Introduction to Graphic Design History

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In a series of dynamic conversations, renowned authors and leading faculty at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) Brockett Horne and Ellen Lupton will introduce you to fascinating people and processes that changed the way we communicate.

Where did graphic design come from, and where will it go next? This fast-paced introduction to graphic design history, the first course of our two-part program Graphic Design History and Methods, will change your understanding of everything from fonts and letterforms to posters and brands. Discover how printers revolutionized society when they created open access to information. Explore the visual systems that inform graphic design practice—from handwritten alphabets to online publications. Learn how avant-garde artists, architects, poets, and painters shook the world by reinventing mass media. Pursue the dream of a unified civilization held together by neutral typefaces, international pictograms, and global brands—and see how subcultures rebelled against cultural uniformity by forging their own visual identities. Thinking about history will open your eyes to new ideas and diverse practices.

Test your knowledge with short quizzes, and stretch your own design practice by responding to inspiring creative prompts.

What students are saying:

"Ellen Lupton and Brockett Horne's creative collaboration makes this lecture series both engaging and entertaining (while still being educational, of course). The assignments were well thought out, and lots of fun. Thank you for such a terrific course! :D "

"Good course to get a handle on graphic design. I am a musician but enjoyed taking this course to learn more about how to make album art work and posters for my shows. The two teachers were great to watch together and motivated me to keep learning."


Session 1: The Visible Word
The Invention of Writing, The Typographic Revolution, and Cultures of Publishing.

Session 2: Liberated Style
Arts and Crafts and the Ideal Book; Art Nouveau and Jugendstil.

Session 3: Inventing The Avant-Garde
Cubism, Futurism, Dada

Session 4: New Typographies
Constructivism, Dutch Modernism, and the Bauhaus.

Session 5: International Styles
International Symbols and Global Identities; The Postmodern Reaction.

Session 6: Other Voices
Design and Civil Rights; Race, Gender, Sexuality, and Universal Design