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Meggs' History of Graphic Design
Meggs' History of Graphic Design
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Meggs' History of Graphic Design

Philip B. Meggs, Alston W. Purvis

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Unavailable in your region
📖 eBook - ePub

Meggs' History of Graphic Design

Philip B. Meggs, Alston W. Purvis

About This Book

The bestselling graphic design reference, updated for the digital age

Meggs' History of Graphic Design is the industry's unparalleled, award-winning reference. With over 1,400 high-quality images throughout, this visually stunning text guides you through a saga of artistic innovators, breakthrough technologies, and groundbreaking developments that define the graphic design field. The initial publication of this book was heralded as a publishing landmark, and author Philip B. Meggs is credited with significantly shaping the academic field of graphic design.

Meggs presents compelling, comprehensive information enclosed in an exquisite visual format. The text includes classic topics such as the invention of writing and alphabets, the origins of printing and typography, and the advent of postmodern design. This new sixth edition has also been updated to provide:

  • The latest key developments in web, multimedia, and interactive design
  • Expanded coverage of design in Asia and the Middle East
  • Emerging design trends and technologies
  • Timelines framed in a broader historical context to help you better understand the evolution of contemporary graphic design
  • Extensive ancillary materials including an instructor's manual, expanded image identification banks, flashcards, and quizzes

You can't master a field without knowing the history. Meggs' History of Graphic Design presents an all-inclusive, visually spectacular arrangement of graphic design knowledge for students and professionals. Learn the milestones, developments, and pioneers of the trade so that you can shape the future.



Part I The Prologue to Graphic Design

The visual message from prehistory through the medieval era

  1. 1 The Invention of Writing
  2. 2 Alphabets
  3. 3 The Asian Contribution
  4. 4 Illuminated Manuscripts

The Invention of Writing

c 15,000–10,000 BCE Cave paintings at Lascaux

c 3600 BCE Blau monument combines images and early writing
c 3500 BCE Sumerians settle in Mesopotamia
c 3200 BCE Menes, first pharaoh, unites Egypt
c 3100 BCE Early Sumerian pictographic scripts on clay tablets
c 3100 BCE King Zet’s ivory tablet, earliest Egyptian pictographic writing

c 2900 BCE Early cylinder seals
c 2750 BCE Formal land-sale contracts written in cuneiform
c 2600 BCE Early surviving papyrus manuscripts
c 2500 BCE Wedge-shaped cuneiform
c 2345 BCE Pyramid texts in tomb of Unas

c 1792–1750 BCE Law Code of Hammurabi
c 1739 BCE Scarab of Ikhnaton and Nefertiti
c 1500 BCE Hieratic scripts
c 1420 BCE Papyrus of Ani
c 1300 BCE Early Book of the Dead papyrus scrolls
c 1100 BCE Iron widely used for weapons and tools

c 600 BCE Nebuchadnezzar builds the Tower of Babel
c 400 BCE Demotic script
332–330 BCE Alexander the Great conquers Egypt
c 197 BCE Rosetta Stone

5000 BCE–100 BCE
World events/Graphic design events


c 2000 BCE Early Cretan pictographs, Phaistos Disk

c 1500 BCE Ras Shamra script
c 1000 BCE Early Greek alphabet

c 850 BCE Aramaic alphabet
516 BCE Israelites return from Babylonian exile
447–432 BCE Parthenon built in Athens
429 BCE Sophocles’ tragedy Oedipus Rex
323 BCE Alexander the Great dies in Babylon
300 BCE Euclid’s geometry
c 190 BCE Parchment used for manuscripts
44 BCE Julius Caesar assassinated
29 BCE Vergil’s Georgics

c 100 CE Pompeian wall writing
c 114 CE Trajan’s Column
c 250 CE Greek uncials
c 200–500 CE Roman square capitals and rustic capitals
c 500 CE Early Arabic alphabet

c 1000 CE Naskhi becomes dominant Arabic alphabet
1446 CE Hangul, Korean alphabet

2000 BCE–1500 CE
World events/Graphic design events

The Asian Contribution

c 1800 BCE Legendary Cangjie invents writing
c 1500 BCE Oracle bone writing

551 BCE Confucius is born
c 528 BCE Siddhartha Gautama becomes the Buddha
c 221 BCE Shihuangdi unites China: the Great Wall underway
c 250 BCE Small-seal calligraphy

105 CE Cai Lun invents paper
c 165 CE Confucian classics carved in stone
c 200 CE Regular-style calligraphy
c 300 CE Chops are used as identifying seals; chops used in Han dynasty
c 770 CE Early datable Chinese relief printing; printed Buddhist charms
868 CE Diamond Sutra

c 1000 CE Chinese calligraphy printed with perfection
c 1000 CE Gunpowder in use in China
c 1040 CE Pi Sheng invents movable type in China
c 1150 CE Compass is invented

