crowned Emperor in 800 AD nurtured a revival of learning in the arts. He required what he called a “crowd of scribes” to write several hundred copies of important religious text among other things. With several copies of books now available and being distributed, the standardization of page layout, writing styles and the alphabet was reformed. Not too much after Charlamagne came the Romanesque era, which was a period of revival in religious realms.
(Laing, XVI) During this era books pertaining to religion such as the Bible, Gospels and Psalm books were produced at higher rates than any other form of book. During the 1200’s as the popularity of university’s created a huge demand for books, literacy among professionals was on the rise and they were active in helping meet this growing demand for books. (Laing, 1027) In the 1300’s a quicker way of producing books was introduced by the Europeans. This system of printing books was called block printing; scribes and other literate people cut of letters from blocks and put them onto to pages to create a book or pamphlet. Around this same time, lower case letters were found to be more convenient than writing our capitals with a pen.
Although still far from the more popular uses for graphic design today, the beginnings of the art are found within the origins of the first books and alphabets. Graphic design as we know it today is a direct product of technological advances, which were soon to come. A major turning point came in the 1400’s with the creation of typography or type-printing; this invention helped meet the overwhelming demand for books during this time. Also in the 1400’s the Gutenburg printing press was invented, which was the first movable type. On the more graphic side of graphic design, in the 1600’s merchants who previously traveled were replaced by shop signboards or what we called billboards. The signs were marks of identification for various businesses.
They began as simple pictures of services such as a knife for a butcher. (Hill, PI) But with time businesses naturally became more competitive and the use of better imagery was more important. By 1609 Germany had an everyday newspaper as well as in Britain; the Gutenburg invention helped perfect the method of moveable type and became one the best ways of transferring information on to paper during this time. In 1799 the first paper-making machine was made which aided the progress of graphic design. Soon after the production of the paper making machine the first steam powered press was invented; this helped with the mass circulation of papers and books.
The Industrial Revolution, which began in 1800, totally changed the world of typography and graphic design. Designers of the time began creating new forms and images. Letters appeared with different faces; in 1816 the first sans serif fonts were created and were the early versions of many fonts we used today. Later on in the revolution, around 1884, the linotype machine was invented which mechanically set the type for newspapers and therefore people no longer manually had to set the type. Soon after this the offset lithographic printer was invented which enabled printing onto virtually any flat surface from metals, to cans, wood, plastic and of course paper.
(Griggs, History of Graphic Design) At the beginning of the 1900’s the first practical type-writer was constructed and further advanced the world of graphic design. In 1922 a book designer named, William Dwiggens coined the term “graphic designer” to describe his activities as a person who brought structured order and visual form to printed communications. Because of him an up and coming profession received its appropriate name. (Roberson, 113) The 1900’s were the beginning of a new profession for those who loved to graphically design things. The new graphic designers wanted to break the mold, they wanted to get away from using straight lines and right angles and begin using more natural movement when creating their art.
Some of these designers included Arthur Mackmurdo, Aubrey Beardsley and Charles Ricketts who all contributed greatly to the profession. (Roberson, 12) These designers and as well as others designed their own fonts, page borders as well as page layouts. Much of their work is still seen today in such fonts as Tempus sans and Arial. Typography a major part of graphic design gained a new lease on new life early in the twentieth century when Dutch designers were inspired and developed new styles. Durin …