Abridged History of Western Graphic Design

The history of graphic design is also the history of the communication of information.

"Information is surprise"1 — information is that which is unexpected. All that isn't unexpected is noise. I hope you find some surprises here.


World Events

Design Periods

Design Events



Humans develop tools, language, religion

Drawing first appears, 40,000 BCE

Early grain farming, 11,000 BCE

Sumer, 6500-1940 BCE

Writing first appears, 3600 BCE

Cave Painting

Sumarians created cuneiform — world's oldest writing system; early system of gods; early agriculture in Mediterranean. It is said that the first grain crops were grown, not for eating, but for making beer. The "Fertile Crescent" was known to be much fought over. If it was because they made great beer, what could be more obvious?

Earliest cave paintings, 40,000 BCE

Sumarian cuneiform and Egyptian heiroglyphics begin to appear, 3500 BCE

Sumarian cuneiform, left-to-right writing, 3100 BCE

Egyptian ideographs appear, 3100 BCE

First full sentence in Egyptian heiroglyphics, 2700 or 2600 BCE

Egyptian, 3100 BCE–30 BCE

Development of Egypt along the Nile, first major civilization

Development of first alphabet (written symbols representing sounds instead of things and ideas) in Sinai, based on heiroglyphics, 1700 BCE

Rise of Phoenicians — seafarers and traders from the coasts of Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Gaza, Syria and south west Turkey, 1500-300 BCE

Protodynastic Period, approx. 3100–3050 BCE

Early Dynastic Period 3050–2681 BCE

Old Kingdom, 2686–2181 BCE

First Intermediate Period, 2181–1991 BCE

Middle Kingdom, 2134–1690 BCE

Second Intermediate Period, 1674–1549 BCE

New Kingdom, 1549–1069 BCE

Third Intermediate Period, 1069–653 BCE

Late Period, 672–332 BCE

Greek rule after conquered by Alexander the Great, 332-30 BCE

Province of Roman Empire, 30 BCE–476 AD

Heiroglyphics continue to develop

Giza pyramids, 2589–2504 BCE

Chinese invent writing, Jia-gu wen (Oracle Bone), 1900-1300 BCE2

First metal punches, 1800 BCE

A clay tablet, the Hymn to Ninkasi (the Sumerian Goddess of Brewing), contains an ancient recipe for making beer, 1800 BCE

Proto-Sinaitic alphabet, 1700 BCE

King Tut entombment, ca. 1323 BCE

Phoenicians adopt alphabet, spread through trade, 1000-300 BCE

Monumental sculpture


Mummification of dead

Egyptians create first "advertising" on papyrus

Ancient Greece, 750 BCE–146 BCE

With their adoption of writing after 900 BCE, Greeks — including Socrates (470-399 BCE), Plato (428-348 BCE) and Aristotle (384–322 BCE) — "invent" new ways of thinking, including logic, categorization, analysis, concept of beginning, middle and end.3

Birth of Buddha, 563 BCE

Confucius, 551–479 BCE

The Acedemy in Athens, founded by Plato, 387-83 BCE

Archaic Period, c.650-500 BCE

Classical Period, c.500-323 BCE

Hellenistic Period, c.323-27 BCE

Cascajal block, earliest writing in Mesoamerica(?), 900BCE

Greek alphabet, including 5 vowels, written "as the ox plows," no spaces or punctuation, 900 BCE

Illiad and Oddysey, Homer, 760–710 BCE

Archaic Period, Greek sculptors start to develop monumental marble sculpture, c.650-500 BCE

Classical Period, the creative highpoint of Greek sculpture, c.500-323 BCE

Tempra painting, using pigments suspended in water or egg, 500 BCE

Hellenistic Period, the "Greek" style of sculpture is practiced across the Eastern Mediterranean, c.323-27 BCE

(Ancient Greek sculptures were in bronze; the Romans copied them in marble then melted the originals for use in weapons.)

Kahn Academy has a history of Greek art.

