The actual terminology surrounding graphic designers has come into being in the twentieth century. However, there are many events that led up to graphic design that could be considered a part of the history of graphic design itself.
Graphic design has its roots in the same rich cultural history of all art. Art has been a part of cultures since before the written word. The history of graphic design stems from these ancient beginnings. The history of graphic design is, in a sense, the history of art and its applications and methods, as well as a history of graphic design reproduction techniques and technology.
Like all recreational and applied arts, graphic design got its real beginning with the invention of the printing press. Previously in the history of graphic design, art and other creative works had to be hand copied. The ability to print copies of art and other creative works was a huge step toward the graphic design that exists today.
Another large step in graphic design history was the development of photography, and later film making. These important steps at the end of the nineteenth century were the stepping stones to creating the graphic designs that we have today. This era also marks the beginning of the separation of creative art, or art for entertainment, from applied art, or art that was used for a purpose such as conveying a message, advertising, and other graphic design purposes.
The next largest step in graphic design history was the development of the computer, and more significantly, the technological wave that led to a personal computer in every home as we have today. Graphic design would not be as popular, nor would it be as effective, creative, and reproducible without the invention of computers. Therefore, the history of graphic design is closely tied with the history of computers, computer software, computer imaging software, computer scanners, computer printers, and digital photography. The internet and graphic design software are perhaps the most important of these technological advances that are a large role in the history of graphic design. Without all of these important technological advances, graphic design would not be what it is today.
There are many other important landmarks in graphic design history. In 1919 the first union of art and industry was put into place. In 1929 commercial artists, advertising designers, and illustrators became common place. In 1970 mega computers allowed for more advances in graphic design with companies like IBM. The development of the micro processor, allowing for personal office and home computers, came in 1980 and was marketed with Apple computers in 1984. Finally, the now common place technology of internet access in 1993 tops off the graphic design history that has lead to the graphic design industry we know and recognize today.
To learn more about the history of graphic design, you can search the internet or your local library. Many colleges and universities offer arts classes and history of graphic design courses. Community education programs also often offer summer classes or work shops on topics of interest such as the history of graphic design.