Pre–History–1890

Philip Baxter Meggs (1942–2002) was an American graphic designer, professor, historian and author of books on graphic design. His book History of Graphic Design is a definitive, standard read for the study of graphic design.

He has been called the most important historian of design since Nikolaus Pevsner (1902-1983). In contrast to Pevsner, he published a history of graphic design that went beyond the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. One of the first educators to create an overview of the history of graphic design that did not depend exclusively on the traditional structure of the history of the art, Meggs believed that graphic design would need to acquire an adequate understanding of the past and its relation with art.

15,000 – 10,000 BC

The first known visual communication, with pictographs and symbols in the Lascaux caves in southern France.

3600 BC
The Blau Monument, the oldest artifact known to combine words and pictures.

105 AD
Chinese government official Ts’ai Lun credited with inventing paper.

794–806
The Book of Kells, masterpiece of Celtic illuminated manuscripts

1045 AD
Pi Sheng invents movable type, allowing for characters to be individually placed for printing.

1276
Printing arrives in Europe with a paper mill in Fabriano, Italy.

1450
Johann Gensfleisch zum Gutenburg credited with perfecting the system for printing type in books.

1457
Fust & Schoeffer, Psalter in Latin, earliest example of color printing in Europe

1460
Albrecht Pfister the first to add illustrations to a printed book.

1470
Nicolas Jenson, considered one of history’s greatest typeface designers, sets news standard for Roman type.

1476
Erhard Ratdolt, Calendarium, first publisher of Euclid, German working in Venice, Italian Rennaissance, 3-sided borders

1493
Nuremberg Chronicles, Anton Koberger

1529
Geoffroy Tory, Champ Fleury, criblé technique, printed initials, reformer of the French language

1530
Claude Garamond opens first type foundry, developing and selling fonts to printers.

1722
First Caslon Old Style font developed, later used for the printing of the Declaration of Independence.

1737
Fournier le Jeune, standardization of proportion, French, variety of weights and widths>>type family

1760
Industrial Revolution begins, setting the stage for advances in graphic design production.

1765
Thomas Cotterell, twelve line pica display letterforms for advertising

Typography Innovations

1796
Author Aloys Senefelder develops lithography.

1800
Lord Stanhope invents first printing press made of all cast-iron parts, requiring 1/10 the manual labor and doubling the possible paper size.

1816
First sans-serif font makes a subtle entrance as one line of a book.

1837–1901
Reign of Queen Victoria in England

1851
Crystal Palace Exhibition, present  from Prince Alpert to Queen Victoria, showcase the wonders of the Industrial Revolution

1856
Owen Jones, Grammar of Ornament, “bible” for designers of the Victorian era

1861
Williams Morris, who became a highly influential figure in design history, sets up art-decorating firm.

1880
Development of halftone screen allows for first photo printed with a full range of tones.

1890
Art Nouveau movement begins and changes design, making its way into all types of commercial design and utilizing all types of arts.

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