Timeless Graphic Design

A brief history of timeless graphic design

Although the phrase “graphic design” didn’t appear until 1922, when book designer William Addison Dwiggins coined the term, the concept has been around since the beginning of humankind.

Images draw you in. They tell a story of a place, a time, or even a mood. A 1920s Vogue cover or a WWII poster can transport a viewer back in time and help you feel a little closer to the people and events from those eras.

As we approach our design work in 2017 and beyond, we remember our design roots and often look back for a little inspiration. While we keep things modern, some elements of design are truly timeless.

Take a look at this (incredibly) brief history of graphic design to see what we mean:

7,300 BCE

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Cave drawings around the world connect us to our ancestors from thousands of years ago. One of the most graphically stunning examples comes from Argentina’s Cueva de los Manos (Cave of the Hands). We can picture our teenagers leaving their mark like this even now, but these imprints were left by the area’s inhabitants approximately 9,000 years ago.

The range of color and overlapping lines give this image such visual strength. There’s a sense of movement and, of course, a strong human element that connects with the viewer.

490 BCE

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Ancient Greeks and Romans left a legacy of incredible art and mythology, and their artifacts carry memorable themes. For example, Greek lekythoi urns, used in marriage and funeral rites, depict stories of Greek gods. This one shows Achilles and Ajax playing a board game.

The strong contrast and neutral color scheme are typical of the lekythoi and the era, but designers still use these features to anchor an image and highlight key themes.

1880s

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With advances in printing and mass production, graphic design for advertising took off. This lithograph from the 1880s features a frog presumably preparing to woo his princess. Newspaper ads would have appeared in black and white, but this image appeared on a trading card. The direct mail of its time.

This kind of vintage look has made a comeback recently, and it’s especially popular with beer brands. The use of humor and strong colors are timeless features any marketer can use.

1940s

We can’t think of better lifestyle marketing than vintage travel posters. Handsome Canadian Mounties and island beauties? To quote Liz Lemon, “We want to go to there.”

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Color, composition and a dreamy story: the essence of timeless design.

1960s and 70s

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If there’s anything we love as much (more than?) travel, it’s a good rock concert. Kim has been known to plan full vacations around Pearl Jam tours, so she gets the best of both! So, we love us some groovy (or way out) 60s and 70s concert posters.

While unconventional, the slightly psychedelic font treatments and striking color contrasts have a place in many modern graphic pieces.

Now

Modern graphic design pulls from all previous eras while adding a few new twists and touches. This blog highlights some “now” designs, but many of them pay homage to designs of the past.

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To learn more about our approach to graphic design and marketing for the multifamily space, visit our portfolio.