History of Graphic Design: A Complete Guide

History of Graphics

A Brief History of Graphic Design

Graphic Design is an integral part of our daily lives now. Whatever you see around like Illustrations, Logos, Web Design, Book Covers, Advertisements, etc., everything results from this. A major part of our work is incomplete without graphic design. Surprisingly, graphic design is not a modern-day phenomenon. Its roots spread across the ancient times of history. To fully understand graphic design, it is essential to look back at its origin.

Do you know the impact that design history had on society? One of the most crucial reasons is the fact that history helps us in creating a connection between past and present. It is an insight into different cultures that you might not be familiar with. So here we are going to draw an evolution of graphics from their historical origin to modern developments.

First Visuals

Historians figured out the first traces of graphic design in ancient times cave paintings. The ancient cave paintings from 38,000 BCE show how humans communicate with each other and between generations. The cave paintings exhibited their lifestyles of hunting and preparing a fire.

History of Graphics
Ancient Cave Paintings


When we speak of prehistoric times, historians believe France’s Lascaux paintings saw their creation around 20000 to 15000 BC. Over 600 paintings are dawning on the ceilings and walls of these caves. What relates these paintings with graphic design is that historians believe that this might be the beginning of visual communication. We humans started to communicate visually so that we had the upper hand over these creatures. Since they mostly lived as hunters and gatherers, it is also a way to understand these creatures. It is also a way to conserve history and give them a place in our memories.

History of Graphics
The Cave Art of Lascaux Paintings

ANCIENT TIMES (3 500 BC – 500 AD)

The cave paintings evolved into graphical carvings of letters. Historians discovered the use of alphabets and credited the Sumerians for inventing writing. It dates back to 3300 to 3000 BC. Pictographs and symbols of objects were the first evidence of writing and letters.

History of Graphics
Ancient Egyptians and Sumerian Language

MIDDLE AGES (476 – 1492)

The major development during these periods was the coming of the printing press.

The invention of printing took place as early as the 6th century BCE, where people from china used woodblock and leaf to print on silk and then on paper. In 1040, Bi Sheng was responsible for inventing printing on the movable type. The movable type came to Europe in 1439 through Johannes Gutenberg’s hands, who replaced wood with metal and used letters in place of printing blocks. Gutenberg’s press created the path to commercial use of printing and thus came using advertising and graphic design.

History of Graphics
Johannes Gutenberg and Printing Press

MODERN ERA (1492 – 1945)


During the period from 1760 to 1840, the industrial revolution brought in a new concept of lithography. It involves printing, where one etches its design on a stone or metal surface and then transfers it to paper. Then came the evolution of chromolithography, where the use of color.

History of Graphics
Lithography Printing Press
History of Graphics
Chromolithography: The Art of Stone

Established by artist Koloman Moser in 1903, the Wiener Werkstatte was the first-ever Graphic Design Agency. With the architects, artists, and designers working together, it became the pioneer of modern design and graphics.

History of Graphics
Koloman Moser Arts

The modern era saw the evolution of graphic designs through various art movements. Art movements that emerged in various countries made their contributions to give the development of graphics a flow. They brought in unique trends and designs that helped in the evolution of graphic design.

Art Nouveau

They bloomed in Western Europe and the United States of America from the 1880s till the first world war of 1917. It was a forceful idea to overshadow the historical styles of the 19th century. They worked hard to bring in a higher quality of workmanship, the influential status of craft, and modern design. Organic and asymmetric linework was their trademark.

History of Graphics
Art Nouveau, The Tassel House


This influential art form and design movement started in 1919 in Weimar, Germany. Walter Gropius’s founder encouraged the artists and designers to work together and mend a broken society. They challenged the traditional rules and methods of schooling. Their design was a combination of arts and crafts, classical and avant-garde styles, and minimalism and geometric shapes.

History of Graphic Design
Walter Gropius, Bauhaus Art


As a reaction to modernism, postmodernism saw the birth of skeptics who did not believe in the absolute truth. They broke the traditional rules of design by using vibrant colors, and abstract designs, and collages.

History of Graphics Design
Image Credit: Normform, Por Yuliia Liesova


The introduction of digital tools was a revolution in the field of graphic design. The launching of software helped in creating images and making professional designs.

Adobe Illustrator

History of Graphic Design

The year 1987 saw the commercialization of Illustrator, which was initially an in-house font development software. With further developments, we use Adobe Illustrator to create logos, illustrations, and typesetting in vector images. Adobe illustrator saw its birth through the hands of Apple Mackintosh in the year 1985. Illustrator CC 2021 is their latest version, which saw its release on October 20, 2020.

Adobe Photoshop

History of Graphic Design

Photoshop is a photo manipulation program allowing its users to create digital art in raster format. Adobe photoshop saw its birth in 1987, through the hands of brothers Thomas and John Knoll. They purchased the license for photoshopping in the following year of 1988. In 1990, Mackintosh released photoshop exclusively. But in 1993, Its individuality ended when Google came into the scene.

Adobe Indesign

History of Graphic Design

As the successor to Adobe PageMaker, Adobe acquired Indesign by buying Aldus corporation at the end of 1994. Adobe initially released it on August 31, 1999, but Indesign got its stable release in November 2020. It is used to create designs such as flyers, magazines, posters, flyers, brochures, newspapers, presentations, books and ebooks.

In conclusion, Everything in the modern period has an origin that traces along the times of history. Thus, before going deep, one must have good knowledge of its historical evolution and birth. To understand the working and intricacies of anything, we need to flip its history pages. Here we found out how the notion of graphic design as a modern phenomenon is not true and that it has an ancient past that developed into something this flamboyant.

READ MORE: What is Graphic Design?

If you like our article, please subscribe to BsyBeeDesign for the latest updates on design. If we forget anything, share your creative ideas with us in the comments section.

Follow us on Facebook, Linkedin, Instagram, Pinterest and Youtube.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here