Contextual Studies

What is Graphic Design?

The word Graphic design can be related to many arts dated back many centuries ago. Graphic design is a method of communication through visual arts. Typography (practices of visual texts), Illustrations, printing, photography and other types of art can all be considered as forms of Graphic Design.
There are ephemeral and permanent areas of graphic design, Ephemeral being temporary graphics mostly printed in forms of leaflets, cards, paperbags, etc. that can be discarded with ease. The permanent area of graphic design is mostly included in screen based media.
Such visual graphics include pictograms, Rebus, Ideograms, signs and also symbols.


Pictographs are images representing objects which have certain meanings allocated to them.



Rebus are words and images that represent certain sounds. ( I <3 NY)




Ideograms are symbols and signs that refer to a certain meaning but have no specific words to describe them.




The word graphic design became originated later on by “William Addision Dwiggins” around 1922 but before his era graphic design still greatly existed.


How did Graphic Design Start?

imagesOne can say that even cave paintings back in the prehistoric times can be considered as graphic design as they were visual methods of communicating. The first cave paintings and carvings date back to around 40,000 years ago and developed along the way. These forms of design are called pictograms and petroglyphs.
Later on in time early forms of writing started to develop within the Mesopotamian culture. The system was created by the high priests who took care of the Mesopotamian temples so that information could be recorded mostly about their trade. The information was drawn on clay tablets with pictures and signs which changed a lot over many years.

hieroglyphsSumerians continued the development of this early writing and drew shaped strokes which are known as cuneiform. This style of writing is greatly similar to our modern way of writing ‘Rebus’ (as shown above).These picture characters represent different words, syllables and certain sounds. The hieroglyphs date back to around 3,300BCE and kept being used even later into the fourth century CE until all the temples were closed down and the monuments were of no more use.


Later on The Minoan civilization developed a new method of writing. The cuneiform was then replaced by 20-30 signs of alphabet. Semitic countries also tried to improve the system and initially the alphabet started to change. As the greeks took up this method of writing they wrote from right to left which later developed into a ‘Ploughing a field’ format (alternating from left to right and vice-versa) and eventually from left to right as we now know it. Eventually a rounded writing style known as unicals were developed by the greeks.9_16_uncial

illuminated-manuscript-1The romans slowly adopted the alphabet from the Greek in the forms of squares, triangles and circles as well as their art, Literature and religion. The Romans used this lettering to record and celebrate their achievements on large monuments.
The alphabet carried on in the middle-ages and was written down by hand on books. These were known as manuscripts and they were very difficult and expensive to make as they were time consuming and made out of parchment or vellum (calf skin) for high quality sheets, thus one book needed an estimate of 300 young calves to be skinned. These manuscripts were mostly illuminated and used for religious purposes which made them of very high-status due to the precision and time spent on said books.

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