Before the printing press: Prehistory to the Renaissance
Graphic design proper really began after the invention of the printing press in 1440, but the roots of visual communication stretch all the way back to caveman times.
Cave paintings ~38,000 BCE
It seems like humans have always had an inherent drive towards art, evidenced by the early cave paintings dating back to prehistoric times. Subjects vary from animals to hand imprints to events like hunting, and they’ve been found all over the world (Australia, Spain, Indonesia, France, Argentina, just to name a few).
Advancements in Chinese printing 200 CE – 1040 CE
China holds most of the records for printing discoveries, including non-papyrus paper making, woodblock printing, and movable type—all of which occurred earlier than you might have guessed.
As far back as 200 CE, China used wood reliefs to print and stamp designs on silk clothes, and later paper. In 1040, Bi Sheng invented the world’s first movable type printing press out of porcelain, more than 400 years before Gutenburg brought a similar technology to Europe.
European heraldry – ~1100
Technically, the world’s first logo is the coat of arms, used as a symbol to represent family houses or territories.
Like logos, a house’s coat of arms aimed to represent the values, characteristics and styles of the people. Later, these emblems took on more practical purposes, such as wax seals to reflect authenticity.
Invention of the Gutenberg press – 1439
Johannes Gutenberg brought moveable type to Europe in 1439, introducing mass communication to Western culture and forever changing civilization. With the Gutenberg press, people no longer had to rely on lengthy scholarly reproductions of books, opening up literature (and literacy) to the masses and making it affordable. The Gutenberg press paved the way for more commercial uses of design, which ushered in the era of graphic design as we know it.
Chromolithography – 1837
Technological advancements continued to fuel the progression of graphic design, such as the ability to print in color, or chromolithography. While used primarily for recreating paintings for home decor, chromolithography also opened new doors for advertising.
Brands were now able to use a lot of the familiar marketing tools we know today, such as characteristic color schemes and building emotional connections through slice-of-life scenes.
Staatliches Bauhaus founded – 1919
Bauhaus, first opened its doors in Weimar, Germany in 1919. Theirs was an ambitious goal: to create a Gesamtkunstwerk, an artistic ideal that encompasses or synthesizes existing art forms into one perfect work. The interesting thing is they actually succeeded: Bauhaus was one of the central driving forces behind the popularization of the modernist style.
From the 1950s onward, the world began its slow approach to the digital era we’re currently enjoying. The mass-adoption of home computers is a technological advancement comparable to the invention of the printing press, ushering in a new age for mass communication and granting access to esoteric art styles and digital software for new methods of creating art.Adobe Photoshop—first released in 1990—even on its own changed the face of graphic design. Photo manipulation created a whole new subcategory of graphic design, blending together elements of photography, illustration, and CGI (it would have made the Gesamtkunstwerk artists proud).Simultaneously, the nature of branding also evolved to meet the changing times. We partially have MTV to thank for this—they brought a fresh new take on logo usage, particularly in constantly changing theirs while retaining recognisable characteristics.
This site gave an interesting and useful (yet limited) timeline of design history. Because the history is so vast, here are some significant works throughout history to help inspire me visually and help figure out what to include in my work.
Some more significant historical designs -https://edition.cnn.com/2014/09/16/world/gallery/kitching-monotype-posters/index.html
in depth about bauhaus – https://www.curbed.com/2019/4/9/18296923/bauhaus-100-design-legacy-art-furniture-craft