A History of Graphic Design Info

Fan Club Reviews of best titles on art fashion, artists, history, photography. Check out our top reviews and see what others have to say about the best art and photography books of the year. Check out A History of Graphic Design Community Reviews - Find out where to download A History of Graphic Design available in multiple formats:Hardcover,Digital,Paperback A History of Graphic Design Author:Philip B. Meggs Formats:Hardcover,Digital,Paperback Publication Date:Sep 9, 1998


Critical acclaim for previous editions of A History of Graphic
Design

"I expect it to become a foundation and keystone of
serious study . . . it is a fortress work." -Communication Arts


"[It] traces the role of the designer as a messenger of culture."
-STA Journal

"Now . . . a hefty, yet concise,
documentation of the entire field exists." -Print

"It is a
noble and formidable undertaking." -he Artist's Magazine


"An excellent and invaluable work." -Library Journal

"This
is a reference work that reads like a novel. It's comprehensive,
authoritative, graphic, and exciting." -U&lc: The Journal of
Typographics

"[This book] establishes graphic design as a
profession. Bravo!" -Design Issues

"A significant attempt
at a comprehensive history of graphic design . . . it will be an
eye-opener not only for general readers, but for designers who have been
unaware of their legacy." -The New York Times

"Mr. Meggs
enthusiastically conveys these excitements to us, from the invention of
photography and 'popular graphics of the Victorian era' through the Arts
and Crafts movement, Art Nouveau, the Secession, the isms . . . to the
Modern Movement. . . . More importantly, he shows us the joins as well
as the parts."-rinting World

After a decade of research by
the author, the first edition of A History of Graphic Design was
heralded as a publishing landmark by the Association of American
Publishers, who awarded it a coveted award for publishing excellence.
Now, after fifteen years of development in graphic design, this expanded
and updated Third Edition includes hundreds of full-color images and
new material in many areas, including alphabets, Japanese and Dutch
graphics, and the computer revolution which has impacted all aspects of
contemporary design and communications. With its approximately 1,200
illustrations, lucid text, and interpretive captions, the book reveals a
saga of creative innovators, breakthrough technologies, and important
design innovations.

Graphic design is a vital component of
each culture and period in human history, and in this account, an
extraordinary panorama of people and events unfolds, including:
*
The Invention of Writing and Alphabets
* Medieval Manuscript
Books
* The Origins of Printing and Typography
* Renaissance
Graphic Design
* The Arts and Crafts Movement
* Victorian
and Art Nouveau Graphics
* Modern Art and Its Impact on Design
/> * Visual Identity and Conceptual Images
* Postmodern Design
/> * The Computer Graphics Revolution

A History of Graphic
Design is recognized as a seminal work; this Third Edition surpasses in
detail and breadth the content, design, and color reproduction of
previous editions. It is required reading for professionals, students,
and everyone who works with or loves the world of graphic design. This
comprehensive reference tool is an invaluable visual survey that you
will turn to again and again.

Average Ratings and Reviews
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4.38

2599 Ratings

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Ratings and Reviews From Market


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Reviews for A History of Graphic Design:

5

March 20, 2001

Must have reference book for graphic designers
In my opinion, this 3rd Edition "A History of GD" is the best reference book written about graphic design. This 500 plus pages book/bible is simply divided into 5 sections, 1) The Prologue to Graphic Design, 2) A Graphic Rennaissance, 3) The Industrial Revolution, 4)The Modernist Era, and 5) The Age of Information. The topics range from the invention of writing to, creation of new typogrphic styles to, the digital revolution and computer art. There are plenty of graphics and photos on every page to accompany the wonderfully written text. If you study art history or graphic design, I think this would be a great reference book to have. It will take some time to read the entire book. But this is like a text book, so, reading only part of the chapters would be quite informative as well. Once you are done, you will definitely appreciate graphic design/graphic designers.
3

Jun 03, 2011

I took a summer class on the History of Graphic Design and had to read this book...not cover-cover, but pretty close. It's the only class I've actually had the time to complete all of the assigned readings for, and I'm really glad I did. This book is the only one of its kind that I've found. I learned so much from it. It's always been very confusing to try to find where our history is (as graphic designers)...Meggs was the first to really pool all the information in one place.

