graphic design history and trends

What Is Graphic Design? Dive Into Its History And Trends

In marketing communications, words alone may not suffice to effectively convey a brand’s service values and captivate a broad audience. With graphic design, businesses and creators can use visual representations to emphasize specific commercial concepts and messages.

Given the significant reliance on images for efficient online marketing campaigns, there is an increasing demand for computer graphic design worldwide. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a substantial 24% growth rate for graphic designers by 2028.

Want to learn more about graphic design and determine whether it’s a creative career path you want to pursue? Keep reading this article to uncover the history of this applied art, delve into the profession’s features, and discover captivating trends shaping the world of graphic design today. Once you’ve honed your skills, the best platform to sell digital products, including your graphic design creations, awaits your exploration.

A brief history of graphic design

It’s believed that the history of graphic design originates from ancient times, when people communicated through visual symbols like cave paintings and hieroglyphs. The written language was conveyed through signs featuring animals, houseware, weapons, and other elements. Then, humanity invented the first alphabet, which was also a visual representation of sounds.

15th century

The true history of graphic design begins in 1436, when German craftsman Jonathan Gutenberg introduced the first printing press to the world. Since then, books, pamphlets, and posters have been available to broad masses. Besides, companies of that time recognized that visuals influence purchasing behavior and profit, which gave rise to graphic design. Moreover, the first logo prototypes were also created in the 15th century.

18th–19th century

The 18th–19th century Industrial Revolution was marked by a new turn in graphic design development—the appearance of the lithography method. This process implies a design is inked onto a stone or metal surface and then transferred to paper. It later evolved into chromolithography, which added color to the lithographic process. With the advent of chromolithography, brands gained access to familiar marketing tools like characteristic color schemes and emotional connections through short, real-life scenes.

20th century

The 20th century is marked as the Golden Age of Advertising, where the first graphic design agency—The Wiener Werkstätte—was founded. Moreover, in 1922, the term “graphic design” was coined for the first time in the book New Kind of Printing Calls for New Design by William Addison Dwiggins.

21st century

The 21st century is known for the Digital Revolution, where creators and marketing agencies went digital. Moreover, the direction still evolves with AI graphic design advancements, establishing new extraordinary styles.

What graphic designers do

Today, graphic designers are professionals who use their artistic and technical skills to create visual concepts and images for various purposes, e.g., product packaging, advertising, branding, etc. They require creativity, watchfulness, and storytelling skills to create aesthetic compositions that convey specific information, messages, and ideas. Usually, graphic designers utilize diverse visual elements, like photos, illustrations, typography, animations, and patterns.

Unlike early illustrators who relied on traditional tools like canvas, inks, and brushes, modern graphic designers harness the power of software and digital solutions. Using technology, they create stunning visual materials that captivate audiences and effectively communicate messages. Digital design tools offer greater flexibility, efficiency, and the ability to experiment with a wide range of styles and effects.

Retro graphic design style as a trend for 2023

One of the popular graphic styles in 2023 is retro design. The main reason for this genre’s popularity is simplicity. Retro designs are made of familiar, uncomplicated patterns that people worldwide can easily recognize. This allows designers to establish clear communication with different audiences and cultures.

This style is versatile and can be used in various marketing promotions like banners, branding, product packaging, presentations, flyers, and other materials. Retro graphic design comes in many forms and combinations.


Is it possible to merge long-bygone eras with technological advancements of the future? The retrofuturism style says “yes”. This direction emerged from futurist predictions regarding technology and its impact on the world, featuring bizarre digital solutions, faded colors, and dystopian topics. Retrofuturism art frequently contains eccentric gadgets, virtual worlds, robots, space colonies, and interstellar travels.

Retro futuristic aesthetics perfectly fit technological design projects where brands strive to convey the usefulness of their products and services. For instance, IT companies can highlight how their solutions benefit people’s daily routines and ease their workflow. Based on futuristic aesthetics, creators even develop full stories presented in video games like Cyberpunk 2077 and Fallout.

Pop art

Pop art illustrations are reminiscent of the second half of the 20th century, when vivid advertisements and posters dominated. This artistic direction emerged as an influential movement in post-war Great Britain and then gained popularity in the United States. Pop art is a fascinating technique that combines everyday items like comic strips, supermarket products, and images of famous personalities with vivid colors and energetic motifs.

Pop art illustrations can be multipurpose. They are often used in marketing campaigns for youth-oriented beauty brands. Some companies also use pop art pictures as authentic visuals on social media.


The term “Bauhaus” referred to an art and design school that was one of the most influential institutions in the 20th century. Its ideas gave rise to a distinct artistic movement with the same name. Many principles of the Bauhaus style have become canonical in modern graphic design, e.g., functionality, simple lines, and dominant geometric shapes. This direction is characterized by strictness and directness.

Bauhaus perfectly fits brands willing to highlight their practicality and luxury; for example, furniture companies, electronic device manufacturers, and auto concerns.


Steampunk blends elements of the Victorian era with advanced technology from the future. Its aesthetic revolves around a mix of 19th-century fashion, architecture, and culture, infused with anachronistic elements like airships, automatons, and futuristic weaponry. The style often features brass and copper accents, cogwheels, and elaborate mechanical contraptions.

Steampunk can be used in various projects, including book covers, video games, fashion, product design, and website design, attracting audiences who appreciate the genre’s charm and imagination.


Grunge is a rebellious graphic design genre characterized by rough, dirty, and dull elements. This style differs strikingly from clear and ordered illustrations, delivering a sense of non-conformity and authenticity.

The grunge design style finds its extensive usage in band and music projects, as well as in urban lifestyle brands.

Bottom line

Graphic design is a field of art that has attracted creative minds throughout the centuries. It evolved from ancient times to the digital revolution, and today, all this knowledge is represented in product packaging, printed materials, and websites. To progress in this creative direction, get ready to develop your watchfulness, explore art principles, and learn about design software. Graphic design’s basis is classical art, so delve into the retro style and its branches to create timeless and visually appealing compositions.

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