Polykleitos, sculptor, 400s BCE

Iktinos and Kallikrates design Parthenon

Pheidias, sculptor for Acropolis, 480-430 BCE

Ictinus and Callicrates, architects of Acropolis

Skopas, sculptor, 395-350 BCE

Praxiteles, sculptor, 370-330 BCE

Lysippos, sculptor, 370-300 BCE

Ancient Rome, 509 BCE–476 AD

Rome unites known world, 31 BCE

Catholic Church, 110 AD–present

Emperor Constantine declares Christianity as the official faith and moves capital from Rome to Constantinople, splitting empire, 310 AD

Roman Kingdom, 753 BCE–510 BCE

Roman Republic, 510 BCE–31 BCE

Roman Empire, 31 BCE–476 AD

Roman alphabet, additional letters and vowels plus spaces and punctuation, 600 BCE

King Eumenes II of Pergamum, Turkey, creates parchment, made from the treated skins of animals, in response to Egyptian trade blockade of papyrus

Rosetta Stone, 196 BCE, rediscovered 1799 AD (giving us the key to translating heiroglyphics)

Ts'ai Lun invents paper, China, 105 AD

Trajan's Column, Apollodorus of Damascus, 113 AD

Wood block printing, China, 200 AD

Invention of the book, as opposed to the scroll, made it much faster to access information, 400AD

Publius Aelius Fortunatus


Gaius Fabius Pictor

Malibu Painter

Quintus Pedius

Spurius Tadius


Medieval, 476 AD–1400s

Romulus Augustulus, the last Roman emperor in the west, removed from power by Odovacar, leader of the Goths, AD 476

Birth of Islam, 610

First university since Greece, University of Bologna, 1088

"Renaissance of the 12th century": Crusades (1096-1400s) brings Europeans into contact with Muslims, allowing a revival of Roman and Greek natural science, philosophy and mathematics, results in high gothic cathedrals and founding of universities, 1100s

Roger Bacon describes the first modern magnifying glass, c. 1214-1294

Black Death hits Europe, 1348–1350; kills as much as 1/2 of population

Early Medieval, before 1150

High Medieval, 1150-1300

Late Medieval, 1300-1400




Carolingian Renaissance



Emperor Charlemagne orders creation of Carolingian Miniscule, the first lower case letters, 732 AD

Arabs learn papermaking from Chinese prisoners, 751 AD

Earliest printed manuscript, Diamond Sutra, 868 AD

Pi Sheng invents ceramic moveable type, China, 1040 AD

Notre Dame Cathedral, 1163–1240 (Cathedrals are a form of writing)

Metal-based movable type printing press invented in Korea, 1234

Stella Artois logo, 1366

Jikji, oldest extant movable metal print book, published in Heungdeok Temple, Korea, 1377

Look at Wikipedia's Medieval Art, specifically "Insular Art."

Medieval Artists


Giotto di Bondone

Leon Battista Alberti


Filippo Brunelleschi

Fra Angelico

Lorenzo Ghiberti

Hildegard of Bingen

Ravensburger Schutzmantelmadonna, Michel Erhart, 1480

Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer, 1386

Renaissance, 1400s–1600s

Renaissance, beginning in Italy and fueled by trade and the printing press, revives greek and Roman history and literature, 1300-1600

City of Constantinople and the Byzantine Empire falls to the Ottoman Turks, 1453, cutting land trade routes to China

Cut off from China, Europeans discover the Americas, 1492; beginning of Columbian Exchange

Martin Luther and others start the Protestant Reformation — the Bible is the ultimate authority and that man can read it directly without interpretation of priests. Made possible by the availability of inexpensive printing, this breaks monopoly of Catholic Church. 1517 (The Ninty-Five Theses by Martin Luther)-1648 (Treaty of Westphalia)

Renaissance, 1430-1550

Mannerism, 1527-1580

Niccolo de Niccoli, 1364–1437, invents italic script

Poggio Bracciolini, 1380–1459, invents handwriting later adopted by Jenson

Oil painting spreads due to improvement in materials, 1400s

Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, 1412-1416

First printing using engraving, 1430s

Guttenberg perfects printing press, 1439; prints Guttenberg Bible, first mass produced printed work, 1450-1456

When the German printing capital, Mainz, was sacked in 1462, many printers fled to new locations, most to Italy.