The only qualms I I took a summer class on the History of Graphic Design and had to read this book...not cover-cover, but pretty close. It's the only class I've actually had the time to complete all of the assigned readings for, and I'm really glad I did. This book is the only one of its kind that I've found. I learned so much from it. It's always been very confusing to try to find where our history is (as graphic designers)...Meggs was the first to really pool all the information in one place.

The only qualms I had with this book was that for being a book ON graphic design, they really didn't take great care in designing it too well. The book is long and slightly dull as you'd expect any textbook to get after a while, but the sans-serif made it slightly even more painful, and the layout was very disorganized (figure references don't show up until pages after they're already been discussed, you can read a full spread of straight text -which is agonizing- and then skim through a full spread of pictures, etc). The book is set up to give you a general overview of each movement, so it can be a little frustrating when your favorite designer gets a paragraph of recognition and Herbert Bayer gets ten pages, but in all honesty you can't expect a subjective topic like design to be perfectly aligned with what you view as more important.

All in all, I think its essential for any designer. Just like with painting, it's kinda hard to find your niche when you haven't had a chance to study the renaissance. It's definitely enriched my design background and vocabulary. You have to know your rules before you can break them, but you also have to know your history so you can see why people made the rules in the first place. ...more
3

March 25, 2002

Who chose the typeface for this book?
As much as I admire Phillip Meggs for the historical content and the wealth of images in this book, I have one criticism-the text is not readable. Speaking as a designer and as a college instructor, this book would be more readable had the publisher used a serif typeface. What good is clean design and excellent content if the text puts the reader to sleep?
4

Sep 26, 2012

I used to teach a course based on this book. The book, while the information contained within is good... is a great example of how to NOT design a book. The layout of the book makes this difficult to read and understand. The entire book is typeset in a swiss sans serif for the body copy. This made it extremely difficult for not only my students to read and comprehend, but also for myself. EVERY halfway decent Graphic Designer knows that body copy is always to be set (for any lengthy publication I used to teach a course based on this book. The book, while the information contained within is good... is a great example of how to NOT design a book. The layout of the book makes this difficult to read and understand. The entire book is typeset in a swiss sans serif for the body copy. This made it extremely difficult for not only my students to read and comprehend, but also for myself. EVERY halfway decent Graphic Designer knows that body copy is always to be set (for any lengthy publication of mostly text) in a SERIF typeface to ease the reader into a flow and continue to advance when reading. My students and myself found ourselves constantly tripping over the fact we were re-reading paragraph lines of text we had already read. The typesetting and layout made advancing through the copy very difficult. Too bad the layout was terrible while the content was of good quality.

Because this book is the only complete book on this subject I was forced to continue to use it. I used this bad layout/typesetting as a prime example of what NOT to do in design. It demonstrated to my students how a good message can be lost in bad design. (And vice versa) This topic generated many a good classroom discussions on the subject. ...more
5

December 26, 2006

What a great book !
I am a graphic design student, and this book was assigned for one of my classes. The History of Graphic Design, is such am amazing book. I find myself flipping through the pages for fun! You could read it over and over again, and always learn something new. This is a very thick book, full of vibrant pictures, and great for gathering your own ideas ! If you could only buy one book on the history of graphci design, this should be that book !
3

May 18, 2010

Terrible Resolution
I purchased this for the kindle app on the iPad and was extremely disappointed in the sample images that are included throughout the ebook. They're low resolution, the image where timeline is showed, the text is barely readable.
5

Dec 07, 2010

I absolutely love art history, but am working on my degree in graphic design. This book was a recommended text to supplement a class and it is absolutely the most engaging textbook I've ever read. I do not think there are many other history books specific to design, and there certainly are none that could compare with the depth, detail and quality of information presented in Megg's History of Graphic Design.
4

March 17, 2006

Borrow
Borrow this book from a friend in class and photocopy the pages, thats my advice. Good book, just over priced.
4

Oct 17, 2008

Okay, so I didn't read the entire book, but I read enough that I can write a good review of it. This book was my first introduction to Graphic Design. This book should be mandatory for anyone who designs documents, marketing materials, or other medias for the public. It establishes a progressive history of where design ideas came from and what influenced the designers, along with the consequences (good and bad) of their actions. The writing style is easy to follow. My only criticism is that the Okay, so I didn't read the entire book, but I read enough that I can write a good review of it. This book was my first introduction to Graphic Design. This book should be mandatory for anyone who designs documents, marketing materials, or other medias for the public. It establishes a progressive history of where design ideas came from and what influenced the designers, along with the consequences (good and bad) of their actions. The writing style is easy to follow. My only criticism is that the scope often seems narrow in a way that I feel I'm not seeing the big picture, but focusing on the details. Since a book that covers all the details and all of the big picture would be more than I can handle, I do ultimately prefer the style of this book (and know that I have to do more research on the topic to get a more rounded perspective). ...more
4

Oct 20, 2012

An interesting and informative read, as well as inspiring. However, the last couple of chapters start ok but rapidly descend into what seems like a who's who, which becomes a little tedious.

