When Did the History of Graphic Design Start?

The history of graphic design is often traced back to the origin of written language, cave paintings, and early hieroglyphics. While these elements can be seen as some of the earliest forms of graphic design, it is hard to pinpoint when exactly the art began.

The first recognized use of graphic design was in the 15th century with the invention of Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press. This allowed for books and other printed works to be mass-produced for the very first time, creating opportunities for more people to access information than ever before. This led to a huge upswing in demand for illustration and design work which would have been used to accompany text in publications.

In the late 19th century, technology had advanced enough that people were able to produce images using photography as well as graphics. The invention of lithography also allowed artists to create multiple copies of their work with relative ease. This led to an increase in demand for art directors who could oversee and manage these projects.

Modern Graphic Design

It wasn’t until the 20th century that we began to see a more formalised approach to graphic design with its own set of rules and principles. In 1924, German typographer Jan Tschichold published his book ‘Elementare Typographie’ which laid out his ideas on modern typography and typeface usage.

The 1950s saw a huge surge in interest in graphic design with new techniques such as offset printing being introduced and more people becoming aware of its potential applications. This was also when Swiss designer Max Bill developed his idea of ‘universal’ or ‘international’ style – a style based on rationality and clarity that would become hugely influential throughout the rest of the century.

More recently, computer technology has revolutionised how we create graphic design; allowing us to create images digitally with increased accuracy, speed and efficiency than ever before. With this new technology came new tools such as Adobe Photoshop which has now become an essential part of any professional designer’s toolkit.


In conclusion, it is impossible to pinpoint exactly when or where graphic design began but it can be traced back many centuries ago. It wasn’t until the 20th century however that it became a more formalised practice with its own set of rules and principles which are still used today. Technology has also played an important role in developing what we know today as modern graphic design.