Alois Senefelder was a debt-ridden playwright trying to find a way to publish his play when he invented the lithograph in the 1790s. He could never have imagined how his invention set in motion a series of events that advanced graphic design, advertising, the arts and consumerism for years to come.
Given the tools to mass produce prints from a single drawing, advertising became artistry as more creative minds were able to add their influence. That influence has carried over the centuries as graphic designers have stretched the limits of their imaginations to produce memorable advertising.
Here’s look back at how far we have come since Senefelder’s first prints.
Old Victorian-style fonts mixed with sans serif were popular around the turn of the 20th Century.
Emphasis was placed on male and female archetypes in the 1950s, including an ad from Del Monte claiming their ketchup bottle was so well-designed even a woman could open it.
The psychedelia of the ’60s began slowly creeping into all areas of graphic design. Concert posters and magazine covers were becoming daring and abstract.
Neon colors and bold imagery dominated graphic design in the ’80s, shoving messages of “cool” down consumers’ throats.
Too young for cigarettes? How about some Kool-Aid? (Get it–because it’s cool.) Also, why did ’80s advertisers insist on spelling the word “cool” with a K?
Another design principle that gained traction in the ‘80s was Neon Noir, with bright colors, dark backgrounds and scripted fonts, a la “Miami Vice.” Have you seen a more intimidating Fisher Price ad?
Today’s graphic design reflects the style of the ‘90s, with its bold typography, abstract shapes and bright colors. There’s a bigger focus on illustrations and real images over cheesy stock photography. We are seeing very modern and minimal designs that are sleek and to the point as our attention spans get shorter.
While we’ve seen drastic changes in design over the years, the true purpose remains the same, to communicate. Any design can be beautiful, but if it doesn’t get the right message across are we really accomplishing anything?