Cool Factoids about Graphic Design

It’s fun to look past the words we read every day to notice the shape the letters take

If you’re studying graphic design and animation, then you are learning to see the digital world in a way that not all of us do. But everyone’s surrounded by typefaces, fonts, and logos all day long. It can be fun to know a little bit about the history of this field, and it can inform creative decisions you make in your own work, or in projects for school. We hope you find these facts to be a fun source of inspiration!

A brief history of graphic design

  • Graphic design began between 2500 and 1400 BC, with Egyptian hieroglyphics and Sumerian pictographs.
  • We think logo designs originated in the 1200s in ancient Egypt, where people started using hieroglyphs to brand the animals they owned.
  • The first typography emerged in the mid-1400s, and the first movable type was developed by Johann Gutenberg.
  • In 1530, Claude Garamond (whose last name is now a popular font) was the first to sell fonts to printers. Even though he created letterforms for some of the most widely used typefaces in history, he died poor in his eighties.
  • In the 1700s, the principles of mathematical drafting were used as the basis for designing letters.
  • The first ornamental typography began in the 1800s.
  • The international Art Nouveau style became a popular in the late 1800s and had a huge effect on graphic design.
  • In the 1960s and ’70s, Pop Art and Psychedelic art became popular among graphic designers.
  • Playing around with the spacing of words was something designers started doing in the mid-1970s, as well as using collages and distorting type.
  • Starting in the 1990s, designers created typefaces for use on personal computers.

Fascination with fonts

  • The first sans-serif font was introduced as a single line in a book. (Before there was the term “sans serif,” these fonts had various names, such as Antique, Egyptian, Doric, Grotesque, Heiti, Lineale, and Simplices.)
  • One of our most-used fonts is the sans-serif typeface Helvetica. It was developed in 1957 by Swiss typeface designer Max Miedinger, with input from Eduard Hoffmann.
  • In almost all of his movies, Woody Allen uses the Windsor typeface for the titles and credits.
  • Matthew Carter designed the sans-serif typeface Walker for the Walker Arts Center in Minneapolis. It has a bunch of serifs that users can “attach” to each letter.
  • Matthew Carter named another of the typefaces he designed—Georgia—after a tabloid headline he read (“Alien heads found in Georgia”).

The legacy of logos

  • The hand-lettered Spencerian Script makes up the Coca-Cola logo.
  • The NBA logo features a silhouette of an actual player: Lakers All-Star Jerry West.
  • The Facebook logo uses a modification of the typeface Klavika.
  • Charles Thomson, who was Secretary of Congress in the 1770s, designed the Great Seal of the United States.
  • In Muslim countries, The Red Cross is The Red Crescent, and its logo is a different shape. Now the two logos are sometimes used together.
  • Industrial designer Raymond Loewy created the now-famous logos for Shell, Exxon, and Hoover Vacuums.
  • Carolyn Davidson was a student at Portland State University in 1971 when she designed the Nike logo. The company paid her $35.
  • 20th-century designer Peretz Rosenbaum created logos for IBM, UPS, and Westinghouse.
  • The Michelin man, created 100 years ago, has a name: Monsieur Bibendum.

Perhaps these facts will help you to see the logos and typefaces you see every day in a whole new light. Who knows—maybe you could be the one to design the next popular typeface or famous logo!


This article is part of the Branford Hall weekly blog. We offer an array of professional training programs at eleven campuses in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey. Reach out to us for more information today!