Nicholas Jenson cuts the first Italianate (oldstyle) font, 1470

Aldus Manutius creates first "pocket" book, Francesco Griffo cuts first italic font, 1500

Claude Garamond ( Garamont) cuts Grecs du roi, 1541; first to sell type fonts to other printers

Robert Granjon cuts Civilité, 1557; its italic is later adopted as the italic for Garamond

William Shakespeare (1564-1616 Elizabethan playwright)

Renaissance Artists

Donatello (1386-1466)

Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510)

Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516)

Leonardo DaVinci (1452-1519)

Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528)

Michaelangelo (1475-1564)

Raphael (1483-1520)

Titian (1485/90-1576)

Mannerist Artists

Tintoretto (1518-1594)

El Greco (1541-1614)

Discovery, Invention, Revolution, 1600s–1799

Use of optics (microscopes, telescopes, and camera obscuras) changes how artists record the world, including hyper-realism

Late 1600s and the early 1700s, cotton cloth woven in India displaces linen and wool. At first banned in England to protect their wool and flax industries, cotton becomes main good of English trade.

Spinnning Jenny developed by James Hargreaves, 1765. Beginning of Industrial Era, where work was multiplied and machines replaced human and animal power.

First practical steam engine, James Watt, 1775

American Revolution, 1776

French Revolution, 1789

Napoleon Bonaparte stages coup'd'etat in France, 1799, goes on to conquer much of Europe

Baroque, 1600-1750

Rococo, 1720s?-1785

Neoclassical, 1750-1850

Romanticism, 1780-1850

Pantograph invented, 1603, Christoph Scheiner, allows reproductions to be created at any size

Antoni van Leeuwenhoek discovers microscopic life, 1674

Johannes Vermeer uses camera obscura to paint like life, 1660–1675

William Caslon cuts Caslon, first transitional font, 1716-1728

John Baskerville, a former teacher of calligraphy and wealthy industrialist seeking to improve printing quality, designs transitional font Baskerville, 1750s.

Giambattista Bodoni cuts Bodoni, first modern font, 1790s

German author and actor Alois Senefelder invents stone lithography, 1796

Baroque Artists

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

Rembrandt Van Rijn (1606-1669 Dutch Golden Age)

Peter Paul Rubens



Rococo Artists

Jean-Antoine Watteau

Jean-Honoré Fragonard

Neoclassical Artists

Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Jacques-Louis David

Jean-Auguste_Dominique Ingres

Jacques-Louis David

Romantic Artists

Johann Strauss II

Frédéric Chopin

Richard Wagner

Franz Liszt

Johannes Brahms

J. M. W. Turner

Eugène Delacroix (See Liberty Leading the People)

Francisco Goya


Napoleon Bonaparte defeated at Waterloo, 1815

Napoleon dies in exile, 1821

Erie Canal opens, 1825

B&O Railroad chartered 1827

Beginning of inexpensive mass transportation

First "fatface" (Bodoni on steroids), Robert Thorne, 1803

First cylinder printing press, 1100 pages an hour, 1812

Vincent Figgins cuts first slab serif fonts, 1815-1817

Steel pen developed 1820; contributed to the rise of Spencerian Script and advanced calligraphy in the 1800s.

Earliest photograph, Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, 1826 or 1827

Noah Webster publishes first American dictionary, 1828

First typewriter patented by William August Burt, Detroit, 1829


Queen Victoria begins her reign, 1837

Victorian era

Horror Vacui (Fear of Empty Spaces; term for cluttered home decoration style resulting from the inexpensiveness of household objects caused by industrialization)

Godefroy Engelmann is awarded a patent on chromolithography, 1837 (first full-color printing)

The Daguerre-Niépce method of photography is presented to the Academy of Science, Paris, 1839

Currier & Ives, lithographers (1834-1907)


B&O Railroad reaches coal fields of West Virginia, 1842; beginning of inexpensive energy

S.F.B. Morse’s telegraph is used for the first time between Baltimore and Washington, D.C., the first quick communication, 1844. Values short, accurate communication; promotes cryptography


Realism, 1848-1900

First fax machine, 1842

First painted Christmas card designed and produced by John C. Horseley, 1843

Richard March Hoe builds the first rotary printing press (using a round printing plate), 1843

Wood-pulp paper invented by Friedrich Gottlob Keller, 1844

Robert Besley cuts Clarendon, 1845

Realist Artists

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot

Gustave Courbet

Honoré Daumier

Jean-François Millet


Petroleum distilled by Benjamin Silliman, 1855

Charles Darwin publishes The Origin of the Species, 1859

John Brown killed in raid on Harpers Ferry, 1859

William Morris begins the Arts & Crafts Movement, his reaction to Victorian over-decoration at the Great Exhibition

Joseph Paxton builds the Crystal Palace in London for the Great Exhibition, the "first" international exhibition, 1851