In terms of layout too I found myself flipping backwards and forwards, marrying up images with the text references, which became slightly annoying. Bad design, in a design book?
5

September 28, 2005

Deep Thoughts by Jessica
"A History of Graphic Design" is a comprehensive look at serveral aspects of graphic design: from illuminated manuscripts to corporate identity to political statements to fonts... this book is a great tool of inspiration, as well as a retrospective encyclopedia pertaining to fine artists/graphic designers of the 20th century.
5

September 7, 2005

Assigned reading
I purchased this book for a class in the history of graphic design. The history is based mainly on Western design concepts and while broad, offers good information on the topic. It is a good introduction for someone who has no graphic design background.
3

Jul 03, 2017

There is a special place in my heart for big, hard-back, fully colour-illustrated design histories. It brings me its own kind of joy, maybe because it is easier to forget how subjective any historical account must be when the narrative is organised around images. Megg's History provide just that, and on top of this it is also part of that very select club of textbooks which have achieved near hegemonic status. This means you can scoop it for a few quids online, and were you not to finish it will There is a special place in my heart for big, hard-back, fully colour-illustrated design histories. It brings me its own kind of joy, maybe because it is easier to forget how subjective any historical account must be when the narrative is organised around images. Megg's History provide just that, and on top of this it is also part of that very select club of textbooks which have achieved near hegemonic status. This means you can scoop it for a few quids online, and were you not to finish it will still make a great door-stopper.
It does what it says on the tin: a chronological history of visual communication, carefully skirting around the notion of 'art' and focusing on the genealogy of those fields we today associate with graphic design: typography, layouts, logos, posters, branding, etc. This it does by small paragraphs focusing often on individual designers, or sometimes movements, nearly all of which are illustrated with well chosen examples. My only reproach - but then again given the spoke of the volume, it would have been difficult to do otherwise - is that the size of the images does not allow the reader to really grasp the subtleties of many of those, especially when it comes to typography.
The book start with pre-history, moves through a general examination of the emergence of writing, and goes on to consider Greek, Roman and some East-Asiatic traditions. We move to the Middle-Ages, the invention of minuscules and the variations of textura, before reaching the Gutemberg moment, which gets a more thorough examination. XIXth and especially XXth century have pride of place, taking up about half of the book. We conclude with the post-war period, the submersion of the international style and the rise of post-modernism's various strands. The last part examines relatively contemporary evolution, in particular the emergence of those now ubiquitous digital tools.
The period between the Renaissance and the XIXth century is probably one with which many of us are less familiar, and although I was looking forward to it (emergence of humanist type, engraving, etc.) it turned out to be rather dull, a litany of names and events which the author failed at relating convincingly to elements of the designs he presented - something he did well in many other chapters. More characteristically, there was also a complete lack of ties to 'the broader picture' : graphic design is presented as a self-contained and autonomous field, influence at best by technology and the sister disciplines of art and architecture, but how and how much it might relate to politics, religion or science was completely left out. This, again, might be an unavoidable sacrifice for such a project, but it also contribute to make the book extremely repetitive at times, more akin to reading an encyclopaedia than a history.
To sum up: this is a useful and valuable resource for someone either dedicated to the subject, or to someone with already solid bases in visual and design history. For anyone else, it might prove of little interest, except as a reference book to be pulled occasionally out of the bookshelf, in which it is however bound to take much space. ...more
5

