The digital world that we now live in is one that is something where we can simply go shopping, find the item we are after and click submit and it is either delivered to us digitally or a man with a brown shirt comes knocking on the door a couple of days later with the items you have ordered. Life wasn’t always this simple and the fact you can simply go prowsing through the online world to find virtually anything. In fact, I bet most of you would have no idea when the very first graphic design was ever physically printed. We could go on for days and days as we look over Egyptian art or old cave drawings but when did we get our first graphic design? To get answer to that, we have to go back in time.
The development of paper during the Chinese Han Dynasty made writing materials more convenient and affordable than the previously utilized bones, shells, bamboo slips, metal or stone tablets, silk, etc. However, manually replicating books was still time-consuming. Monotype and sealing prints didn’t develop until the Xiping Era (172-178 AD), at the end of the Eastern Han Dynasty. It was rapidly employed for text printing and then for printing designs on textiles.
By the eighth century, during the Tang Dynasty, woodblock printing had been developed. The crisp hand-copied script was first adhered to a somewhat thick and smooth board, with the front of the paper—which was so thin it was almost transparent—sticking to the board and the letters showing in reverse but clearly enough that each stroke could be seen. Then the sections of the board that did not belong to the character were removed by carvers, resulting in characters that were cut in relief rather than intaglio. The bulging characters would have ink spilled over them during printing and be covered by paper. With workers’ hands moving on the back of paper gently, characters would be printed on the paper. By the Song Dynasty, woodblock printing came to its heyday. Although woodblock printing played an influential role in spreading culture, there were some significant drawbacks. Firstly, carving the printing plate required considerable time, labour and materials; secondly, it was not convenient to store these plates; and finally, it was difficult to correct mistakes.
So now we have some timelines of exactly what we are looking at. Now how does this history help us get to todays graphic designs? Stay tuned to find out.