2000 BCE–1200 CE
World events/Graphic design events

Illuminated Manuscripts

330 CE Constantine moves Roman capital to Constantinople
c 425 CE Vatican Vergil
c 500 CE Uncial lettering flourishes
570 CE Birth of Muhammad

c 600 CE Insular script
c 680 CE Book of Durrow
c 698 CE Lindisfarne Gospels

c 751 CE Arabs learn papermaking from Chinese prisoners
781 CE Alcuin establishes school at Aachen; Caroline minuscules are developed

c 800 CE Book of Kells, Coronation Gospels
800 CE Charlemagne crowned emperor

1095–99 CE First Crusade
1163 CE Notre Dame Cathedral begun in Paris
1209 CE Cambridge University founded
c 1265 CE Douce Apocalypse
c 1265 CE Marco Polo travels to China
1215 CE King John signs Magna Carta
c 1300 CE Ormesby Psalter
c 1320 CE Firearms used in Europe
c 1387 CE Chaucer begins The Canterbury Tales
c 1413–16 CE Les très riches heures du duc de Berry
c 1450 CE Printing with movable type in Germany
c 1478 CE Washington Haggadah

300 CE–1500 CE
World events/Graphic design events

1 The Invention of Writing

Image described by caption
1-1. Cave painting from Lascaux, c. 15,000-10,000 BCE . Random placement and shifting scale signify prehistoric people’s lack of structure and sequence in recording their experiences.
It is not known precisely when or where Homo sapiens, our modern species of the lineage of conscious, thinking creatures, emerged. As the search for our prehistoric origins continues, the early innovations of our ancestors have been pushed back further in time. It is believed that we evolved from a species that lived in the southern part of Africa. These early hominids ventured out onto the grassy plains and into caves as the forests in that part of the world slowly disappeared. In the tall grass, the hominids began to stand erect. Perhaps this adaptation was a result of the need to watch for predators, to help discourage enemies by increasing the hominids’ apparent size, or to hold branches as weapons.
In any event, the hand developed an ability to carry food and hold objects. Found near Lake Turkana in Kenya, a nearly three-million-year-old stone that had been sharpened into an implement proves the thoughtful and deliberate development of a technology—a tool. Early shaped stones may have been used to dig for roots or to cut away flesh from dead animals for food. While we can only speculate about the use of early tools, we know that they mark a major step in the human species’ immense journey from primitive origins toward a civilized state.
A number of quantum leaps provided the capacity to organize a community and gain some measure of control over human destiny. Speech—the ability to make sounds in order to communicate—was an early skill developed by the species on the long evolutionary trail from its archaic beginnings. Writing is the visual counterpart of speech. Marks, symbols, pictures, or letters drawn or written upon a surface or substrate became a graphic counterpart of the spoken word or unspoken thought. The limitations of speech include the fallibility of human memory and an immediacy of expression that cannot transcend time and place. Until the electronic age, spoken words vanished without a trace, while written words remained. The invention of writing brought people the luster of civilization and made it possible to preserve hard-won knowledge, experiences, and thoughts.
The development of writing and visible language had its earliest origins in simple pictures, for a close connection exists between the drawing of pictures and the marking of writing. Both are natural ways of communicating ideas, and early people used pictures as an elementary way to record and transmit information.

Prehistoric visual communications

Early human markings found in Africa are over two hundred thousand years old. From the early Paleolithic to the Neolithic period (35,000 to 4000 BCE), early Africans and Europeans left paintings in caves, including the Lascaux caves in southern France (Fig. 1-1) and Altamira in Spain. Black was ...

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Citation styles for Meggs' History of Graphic DesignHow to cite Meggs' History of Graphic Design for your reference list or bibliography: select your referencing style from the list below and hit 'copy' to generate a citation. If your style isn't in the list, you can start a free trial to access over 20 additional styles from the Perlego eReader.
APA 6 Citation
Meggs, P., & Purvis, A. (2016). Meggs’ History of Graphic Design (6th ed.). Wiley. Retrieved from (Original work published 2016)
Chicago Citation
Meggs, Philip, and Alston Purvis. (2016) 2016. Meggs’ History of Graphic Design. 6th ed. Wiley.
Harvard Citation
Meggs, P. and Purvis, A. (2016) Meggs’ History of Graphic Design. 6th edn. Wiley. Available at: (Accessed: 14 October 2022).
MLA 7 Citation
Meggs, Philip, and Alston Purvis. Meggs’ History of Graphic Design. 6th ed. Wiley, 2016. Web. 14 Oct. 2022.