Graphic design has a very rich and varied history. The word “graphic design” didn’t appear on the scene until 1922, when William Dwiggins created the term to describe the art of designing with graphics.
In the earliest days of graphic design, professionals drew by hand. However, in the last 6 years graphic design has forged ahead, advancing rapidly since the addition of today’s digital art tools.
Earliest Graphic Design
Even though the term graphic design wasn’t created yet, some of the earliest designs included typography for books and newspapers. One could also argue drawings on cave walls represent a form of ancient graphics.
Fast forward to the 1940s, graphic design appeared in propaganda posters, such as the “We Can Do It” poster with Rosie the Riveter. Slogans were short, to the point, and added to a graphic that set the tone. As technology changed and became available to more people, the entire industry that would become known as graphic design began to emerge.
The 80s were all about bold, bright colors that grabbed people’s attention. Personal computers became affordable for everyone, putting design tools into the hands of all.
In 1984, Apple released MacPaint for Macintosh computers, allowing designers to use computer graphics in an effortless way, such as with a mouse or graphics tablet. Postscript language allowed designers to place type and graphics on the same page and send it to print, rather than using a drafting table to assemble designs.
In 1985, Microsoft introduced Windows, which meant people no longer had to learn MS-DOS to operate a computer. You just clicked on a few buttons and it was easy to design anything.
In 1990, Photoshop 1.0 arrived on the scene. Back then, you could only use Photoshop with Macintosh computers. The birth of this new tool again changed the designers ability to experiment with new techniques, including overlapping text, faded elements, and digital overlays.
Grunge was also born in the ’90s, which showed up in movie poster designs, book covers, and album covers with dark looking images and simple color palettes, such as white on black, perhaps with a pop of red.
The movie poster for Fight Club uses this grunge style, you can see how the background of the poster is dark and grainy, while the text is bright but raw. This combination creates the overall grunge effect from the decade.
The 2000s began an entirely new frontier for graphic designers. In addition to tools becoming even more powerful, people were suddenly designing on portable devices, such as smartphones. On top of that, designers began to realize the importance of designing in a way that looked good across all device types.
Movement also became more of a focus, with designers looking for ways to make even static logos look like they’re in motion.
There isn’t one method that dominates graphic design today, but a mix of design techniques and styles. Trends emerge from year to year and sometimes month to month. Trends included flat icons and the addition of videos across marketing channels. On top of websites needing to be mobile responsive more than ever before, simplicity also was needed, along with speeding up overall rendering.
Where graphic design will go in the future is anyone’s guess, but the user experience is sure to remain at the forefront. Designs will become more personalized and more interactive over time.
Regardless of where design goes next, you can expect to see more personalized designs that will enhance the user experience in our daily life.