David E. Hughes invents printing telegraph, 1855



U.S. Civil War and resulting industrialization boom

Louis Pasteur discovers germs and invents a process for sterilizing liquids

Impressionism, 1865-1885

Matthew Brady et al. invent photojournalism on the battlefields of the Civil War

Paris World’s Fair introduces Japanese art to the West, 1867

First postcard, Austria, 1869

David Stemple, typefounder

Impressionist Artists

Marie Cassatt

Edgar Degas

Claude Debussy

Édouard Manet

Claude Monet

Pierre-Auguste Renoir


Joseph Lister develops aseptic surgical techniques

Franco-Prussian War, 1870-71

Alexander Graham Bell invents the telephone, 1876. Telephone becomes fastest growing information system because it doesn't require specialized knowledge and saves time. Unintended consequence is explosive industrial growth (like China after cell phone).

Thomas Edison patents the phonograph, 1877

Thomas Edison invents the first practical electric light, 1879


First Impressionist exhibition, 1874

Robert Barclay invents first offset press (prints to drum which then prints to paper), 1875

Bass Ale red triangle, first trademarked logo, 1876

Eadweard Muybridge photographs sequences of animal motion using still cameras, 1877-1886

Karel Klíč invents photogravure, which allows accurate reproduction of photographs, 1878


First skyscraper (10 stories), first building with steel skeleton, is built in Chicago, 1884-5; Major William LeBaron Jenney, architect

First gasoline automobile, Carl Benz, 1885-1886

A. G. Eiffel completes the tallest building in the world, the Eiffel Tower, for the French Exposition Universelle, 1889

Century Guild

Arts & Crafts Movement, 1880-1910

Post Impressionism, 1885-1910

New York Daily Graphic printed the first reproduction of a photograph with a full tonal range in a newspaper using a halftone screen invented by Stephen Horgan. 1880

Ottmar Mergenthaler invents the Linotype, an automatic composing machine, Baltimore, 1886

Monotype foundry founded, 1887

George Eastman perfects his Kodak box camera, 1888

Auguste Rodin, "The Gate of Hell," 1880-1917

John Singer Sargent

Arts & Crafts Movement Artists

Rene Macintosh

Arthur Mackmurdo

William Morris

Post-Impressionist Artists

Paul Cézanne

Paul Gauguin

Georges Seurat

Vincent Van Gogh


Financiers in New York buy most large American businesses and create trusts (monopolies)

Sigmund Freud begins developing psychoanalysis

Henry Ford builds his first automobile, 1892

Art Nouveau



Glasgow School

Vienna Session


La Goulue, Toulouse-Lautrec’s first poster for the Moulin Rouge, 1891

First movie camera and projector, William Dickson under Thomas Edison, 1892

First modern airbrush, Thayer and Chandler, 1893

First public film show, in Paris at the Hotel Scribe, 1895

Berthold Type Foundry releases Accidenz-Grotesk, 1896

Ubu Roi, first Dada play, Alfred Jarre, 1896

The Yellow Kid, the first American comic strip, illustrated by Rudolph Dirks, 1897

Art Nouveau Artists

Antoni Gaudí

René Lalique

Charles Rennie Mackintosh

Alphonse Mucha

Louis C. Tiffany


Modern Era

President Teddy Roosevelt works to break up monopolies, creates the National Park system

Social Revolutionary Party founded, 1901

First airplane flight, Wright brothers, 1903

Fauvism and Expressionism, 1900-1935

Ashcan School, 1900-1920

Weiner Werkstatte




Priester Match poster, Lucian Bernhard, 1906

First Cubist exhibition in Paris, 1907

Paul Behrens designs the first steel and glass building for A.E.G. Factory in Berlin, 1908

Frank Loyd Wright builds Unity Temple, first modernist building in America, 1909

Morris Fuller Benton

Frederic W. Goudy

Pablo Piccaso

Henri van de Velde

Henri Matisse

Wassily Kandinski


First public radio broadcast, Dr. Lee De Forest, 1910

Ford develops assembly line, 1913

World War I, 16 million dead and 20 million wounded, 1914-1918

Albert Einstein publishes theory of relativity, 1916

Russian Revolution, 1917



Russian Constructivism

German Expressionism


Bauhaus, German art school, embraces industrialism, "less is more," 1919-1933 (True Type of the Bauhaus)

