How the Past Influences the Present

The history of graphic design can serve as an excellent source of inspiration, especially if you study how art and technological developments influenced certain designers. While the entire history of graphic design is way too long for this blog, here are some interesting details to note.


Advertising existed in ancient times. Egyptians wrote sales messages and designed wall posters on papyrus, while politicians in Pompei and ancient Arabia created campaign displays.


The lines between graphic design, advertising, and fine art often blurred together until the mid-1800s. At that time, Henry Cole explained the importance of graphic design to his government (in Great Britain) in the Journal of Design and Manufactures. Cole went on to become influential in the growth of design education.


You can see an incredibly successful example of a logo as far back as 1885, when Frank Mason Robinson created the classic Coca Cola logotype. Yet the actual term “graphic design” didn’t appear until 1922, when it was coined by the type designer, illustrator, and book designer William Addison Dwiggins.


Throughout the 20th century, new styles and technologies emerged rapidly, each one exerting some influence on graphic design. For instance, the Bauhaus movement embraced mass production and the new machine culture after World War I; after World War II photography began replacing illustrations in most graphic design, and post-modernism brought new materials, bright colors, and humor to design. And of course with computers came the digital revolution.


Hopefully you’ll look further into some of these design movements.  After all, who says Art Nouveau can’t be used in a digital format, and computer fonts can certainly recreate ancient calligraphy. Perhaps graphic designs of the past can help enhance your own work in original ways today.

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One Comment

  1. Posted November 11, 2010 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    O’key good, but why no illustrations? I studied the history of advertising, because studied studied at the Faculty of advertising. Please tell me the good books on advertising? I need the styles of advertising, as well as to make the right track.

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