From early developments in printing to the emergence of distinct styles in design during the 20th century, let’s take a look at the history of graphic design specifically to the Key moments of the 20th Century that shaped graphic design.

Who originally coined the term “graphic design” appears to be in dispute. It has been attributed to Richard Guyatt, the British designer and academic, but another source suggests William Addison Dwiggins, an American book designer in the early 20th century. 


The bookbinder T. J. Cobden-Sanderson associated with Emery Walker. They bothered to attack the problem of pure typography arguing that the global duty of typography is to communicate to the imagination, incidentally and without loss, the thought or image that the author tries to convey.

Art Nouveau, ornamental style of art that flourished between about 1890 and 1910 throughout Europe and the United States. Art Nouveau is characterized by its use of a long, sinuous, organic line and was employed most often in architecture, interior design, jewelry and glass design, posters, and illustration.



AEG (German General Electric); Peter Behrens, denounce Art Nouveau for a spare abstract neoclassicism; products, lighting fixtures, fans, advertising, graphics, and the firm’s overall ‘corporate image’.


Bauhaus – design school, art, and architecture founded in 1919 by Walter Gropius in Weimar (Germany) and closed by the Prussian authorities (in the hands of the Nazi Party) in 1933.


Soviet constructivism applied ‘intellectual production’ in different spheres of production. The movement saw individualistic art as useless in revolutionary Russia and thus moved towards creating objects for utilitarian purposes. They designed buildings, theater sets, posters, fabrics, clothing, furniture, logos, menus, etc.

rusian constructivism


Jan Tschichold embodied the principles of modern typography in his book, New Typography


US consumer society emerges: commercial artist, advertising, illustrators


Stanley Morison oversees the design of Times New Roman font, commissioned by the Times of London.


The emigration of the German Bauhaus school of design to Chicago in brought “mass-produced” minimalism to America


First issue of Print Magazine printed.


Hermann Zapf designed two typefaces remain ubiquitous Palatino (1948) and Optima (1952).


MOMA, promote good design, refugees Gropius, Mies, Breuer; New Bauhaus, Chicago, ID-IIT; Yale University: Alvin Eisenman, Paul Rand, Herbert Matter, Norman Ives


Swiss architect and sculptor Max Bill, following the lines of the original Bauhaus, founded in Ulm (West Germany) Hochschule für Gestaltung (School of Designing), which quickly retrieves the name of Bauhaus and to differentiate it from the initial Neues Bauhaus (New Bauhaus)


Paul Rand designs the IBM logo using City Medium typeface.

IMB logo redisign


Max Miedinger designs Neue Haas Grotesk font, later renamed Helvetica.


First issue of Communication Arts printed.


Post-Modernism: Wolfgang Weingart, Steff Geissbuhler, Odermatt & Tissi

Inspired by hallucinations, the Psychedelic style emerges and plays to the counterculture. Swirls, obscure fonts transformed into shapes, and bright colors permeated the often hard-to-read designs.


Douglas Engelbart develops the first computer mouse, setting the stage for the future tool of graphic design.


In the early ’70s, members of the Bund Deutscher Grafik-Designer (Association of German graphic designers), unveiled several features of their professional identity, as in the case of Anton Stankowski and others

Corporate graphics: Olivetti, CBS, CIBA, IBM, Chase, Mobil


Milton Glaser designed the unmistakable I Love NY campaign

I love ny


Apple releases the first Macintosh computer, featuring bitmap graphics.

Émigré magazine Art-directed by Dutch-born Rudy VanderLans using fonts designed by his wife, Czechoslovakian-born Zuzana LickoEmigre was one of the first publications to use Macintosh computers and had a large influence on graphic designers moving into desktop publishing (DTP). Its variety of layouts, use of guest designers, and opinionated articles also affected other design publications.

apple 1984 first computer


Post-Script Language Type 1, A device-independent system that allows the transfer of vector art to any output printing device. The quality of the final output will be determined by the printer

Aldus, formed by Paul Brainerd, develops PageMaker software. Brainerd coins the phrase “desktop publishing.”


Physicist Tim Berners-Lee develops the world wide web, along with HTML and the concept of website addresses.

Photoshop version one

photoshop version 1

1990’s Open Type Adobe & Microsoft, open Type is a cross-platform font useable on Macs and PC’s. It utilizes Unicode encoding which allows for 65,000 characters in a single font which can accommodate every language in the world plus all of the small caps, and additional sets of characters to make a complete font

External resources

History of graphic design, interactive timeline 

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Javier Cantero

Javier Cantero