Jun 24, 2018

TODO full review:
! Read the fifth edition (2012), which includes updates in Part V until 2010.
+++ Overall, an outstanding overview of graphic design, from prehistory to the digital age. I learned much. Mandatory reading for all interested in design.
+++ Part I, Prologue. Subjects cover: the invention of writing and a concise but deep incursion into the known history of alphabets, up to the highly designed Korean Hangul; the contribution to graphic design Chinese, Japanese, and other Asian TODO full review:
! Read the fifth edition (2012), which includes updates in Part V until 2010.
+++ Overall, an outstanding overview of graphic design, from prehistory to the digital age. I learned much. Mandatory reading for all interested in design.
+++ Part I, Prologue. Subjects cover: the invention of writing and a concise but deep incursion into the known history of alphabets, up to the highly designed Korean Hangul; the contribution to graphic design Chinese, Japanese, and other Asian sources; the contribution to graphic design of illuminators, including the Arabic thread.
+++ Part II, the Renaissance: presents the birth of European typography and image-text prints. Gutenberg, Dürer, Luther are the main figures, with technology for printing enabling so much of the European arts and crafts that characterized the Renaissance.
+++ Part III, the Industrial Revolution, through Arts and Crafts, to Art Nouveau: a good, selective but deep, coverage of creativity between 1760s and 1910s.
++ Part IV, the Modernist Era: the huge factory (Ford) and massive urbanization leads to a new life for many, and art follows (or leads). Cubism (Picasso), Constructivism (Lissitzky), De Stijl (Mondriaan), and Bauhaus (Gropius et al.) lead the modern movement. (Unfortunately, Communism and Nazism appropriate the methods of some of these schools as useful propaganda tools).
+/--- Part V, the Information Age: covers 1940s/1950s through 2010s, but already shows its age. The rise of corporate identity is well covered, but new advances in personal identity, cross-medium branding, manga fetishism, and cross-pollination with gaming do not appear here. Perhaps a new Part VI, FTW? ...more
4

Feb 07, 2013

Ugh. I really wanted to like this book. I wanted it to grab my attention and shake the creative out of me. I wanted to read it until my eyes were bleeding genius font. I wanted it to ask me on a date and take me away to a distant time and place, never turning back. I suppose had high expectations for a textbook, my fault.
As some have already mentioned, the layout of the book is awful.
With so much history involved, I think it's important to arrange pages in a way that will force/keep the reader Ugh. I really wanted to like this book. I wanted it to grab my attention and shake the creative out of me. I wanted to read it until my eyes were bleeding genius font. I wanted it to ask me on a date and take me away to a distant time and place, never turning back. I suppose had high expectations for a textbook, my fault.
As some have already mentioned, the layout of the book is awful.
With so much history involved, I think it's important to arrange pages in a way that will force/keep the reader focused. It's one of those awkward-sized books that is too big for both lap and table reading. It would be a great coffee table book, but it's got way too much information to be a random coffee table book. It's heavy. Having this book in my bag, on my back, with other books is a complete pain in the ass.
The writing is rambly and sometimes I want the author to hurry up and get to the point. I could take a sharpie to many paragraphs and still get all pertinent information.
It is very informative, there's nothing the author has missed. So those with a love of dry history textbooks will love it. Those wanting a brief introduction... there's nothing brief about this book.

UPDATE:
After the end of the course I was taking using this book, I decided I like it better than I had originally thought. My 3 star rating has increased to a hearty 4. It's very informative and can feel a bit overwhelming to start. It gets better. I get it. I dig it. I didn't sell it back to the campus bookstore, and that's saying something. ...more
4

Sep 26, 2012

I used to teach a course based on this book. The book, while the information contained within is good... is a great example of how to NOT design a book. The layout of the book makes this difficult to read and understand. The entire book is typeset in a swiss sans serif for the body copy. This made it extremely difficult for not only my students to read and comprehend, but also for myself. EVERY halfway decent Graphic Designer knows that body copy is always to be set (for any lengthy publication I used to teach a course based on this book. The book, while the information contained within is good... is a great example of how to NOT design a book. The layout of the book makes this difficult to read and understand. The entire book is typeset in a swiss sans serif for the body copy. This made it extremely difficult for not only my students to read and comprehend, but also for myself. EVERY halfway decent Graphic Designer knows that body copy is always to be set (for any lengthy publication of mostly text) in a SERIF typeface to ease the reader into a flow and continue to advance when reading. My students and myself found ourselves constantly tripping over the fact we were re-reading paragraph lines of text we had already read. The typesetting and layout made advancing through the copy very difficult. Too bad the layout was terrible while the content was of good quality.

