How Was Graphic Design Done Before Computers?

Before computers, graphic design was done through a variety of different methods. Depending on the project, designers would use a combination of hand-drawn illustrations and typography.

In the days before desktop publishing, when printmaking was the primary method of creating multi-page documents, graphic design was done almost entirely by hand. Artists would draw illustrations with pens or pencils, and use traditional typefaces to create text-based designs.

The typography would be created by setting individual pieces of metal type into a frame called a “galley” and then inked and transferred to paper.

For more complex projects such as book design or logo development, hand-drawn sketches were often used to brainstorm ideas and refine concepts before committing to final artwork. Designers would draw illustrations on paper or tracing paper to experiment with composition and explore different ideas.

The printing process also played an important role in graphic design before computers. For example, when printing large documents such as books or magazines, designers had to consider the physical limitations of the printing press they were using. This meant making sure that all elements were properly aligned so that they would look good when printed.


Photography was also an important part of pre-computer graphic design work. In the days before digital cameras and Photoshop, photographers had to develop their own film in a darkroom and then manually retouch prints for publication. This type of work could involve anything from removing red eye from portraits to adjusting color balance for magazine covers.

Graphic Design Technology

Before personal computers became widely available in the 1980s, there were some limited tools available for early pioneers in digital graphic design. For example, some typesetting machines allowed designers to set text electronically rather than having to use metal type. There were also plotters which could be used for producing line drawings with vector graphics.


In conclusion, while modern computer technology has revolutionized graphic design today, it has its roots in traditional methods such as hand drawing and printmaking that have been around for centuries. Even though computers are now ubiquitous tools used by most professional designers, it is important to remember that these tools are just an extension of skills that have been developed over many years.