First photosensitive silkscreen emulsion, early 1910s

Nude Descending a Staircase, Marcel Duchamp, 1912

Armory Show introduces Modernism to New York, 1913

Rite of Spring; Igor Stravinski, Vaslav Nijinsky and Ballets Rousses, 1913

“Underground” font designed by Edward Johnston, 1916. First "geometric" sans-serif font.("A Typeface for the Underground", London Reconnections, 2009)

First jazz record, Original Dixieland Jazz Band, 1917

Fountain, Marcel Duchamp, 1917

Dada Artists

George Grosz

Hannah Höch

Man Ray

Russian Constructivist Artists

El Lissitzky

Alexander Rodchenko


“Roaring Twenties,” Prohibition and mobsters

Women get vote in U.S., 1920

Scottish inventor John Logie Baird demonstrates the first television image, 1925

Wall Street crash, 1929

Art Deco


Cabinet of Dr. Caligeri, Robert Wiene, 1921

Marcel Breuer, Wassily chair, 1925

"Battleship Potempkin," Sergie Eisenstein, 1925; propaganda film introduces film editing and montage to cinema.

Futura font, classic geometric sans serif font, Paul Renner, 1927

Metropolis, Fritz Lang, 1927

Al Jolson in The Jazz Singer, first full-length talking picture, 1927

Kodak develops 16mm color film, 1929

un chien andalou, Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí, 1929, first surrealist film.

Eric Gill

J. C. Leyendecker

Russian Constructivist Artists

Sergei Eisenstein

Stenberg Brothers

Surrealist Artists

Max Ernst


Freda Kahlo

Bauhaus Teachers and Students

Walter Gropius

Josef Albers

Herbert Bayer

Marcel Breuer

Johannes Itten

Wassily Kandinsky

Paul Klee


Great Depression, rise of dictators world-wide

Spanish Civil War, 1936

New York World’s Fair, 1939

WWII starts, 1939


New Typography

Socialist-Realist/Heroic Realism



European designers flee Europe for the U.S.

Dubo, Dubon, Dubonet poster, AM Cassandre, 1932

35mm Leica II rangefinder introduced, 1932

35mm Kodachrome introduced, first widely-available color film, 1935

Henry Luce begins publication of Life, first picture magazine, 1936

Paul Rand starts art directing Esquire magazine, 1936. He continues as art director until 1941.

Picasso paints Guernica, 1937

László Moholy-Nagy founds the American New Bauhaus, Chicago, 1939

Alexey Brodovitch

Charles T. Coiner

Abram Games

Raymond Loewy

Herbert Matter

Stanley Morrison

Paul Rand

Jan Tschichold


Alan Turing cracks Enigma code with a "computer," 1942

First modern computer developed in U.S., 1944

World War II ends, 60 million dead, 1945

Atomic bomb, 1945

Claude Shannon creates Information Theory at Bell Labs, 1945

Transistor invented by Bell Labs, 1948

American Modern

Atomic Age design

Abstract Expressioniam, 1940s-1950s

Citizen Kane, Orson Wells, 1941

Paul Rand becomes art director at William H. Weintraub Advertising Agency with copywriter Bill Bernbach, 1941. Clients include Dubonnet, Ohrbach's Department Store, and Olivetti. He continues there until 1955.

Graphis magazine published, Switzerland, 1944

Farnsworth House, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, 1945-1951

Lou Dorfsman hired by CBS Radio, 1946

Bill Bernbach joins James Edwin Doyle and Maxwell Dane to found Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB), 1949.

Alvin Lustig

Walter Landor

Cipe Pinellies


Europe rebuilds following World War II

Cold War, 1945-1989

Korean War, 1950

Color Television, 1950

Sidney Rosenthal’s Magic Marker®, 1953

First phototypesetting, 1953

Elvis Presley has first rock ‘n’ roll hit, 1956

First daylight (DayGlo) fluorescent pigments, 1957 (first used in "Tide" packaging, 1959)

First photocopier, Xerox, 1959

Civil Rights Movement

Swiss International Style

Polish poster style

Revivalism and Eclecticism
(Push Pin Graphics)


Film Noiré

CBS “eye” logo created by CD Bill Golden, 1951

International Design Conference in Aspen (became Aspen Design Conference), 1951

Saul Bass designs poster and movie titles for film Carmen Jones, 1954

Push Pin Studios founded by Milton Glaser, Seymour Chwast, Reynold Ruffins and Edward Sorel, 1954

