This reading explores connections between definitions, historical context, and graphic depictions. Graphic design, also known as communication design, is the art and practice of planning and projecting ideas and experiences with visual and textual content. The form of the communication can be physical or virtual, and may include images, words, or graphic forms.

1. Background

Graphic Design: Defined

  • the art or profession of using design elements (as typography and images) to convey information or create an effect; also: a product of this art.

Graphic design, also known as communication design, is the art and practice of planning and projecting ideas and experiences with visual and textual content. The form of the communication can be physical or virtual, and may include images, words, or graphic forms.

What is Graphic Design?

  • visually communicating design as an idea, thought, message or meaning, to create inspire, teach, persuade, inform, entertain, enhance, or change.

Graphic design is the process of visual communication, and problem-solving through the use of type, space, image and color.

The field is considered a subset of visual communication and communication design, but sometimes the term “graphic design” is used interchangeably with these due to overlapping skills involved. Graphic designers use various methods to create and combine words, symbols, and images to create a visual representation of ideas and messages.

A graphic designer may use a combination of typography, visual arts and page layout techniques to produce a final result. Graphic design often refers to both the process (designing) by which the communication is created and the products (designs) which are generated.

Common uses of graphic design include identity (logos and branding), publications (magazines, newspapers and books), print advertisements, posters, billboards, website graphics and elements, signs and product packaging. For example, a product package might include a logo or other artwork, organized text and pure design elements such as images, shapes and color which unify the piece. Composition is one of the most important features of graphic design, especially when using pre-existing materials or diverse elements.

 

2. History

“Achilles and Penthesilea on the Plain of Troy, with Athena, Aphrodite and Eros”Greece, Classical Era
440–370 B.C.E. (B.C.)

Cave painting of a dun horse
(equine) at Lascaux
Paleolithic Era

Closeup of the elaborate engravings found in Rome on the Trajan Column
107-113 C.E. (A.D.)

Graphics before the Common Era>

Graphics (from Greek γραφικός, graphikos) are the production of visual statements on some surface, such as a wall, canvas, pottery, computer screen, paper, stone or landscape. It includes everything that relates to creation of signs, charts, logos, graphs, drawings, line art, symbols, geometric designs and so on. Graphic design is the art or profession of combining text, pictures, and ideas in advertisements, publication, or website. At its widest definition, it therefore includes the whole history of art, although painting and other aspects of the subject are more usually treated as art history.

While the graphics depicted in Lascaux and Rome may not bear a striking resemblance to our current concepts of graphic design, they share many of the same elements, theories, principles, and practices as today. They may have even been created for a benefactor or client.

Lascaux’s cave paintings depict animals, humans, and abstract signs. Among the animals found, predominantly stags and bulls, many have been identified as species from the specific time period. The paintings are also thought to depict star charts, some which match the composition of several constellations. While other theories do include rituals and hunt experiences, some also feel that these may be interpreted more specifically as rituals in order to improve the future success of hunting expeditions.

The Trajan Column is similar in nature to the cave paintings in its depiction of human history and the mapping of events. portrays Trajan’s two victorious military campaigns against the Dacians; the lower half illustrating the first (101–102), and the top half illustrating the second (105–106). These campaigns were contemporary to the time of the Column’s building. Throughout, the frieze repeats standardized scenes of imperial address (adlocutio), sacrifice (lustratio), and the army setting out on campaign (profectio). Scenes of battle are very much a minority on the column, instead it emphasizes images of orderly soldiers carrying out ceremony and construction.

3. Timeline

Writing Invented

Cuneiform
Sumeria, 3200 B.C.E.

Beginning of Typography

Moveable Type, “The Printing Revolution”
Germany, 1450 C.E.

School of Design

Bauhaus
Germany, 1919 C.E.

Quiz

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1. What does graphic design refer to?
2. Can graphic design combine art and type?
3. Graphic Design is also known as…
4. Graphic Design is used to communicate…
5. What is the most important feature of Graphic Design?
6. The Trajan Column depicts…
7. The first form of writing was invented in...
8. The invention of Movable Type started the...

9. Bauhaus was...
10. The beginnings of graphic design are found in…