Graphic Design: Then and Now

The design industry is undoubtedly big business in the UK, with this marketplace boasting a GVA of around £3 billion.

This number increased from £2.5 billion in 2016, while the recorded growth helped to establish the UK as the largest design industry in Europe (and the second-largest in the world).

In this post, we’ll cast our eyes over the history of graphic design, while considering the key styles that influenced its evolution over time.

The History of Graphic Design

At its core, graphic design is a form of art, and as a result of this you can trace its origins all the way back to 30,000 BC.

At this time, a number of artistic pieces were created in Chauvet, which were rudimentary cave drawings and arguably the very first examples of graphic design output.

While the subsequent years saw various graphic design evolutions, the next major development occurred in 1436 following the invention of the “Gutenberg Press”. This effectively allowed content to be mass-produced for the first ever time, creating the initial foundations for the graphic design industry that we know and love today.

In 1796, a man by the name of Aloys Senefelder developed the concept of “lithography”, which was the first printing method ever to use a flat surface. Then, in 1880, a rise of the halftone screen allowed for photos to be printed in a range of different shades, while it was around this time that the iconic ‘Art Nouveau’ style first gained credence.

This was essentially a response to the industrial revolution, and it managed to build a bridge between contemporary graphic design styles and historic academic art forms.

1919 and the Subsequent Rise of Modernism

In 1919, the world’s first graphic design school (Bauhaus) opened its doors in Germany, with this helping to drive further artistic trends across the globe and create the professional service providers that operate in the modern marketplace.

For example, following the development of the now iconic ‘Times New Roman’ typeface in 1932, we saw the emergence of modernism and arguably its greatest exponent Saul Bass.

Modernism is still influential today, with this style characterised by a deliberate and focused decision to reject the artistic styles of the past. This style also introduced the contemporary trend for experimentation in the industry, particularly with new materials, techniques and even fonts.

No single artist embodied this movement better than Saul Bass, whose iconic movie posters of the 1950s represented hits such as Psycho, The Man with the Golden Arm and North by Northwest.

Interestingly, Bass was also an accomplished logo designer, with his work represented by strong contemporary brands such as AT&T, Kleenex and Girl Scout.

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