Design History

The history of Design is a key element of study in this course. The study of both international and national movements in terms of product design and graphic design is essential for an understanding of the development of the thinking and craft of design. From the Guttenberg Press, the Arts and Craft Movement, Bauhaus, Corporate ID, The Designers Republic to the work of a multitude of significant individual designers comes our understanding of the evolution and function of design.


The foundations of modern design practice in western society can be traced back to the Gutenberg Press (1445). Johannes Gutenberg began work on the press in about 1436. Gutenberg expanded on movable metal type practices from China and Korea that had existed since the 10th century and improved these significantly. Along with his own inventions (mechanical printing, hand moulds etc) Gutenberg revolutionized the way knowledge / information could be transmitted. By 1600 printing presses had distributed nearly 200 million copies into a world that had an estimated population of 530 million. During the Renaissance the rapid spread of the printing press set the conditions for the beginning of what was later to become a phenomena known as ‘mass communication’.


Prior to the advent of the printing press, texts or books were either hand copied

or printed using handset wood or metal type such as depicted in the image below.



Major Design movements

Arts and Craft.

  • Late 1800’s
  • Key figures. William Morris, John Ruskin and Augustus Pugin

The Arts and Crafts moveement is associated with many different types of design including architecture, typography, book printing, textile and interior design.

Art Nouveau

  • 1890 – 1905
  • Key figures:  Henry Clemens van de Velde


to be continued…

Additional resources



Product Timeline 1826-2001

Graphic Design 1850-2000

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