How Graphic Design Evolved? 15 Evolutions

How Graphic Design Evolved? 15 Evolutions      

The evolution of graphic design is deeply intertwined with the changing preferences of different cultures through the ages and acutely influenced by the blossoming of technology. Before it became an art that espoused the aesthetic value as much as the content therein, graphic design was all about succinctly relaying messages on parchment, wooden planks, and papyrus as in the Egyptian and Chinese cultures of yore. From primitive beginnings, here are 15 evolutions that played a part in the transformation of graphic design into what it is today.

The invention of printing

In a way, printing fathered not only graphic design but almost all other forms of written, artistic expressions. According to historians, the Chinese laid the foundation for printing as we know it today. They first developed a primitive printing method in 6th-century ce, and they later invented paper from fibers around 105 CE.


Driven by the invention of printing artifacts, calligraphy, and paper based illustrated art forms gained prominence. At this point, graphic design ceased to be expressly about clear message conveyance with creative minds injecting fine art into the profession which was then in its early stages.

The invention of the printing press

Along came the printing press in the 1600s and graphic design went through a growth spurt as quickly replicating written material and images became possible. Suddenly, written art forms were in demand as the publishing industry witnessed its dawn.

Refinement of the printing press

Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press was refined through the years with the most critical advancement happening in the 1880s. Fine art on paper took off with commercial establishments looking to make use of printed content-art mixtures to advertise. The demand for graphic artists who could pull off such feats continued to rise.

Graphic design becomes a profession

In the 19thth century, graphic design started taking form as a stand-alone profession. Underpinned by the rapidly increasing demand for print media such as newspapers, books, magazines, and cover arts, capable graphic artists were paid on commission for accomplished works and the sufficient income roped in more artistic minds.

Art directors

With art becoming a crucial part of print media, print, publishing and advertising agencies started hiring full-time art directors to come up with appropriate artwork as needed in early 20th century. It was during this period that the term ‘graphic design’ was coined by William A. Dwiggins who was a typographer.

Commercial purposes

From the early 20th century, the direction graphic design took was heavily influenced by the business goals of agencies to drive sales. Notably, however, designers were allowed the freedom to experiment and come up with revolutionary designs provided the artwork served the given purposes.

The effect of societal dispositions

During the latter half of the 20th century, as agencies looked for more effective ways of appealing to the masses, graphic design began mirroring the inclinations of the populace. Post-world war II, graphic design was upbeat with strong elements of patriotism, for instance. And in the 60s, it took on sexual undertones as enterprises discovered the selling power of sex.

The role of technology

From the 1940s, technology started advancing at a frenetic pace, and graphic design followed suit. The commercial possibilities of art increased exponentially with many artistic minds joining the profession. There was all manner of projects to work on such as movies, book covers, signs, product packaging, stamps, etc.

The computer revolution

With the invention of the PC and eventual user-friendly software, the role of graphic design in developing software was established. It was at this juncture that graphic design underwent the most critical phase into becoming what many people today typically understand to be graphic design.

Digital graphic design

The benefits of the PC saw graphic designers, in line with other professionals, leveraging the power of computers to make their work easier. Development of design peripherals such as graphic tablets, mini printers, and scanners aided the digital shift of graphic design and ultimately, the rise of the digital artist.

The internet

Then came the internet and graphic design found another outlet in the form of web design. More persons were sucked into the field courtesy of the rapid internet growth. By this point, many people began regarding graphic design as a primarily digital profession as most maneuvers were now accomplished through computers.

Video games

In the 1970s, video games came to be providing another digital avenue for artistic expression. The insatiable desire video game fans developed for better, edgier and more realistic graphics flogged graphic design as a profession to the heights it enjoys today.

The minimalistic movement

After an unprecedented loudness characterized by a burst of color in graphic design in the 90’s and early 2000’s, a contrastingly minimalistic approach began to take shape ushering the graphic design industry into what it is today.

3D printing and other technologies

The fact that technology bears the primary mantle when it comes to the evolution of graphic design is not in question. The continuing rise of 3d printing, virtual reality, immersive graphics, and other innovations under refinement is what is currently shaping graphic design.

In conclusion, experts foretell of exciting times ahead for graphic design. Pointers make these positive prophecies easy to believe as continued technological growth consistently brings to fruition good tidings for the industry. Certainly, the industry still has loads of potential and stakeholders and those looking to join are poised to gain much from the ever-multiplying trajectories of growth.

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