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Graphic Design History Essay Topics

Instructor: Heather Jenkins

Heather has a bachelor's degree in elementary education and a master's degree in special education. She was a public school teacher and administrator for 11 years.

If your class is studying graphic design, it's important for students to understand the people, events, and influences that made graphic design into the field it is today. Use these essay topics to help students explore the history of graphic design.

The Evolution of Graphic Design

Whether students are looking at a street sign, reading a bus map, watching a TV commercial, or surfing the web, they are encountering the products of graphic design. Graphic design includes the fonts, layouts, images, illustrations and other visual elements that help communicate information about a topic. As students learn and write about the history of graphic design, they can understand the historical influences and people who have made graphic design into the field it is today. Let's look at essay topics to help students explore the history of graphic design.

Historical Influences

  • The ancient Egyptians used hieroglyphics to communicate. How could hieroglyphics be considered an example of graphic design? Why could the Rosetta Stone be considered a type of advertisement?
  • Outline the use of graphic design during the Middle Ages. Provide examples of graphic design such as illuminated manuscripts.
  • How did the invention of the printing press and movable type impact the growth of graphic design? Describe what you think would have happened to the field of graphic design had the printing press never been invented.
  • Discuss how the artistic movement of Art Nouveau influenced graphic designers. Conversely, describe how graphic design influenced the artists of the Art Nouveau movement.
  • The widespread use of computers dramatically changed the field of graphic design. Compare and contrast graphic design before the computer and after its introduction into mainstream society.

Famous Graphic Designers

  • Discuss the influence that William Morris and his Kelmscott books had on book design and printing. How did his works contribute to the field of typography?
  • Benjamin Franklin was the owner of The Pennsylvania Gazette and one of the first in America to use graphic design to publicize his paper. Describe how Franklin used graphic design in his work with The Pennsylvania Gazette. How might this have influenced the way newspapers and magazine utilize graphic design today?
  • Muriel Cooper was influential in the field of digital design. Identify her contributions to graphic including the Visible Language Workshop.
  • Jules Cheret is famous for his colorful posters and his contributions to color printing. Outline Cheret's works and how his color printing process ushered in more modern ways to print posters and other items in color.

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