Because this book is the only complete book on this subject I was forced to continue to use it. I used this bad layout/typesetting as a prime example of what NOT to do in design. It demonstrated to my students how a good message can be lost in bad design. (And vice versa) This topic generated many a good classroom discussions on the subject. ...more
5

October 14, 2015

Five Stars
Best graphic design history book. I read through this book, which connects design and history/culture.
5

December 11, 2016

Five Stars
everything great, would buy again from seller
1

Oct 13, 2013

The first couple chapters of this book are full of interesting information about the evolution of written language. After that the book bogs down in personal details of the designers' lives. For example, I now know that in the 1700s Bodoni in Italy and Didot in France were rivals in the development of more modern fonts, each borrowing from the other, and both drawing upon the earlier type designs of Baskerville. A lot of words are wasted on telling how so-and-so designer went to so-and-so place The first couple chapters of this book are full of interesting information about the evolution of written language. After that the book bogs down in personal details of the designers' lives. For example, I now know that in the 1700s Bodoni in Italy and Didot in France were rivals in the development of more modern fonts, each borrowing from the other, and both drawing upon the earlier type designs of Baskerville. A lot of words are wasted on telling how so-and-so designer went to so-and-so place at so-and-so time...for the purposes of understanding how various aspects of design history impact present work, the designer's personal lives are of little use to me.

Instead, I would have found it more useful to see a comparison of similar styles with information on how to tell them apart and indications of the sentiment (including culture, time, place, and philosophy) evoked by each. The trivialities that make up much of the text (titles of the works, the names of the designers and their acquaintances, their education, and the names of the publications and presses they worked) for would be far better relegated to sidebars or appendices so that I wouldn't need to slog through them to find the useful information. ...more
5

December 23, 2014

A helpful guide to graphic design history
Excellent and helpful even though its an older addition, it was still a great book to have for my History of graphic design class. It covers all the major events in Graphic Design history with many examples.
1

December 23, 2015

I would like to see a book that doesn't
It is an old book. It gives you facts on the history of g.d. with an unappealing tone. Given the heavy amount of cultural influences throughout g.d.'s history, I would like to see a book that doesn't... sound the way this book does.

The author actually included how difficult it was to decide what contents to include and whose names to include and which works to include given the limited number of pages. Yet, I found a lot of fluff that continued persistently.

I would not recommend it.
4

Jun 16, 2014

Before diving into Meggs’ History of Graphic Design, I faced a dilemma. Should I jump right in or should I wait until the fall since the book is required for Graphic Design History class? Once I began the first chapter, however, I couldn’t stop.

With almost 600 pages, the book began with the invention of writing and ended at the digital revolution. The first two parts are fascinating, especially chapters on the alphabets and the progression of print and typography. Part three and four are Before diving into Meggs’ History of Graphic Design, I faced a dilemma. Should I jump right in or should I wait until the fall since the book is required for Graphic Design History class? Once I began the first chapter, however, I couldn’t stop.

With almost 600 pages, the book began with the invention of writing and ended at the digital revolution. The first two parts are fascinating, especially chapters on the alphabets and the progression of print and typography. Part three and four are comprehensive in documenting the graphic design moments and prominent designers. While the layout is filled with rich visual examples to complement the texts, the body copy, which set in Sabon Next, is a bit loose.

The historical details definitely needed to be revisited again, but this is the first textbook that I have read from cover to cover. ...more
5

May 10, 2013

Best book I ever purchased at that price!
Can't beat the price I paid for it! Wonderful book to help teach art students about design and the many important movements that revolutionized book art. Wonderfully illustrated!
4

Sep 06, 2013

Can’t say I’m a huge sucker for art history, though this book somehow managed to make it pretty interesting. Some parts could be a touch dry, but it covers a lot. It was bought for college and kept for its relevance. For some reason I enjoy having it on my shelf and I don’t even know if I can pin point why? It did not always feel like work reading it ...and I have a hunch I may want to brush up on it again someday. Plus it’s very pretty (referring to the sample images – the book's typesetting Can’t say I’m a huge sucker for art history, though this book somehow managed to make it pretty interesting. Some parts could be a touch dry, but it covers a lot. It was bought for college and kept for its relevance. For some reason I enjoy having it on my shelf and I don’t even know if I can pin point why? It did not always feel like work reading it ...and I have a hunch I may want to brush up on it again someday. Plus it’s very pretty (referring to the sample images – the book's typesetting could use some work). ...more
3

July 5, 2014

Newer better than older
It had all the info but I probably should have gotten the newer version for my particular class

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