Reid Miles designs album covers for Blue Note Records, 1955

Paul Rand designs trademark for IBM, 1956

Helvetica designed by Max Miedinger and Edouard Hoffmann, 1957

Seagram building, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, 1959

Volkswagen "Think Small" campaign, Helmut Krone and Julian Koenig, Doyle Dane Bernbach, 1959

Charles & Ray Eames

Robert Frank

Georg Olden

Irving Penn

Bradbury Thompson

Henry Wolf


Vietnam War

U.S. scientists develop the laser, 1960

J. C. R. Licklider, in paper Man-Computer Symbiosis, proposes universal computer networking, 1960

First industrial robot on line at G.M., 1962

President John Kennedy assassinated, 1963

First phototypesetting on CRT screen, mid-1960s

"Summer of Love" and Woodstock, 1967

Martin Luther King assassinated, 1968

Apollo 11, First manned moon landing, 1969

First message over ARPANET, the technical core of what would become the Internet, 1969

Compuserve, first commercial online computer service provider, 1969

Pop Art

Op Art


Fluxus Manifesto (Neo-Dada), 1963, by George Maciunas

Josef Müller-Brockmann’s Grid Systems in Graphic Design, 1961

Andy Warhol, 100 Soup Cans, 1962

George Lois directs Esquire magazine covers, 1962-1972

Massimo Vignelli founds NY branch of Unimark International, 1966

Wes Wilson designs psychedelic posters for the Filmore West, 1967

Herb Lubalin art directs magazine Avante Garde, 1968

Robert Brownjohn

Paul Davis, illustrator

Alan Fletcher (Fletcher/Forbes/Gill)

Colin Forbes

Bob Gill

Armin Hofmann

Tomoko Miho


First email, Ray Tomlinson, 1971

Vietnam war ends, 1973

Exxon Quip, first practical fax machine (one page takes 6 minutes), mid-1970s

Richard Dawkins coins the meme "meme" — ideas that replicate themselves, 1976

Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin sign the Camp David peace accords, 1978

First test-tube baby, 1978

First personal computers hit the market




Punk, 1977-1983

New Wave

Hip-hop and Rap

Paula Scher hired by CBS Records, 1972

First successful video game, Pong, released, 1972

Denise Scott Brown, Learning from Las Vegas, MIT Press, 1972

Nasir Ahmed develops Descrete Cosine Transform (DCT), a lossy compression algorithm that directly resulted in JPEG and MPEG image and video compression, and a varient, integer DCT, resulted in video compressions H.264, WebP and WebM.

First punk album, Sex Pistols, Never Mind the Bullocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols, 1977

First New Wave album, Talking Heads, Talking Heads ’77, 1977

First laser printer, $500,000, Xerox, 1978

Ruth Ansel

Jacqueline Casey, MIT

Chermayeff & Geismar

April Greiman

Paula Scher

Wolfgang Weingart


Development of the Internet, 1980s

Space shuttle flights begin, 1980

First emoticon, Scott Fahlman, 1982 (see also Kaomoji)

Glastnost policy implemented by Russian Communist Party Chairman Mikhail Gorbachev, 1987

Berlin Wall torn down, 1989

First enlarging-reducing copiers, c. 1984 (end of Lucigraph, concept developed in Renaissance)


Performance Art


Gangsta Rap

MTV, all-music video cable channel, 1981

Memphis Group founded in Milan by Ettore Sottsass, 1981

Edward R. Tufte, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, Graphics Press, 1983

Adobe releases Postscript language, 1984

Apple releases Macintosh, 1984

Emigré magazine begins publication, 1984

Philip Johnson’s AT&T Building, 1984

Apple laser printer, $7,000, 1985

Aldus Pagemaker (first page layout program), 1985

Fontographer developed by Altsys, 1986

Illustrator developed by Adobe, 1987

QuarkXPress developed by Quark, 1987

Photoshop invented by Thomas Knoll (originally for Industrial Light & Magic to automate masking for "Star Wars" special effects), 1988

David Carson, art director, Beach Culture magazine, 1989

Tim Berners-Lee invents the Web, URLs, HTTP and HTML at CERN, 1989

Charles Anderson

Neville Brody

David Carson

Duffy Design

Fallon, McElligott & Rice, first major regional agency

Steven Heller, writer and designer

Tibor Kalman (M&Co.), print and product designer and social activist

Zuzana Leko, Emigre magazine

Clement Mok


Hubble telescope launched, 1990

Alan Emtage codes Archie, first search engine, 1990

1st Persian Gulf War, 1990-1991

End of Cold War, 1992

Indigo, first digital printing press, 1993

The Global Network Navigator (GNN), first commercial website, 1993

Pixar’s Toy Story, first full-length digitally animated film, 1995

First commercial text message, Sprint, 1995. Poor keyboards encourages widespread use of logograms (lol, etc.)

