History of Graphic Design

I.     Course Prefix/Number: ART 125

       Course Name: History of Graphic Design

       Credits: 3 (3 lecture; 0 lab)

II.    Prerequisite


III.   Course (Catalog) Description

Course presents visually-oriented history of development of commercial and creative Graphic Design and Graphic Design technology. Content includes how Graphic Design fits into past and present human experience and how Graphic Design reflects itself within social context of culture. Focus is on the concepts of design and the work of the designer in order to assess the significance of Graphic Design as a cultural, social, and political activity.

IV.   Learning Objectives

  1. Identify technical advancements in the field of Graphic Design.
  2. Distinguish the aesthetics of specific time periods and how Graphic Design related to those ideas.
  3. Illustrate the impact of past developments in Graphic Design on the present.
  4. Explain how Graphic Design fits into the context of art movements, as well as commercial necessities.
  5. Relate developments in Graphic Design to fine art media.

V.    Academic Integrity and Student Conduct

Students and employees at Oakton Community College are required to demonstrate academic integrity and follow Oakton's Code of Academic Conduct. This code prohibits:

• cheating,
• plagiarism (turning in work not written by you, or lacking proper citation),
• falsification and fabrication (lying or distorting the truth),
• helping others to cheat,
• unauthorized changes on official documents,
• pretending to be someone else or having someone else pretend to be you,
• making or accepting bribes, special favors, or threats, and
• any other behavior that violates academic integrity.

There are serious consequences to violations of the academic integrity policy. Oakton's policies and procedures provide students a fair hearing if a complaint is made against you. If you are found to have violated the policy, the minimum penalty is failure on the assignment and, a disciplinary record will be established and kept on file in the office of the Vice President for Student Affairs for a period of 3 years.

Please review the Code of Academic Conduct and the Code of Student Conduct, both located online at

VI.   Sequence of Topics

  1. Signs, Symbols and the Origins of Typography
    1. Cave painting and symbols
    2. Invention of writing
    3. Alphabets
    4. Manuscripts
  2. Origins of the Printing Press
    1. European block printing
    2. The German Illustrated book
    3. Renaissance Graphic Design
    4. The seventeenth century
    5. The development of typography in Europe
    6. Origins of Information Graphics
  3. Industrial Revolution and Visual Communication
    1. Journal of Design by Henry Cole
    2. Photography and its influence on communication
    3. The Arts and Crafts movement
    4. Victorian Design
  4. Modernism
    1. AEG (German General Electric)
    2. Frank Lloyd Wright: “The Art and Craft of the machine”
    3. The influence of Modern Art
    4. Bauhaus
    5. The Modern movement in America
  5. The Design Profession in the USA
    1. US consumer society
    2. New York World’s Fair and visual coherence
    3. New York school
  6. International Graphic Design
    1. Postwar Europe
    2. The Swiss school of Design
    3. Pop Art
    4. Scandinavian Design
    5. Italian Design
    6. Post Modernism
  7. Information
    1. Corporate Identity and Visual Systems
    2. New Wave Typography
    3. Retro and vernacular design
    4. Japanese Design
    5. The conceptual image
    6. The digital revolution and the internet

VII.  Methods of Instruction

This course will be presented through a series of slide lectures, videos, and a field trip to a gallery or museum of design.
Course may be taught as face-to-face, hybrid or online course.

VIII. Course Practices Required

Course may be taught as a face-to-face, hybrid or online course.

  1. Three (3) quizzes.
  2. Final exam.
  3. One (1) five-page research paper and a two-page field trip report.

IX.   Instructional Materials

Note: Current textbook information for each course and section is available on Oakton's Schedule of Classes.

Example Text:  “A History of Graphic Design” by Philip Meggs

X.    Methods of Evaluating Student Progress

The final grade will be based upon following elements and their weights.

  1. Quizzes 20%
  2. Mid term exam 20%
  3. Field trip report 15%
  4. Research paper 20%
  5. Final Exam 25%

XI.   Other Course Information

Please note:
Some of the activities, lectures and assignments in this class may include imagery that is controversial, uncomfortable, shocking, has nudity, and personally unpopular to one's beliefs. If a student objects to this practice, he/she is encouraged to discuss with the instructor early in the semester alternative ways of completing course requirements.

If you have a documented learning, psychological, or physical disability you may be entitled to reasonable academic accommodations or services. To request accommodations or services, contact the Access and Disability Resource Center at the Des Plaines or Skokie campus. All students are expected to fulfill essential course requirements. The College will not waive any essential skill or requirement of a course or degree program.

Oakton Community College is committed to maintaining a campus environment emphasizing the dignity and worth of all members of the community, and complies with all federal and state Title IX requirements.

Resources and support for
  • pregnancy-related and parenting accommodations; and
  • victims of sexual misconduct
can be found at www.oakton.edu/title9/.

Resources and support for LGBTQ+ students can be found at www.oakton.edu/lgbtq.

Electronic video and/or audio recording is not permitted during class unless the student obtains written permission from the instructor. In cases where recordings are allowed, such content is restricted to personal use only. Any distribution of such recordings is strictly prohibited. Personal use is defined as use by an individual student for the purpose of studying or completing course assignments.

For students who have been approved for audio and/or video recording of lectures and other classroom activities as a reasonable accommodation by Oakton’s Access Disabilities Resource Center (ADRC), applicable federal law requires instructors to permit those recordings. Such recordings are also limited to personal use. Any distribution of such recordings is strictly prohibited.

Violation of this policy will result in disciplinary action through the Code of Student Conduct.