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A Look at the Last 200 Years in Print and Graphic Design (Part 2 of a 3-Article Series)

Thursday, September 14, 2017 | Comments (0)

(This is the second part of a 3-article series that looks at the History of Recycling, Print and Graphic Design, and Web Design)

The history of print and graphic design is a history of art and culture. It not only gives us a glimpse into society’s thoughts at a specific time period, it also tells us what they were feeling. While print and graphic design practices go back thousands of years, the most significant changes arguably happened within the last 200 years, beginning in the Industrial Age.

In this brief history of print and graphic design, we look at the most significant milestones that occurred within the last 200 years.

18th Century

The arrival of the Industrial Revolution launches a new age of graphic design production. In 1798, Alois Senefelder develops lithography, also known as the first planographic method of printing, a process of printing on a flat surface. This would form the foundation of offset printing.

19th Century

The first printing press made entirely of iron components was invented by British scientist and statesman Lord Earl Stanhope in 1800. The machine reduced the manpower required of older presses by 90 percent while increasing paper size by 100 percent.

The sans serif typeface appears in a type sample book by William Caslon IV in 1816. Though subtle, the typeface would eventually spread like wildfire in Europe and the United States.

Francis Wayland Ayer opens N.W. Ayer & Son in 1869. Considered as the world’s first advertising agency, they pioneered fine art in graphic design, setting the stage for the adoption of the arts in ads.

The development of the halftone process, or the creation of images by printing a series of dots, leads to the creation of the first photograph with a full stone range in 1880.

20th Century

The trend of Futurism emerges in 1900, drawing inspiration from technology and cubism, focusing on clean and sharp lines. The trend would last until the 1930s. 

The Bauhaus opens its doors to the public in Germany in 1919. The Bauhaus movement would leave a lasting influence on modern graphic design, placing emphasis on the importance of design elements like typography.

Art Deco bursts into the scene in the 1920s, defining the era with bold geometric patterns and high contrast designs. Although no longer as popular during its heyday, the Art Deco movement would grow to become synonymous with the Roaring Twenties and the decades that followed.

Stanley Morrison develops the beloved (and detested) Times New Roman typeface in 1929. The font takes its name from the Times of London, which hired Morrison to create a new text font. 

Sans serif fonts grow in popularity in the 1940s, continuing well into the 1980s and 1990s. 

The Kitsch movement enjoys a brief period of popularity in 1950. Characterized by bold colors as well as contrasty, fantastical, and theatrical imagery, it would eventually be considered tacky and dated.

Max Miedinger develops Helvetica in 1957, a typeface made popular in modern types by Apple Inc. 

The “hippie” years (the 1960s to 1970s) would help fuel the popularity of the Psychedelic style of design, characterized by swirls, bursts of bright colors, and obscure “flowery” fonts.

The first version of Adobe Photoshop 1.0 is released in 1990after its inventors, the Knoll brothers, struck a deal with Adobe. Photoshop would forever change the world of digital design and printing.

21st Century 

The Flat style of graphic design would become common in web design and digital interfaces in 2010 and beyond. With its minimalist vibe and use of sharp lines, the style would appeal to lovers of minimalism.

The advent of cinemagraphs in 2017 sees the creation of beautiful images with small movement in one element. Think of it as a more elegant version of the GIF. 

These milestones in graphic design and printing are a huge influence on the work we do here at Smartbag. To learn more about our product line, get in touch with the Smartbag team on our Contact Page

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