Initial thoughts about the book “Megg’s History of Graphic Design”

Collage with examples of illustrations from “Megg’s History of Graphic Design” that grab my immediate attention.

Megg’s History of Graphic Design by Philip B. Meggs and Alston W. Purvis.
Fifth Edition, Wiley & Sons, 2012

An initial view of the pages of this book, its chapters and illustrations makes me reflect on the intrinsic need of  human beings to communicate with each other. From the paintings found in caves dating 15000-10000 BCE to the complex designs achieved nowadays, men have allocated many resources to increase the tools and mediums used for visual communication.

It is my sense that from all the inventions, the writing system is the one who have shaped and influenced more the way human beings communicate. First the alphabets and later the many fonts and printing techniques, became critical tools for communicating ideas. As examples, I see the ligatures of the illuminated manuscripts as a source of inspiration to the now simple logos and ligatures used for company’s branding. Also the fonts, illustrations and styles used for political posters have changed through the centuries.  Likewise  the colors and symbols used for this type of images, are all  linked to the cultural facts and political situation of a country or region. From the numerous pictures on this book, it seems to me that cycles of styles and aesthetic, from simple to very busy alternate though history, responding to the ultimate goal of the piece.  In summary, I feel this book  presents a comprehensive timeline of the evolution of Graphic Design through history of humanity. I was also  delighted with  the inclusion on this book of  posters designed by contemporary African and Asian Graphic Designers.

While going back and forth through the pages of the book, made me think that as technology continues to evolve, the role of visual communication increases and that element known as Zeitgeist or “spirit of times” is more and more relevant for the current generations of Graphic Designers as well as the viewers.

Alejandra Chaverri

September 25, 2012

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