Y2K — Widespread fear all computers will fail at turn of the century

Death of typesetting, 1990-1994

Web Design

Tim Berners-Lee writes the first web client and server, 1990

Mosaic, the first Web browser, is developed, 1993

After Effects, 1993

Adobe introduces PDF format, 1993

House Industries releases grunge fonts, 1994

JavaScript language developed, 1995

First portable digital camera, Minolta, 1995

CSS released, allows more complex websites, 1996

Matthew Carter designs Georgia and Verdana, Microsoft, 1996

FutureSplash Animator, which becomes Flash, 1996

Jonathan Ive designs first iMac, 1997

Adobe releases InDesign, 1999

Michael Bierut, designer and gadfly

Matthew Carter, Typographer

Lee Clow, Art Director

Joshua Davis

Kit Hinricks

Michael Mabry

Stefan Sagmeister

Rick Valicenti

Michael Vanderbyl


2000; Al Gore loses election to George Bush by hanging chad ("Disenfranchised by Bad Design," Propublica)

9/11/2001; Afghanistan, Iraq Wars

Great Recession, 2007-9

iPod, 2001; iPhone, 2007; iPhone with video 2009

Barak Obama, first black U.S. president, 2009

Web 2.0

Demise of many newspapers and magazines

With “Web 2.0,” websites become interactive

Processing, software for generating art, MIT, 2001

Wordpress released, 2003

You-Tube, video on the web, 2005

jQuery, a library allowing easier coding of JavaScript, 2005

Etsy launched, allows designers to market directly, 2005

iPhone rejects Flash, signaling end of program, 2007

Marian Bantjes, lettering, ornate design

Irma Boom, book design

Kyle Cooper, video titles

Crispin Porter Bogusky, Mini Cooper ad campaign

Shepard Fairey, Obama "Hope" poster

Louise Fili, lettering and package design

Chip Kidd, book designer

Debbie Millman, writer, educator, designer

Eddie Opara, Pentagram partner


Arab Spring, 2010-2011

Protests of police shootings in U.S., "Black Lives Matter," 2015

Cyber security issues become commmonplace

Donald Trump elected president of U.S., 2016

Natural disasters: Deepwater Horizon oil spill covers Caribbean; earthquakes, tsunamis and "1000-year" weather

Hand-lettered type

Google ranks mobile-accessible websites, 2015

Google Fonts released, allowing better type design on the Web, 2010

Instagram, online portfolio social media, 2010

Gap repeals logo redesign following extensive online backlash, 2010

HTML5, CSS3 released, improving interaction and animation, 2011

Adobe Creative Cloud, no individual licensing of software, all designers have all programs, 2013

Zoom allows remote living, 2013

"Mobile-ready" web design required, 2015

Sketch and other free and cheap apps vie to overtake Adobe, 2016–

https required for Google searches, 2017

Tad Carpenter, illustrator/designer

Arem Duplessis, creative director, New York Times Magazine

Jessica Hische, letterer


covid-18, 2021–2022 — everybody learns to stay home

Procreate for iPad Pro competes with Wacom Cinque

Glyphs, other font programs cause explosion in font creation

Zoom, online conferencing program, makes it possible to easily coduct meetings and classes online

Postscript Type 1 fonts phased out, 2023

Jessica Walsh, SagmeisterWalsh

Jason Santa Maria (A List Apart, Slate)

Mike Perry, mikeperrystudio.com

Some other designers

This timeline by Deane Nettles, 10/2015-5/2017 "Creativity may just be Brownian motion coupled with a positive feedback loop." — DN
1 The Information — A History, A Theory, A Flood, James Gleick, Pantheon Books, New York, 2011, p. 247
2 https://www.britannica.com/topic/Chinese-writing
3 The Information, p. 34–41