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Graphic Design before Graphic Designers

The Printer as Designer and Craftsman 1700 - 1914

David Jury


A cornucopia of visual and technical extravagance that presents the true history of printing from 1700 to 1914


Graphic design existed long before there were any graphic designers and this lavish volume is a vibrant tribute to beautifully crafted printed ephemera from the past. The art of combining text and pictures has been at the heart of the printer’s craft for hundreds of years. While early pioneers focused on books, others began using their presses for more humble uses, from handbills to games, advertisements and packaging. This so-called ‘jobbing’ work grew rapidly in importance, yet has been overlooked in histories of both print and graphic design.

Graphic Design before Graphic Designers is a visual journey through the pre-history of graphic design, charting the printer’s progress from tradesman to the hallowed status of artistic printer.

Showcasing work from a host of anonymous talents as well as seminal, pioneering typographers, artists and printers such as Bodoni, William Morris and Oscar Harpel, it reveals how those working on both sides of the Atlantic responded to everyday communication issues with original solutions and breathtaking flair and skill.

The extraordinarily diverse result is a cultural feast of the jobbing printer’s contribution to visual culture and heritage.

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'A gem - an impressive academic achievement, packed full of stories … there’s so much to enjoy in this book, starting with its actual design … this repository of visual material adds up to an inspirational sourcebook. But unlike many other beautifully illustrated publications, you will want to do more than just look at the pictures - you will want to read it'
V&A Magazine

'Elegant … the book’s glory lies in the stunning illustrations … readers may have a tough time not drooling'
The World of Interiors

Product Information

Book Details

Format: PLC (with jacket)

Size: 29.5 x 19.5 cm

Extent: 312 pp

Illustrations: 779

Publication date: 3 September 2012

ISBN: 9780500516461

Contents List

1. Alternative Functions of the Black Art: Letterpress printing and working conditions • Training and aptitude • The status of the early letterpress jobbing printer • The sign-writer • The jobbing engraver • The engraved writing manual • The engraved frontispiece and title page 2. Celebrating the Challenge of Change: Handcraft to mechanized industry • Early 19th-century European typeface design • Display typefaces: British type foundries • Popular reading: broadsides, chap books, almanacs • Newspapers and early advertising • Advertising and the growing influence of the USA • Display typefaces: American wood type • 3. Mechanisation and International Ambition: Mechanization and its influence on the status of design • Advertising and the advertising agency • Packaging and the retail business • Posters and the entertainment business • Information design for transport systems • Lithography and the development of colour printing • Mechanization and the failures of training • Early photography and its influence on illustration • Oscar Harpel and the elevation of the jobbing printer • 4. Artistic Aspirations for Mass Communication: The apprentice and technical college • America and Artistic Printing • Artistic Printing in Britain • Photography and printing technology • Colour printing and advertising • 5. The Rise of Advertising and Design: Advertising and design as a service • Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau • Art, design and the cultural magazine • The fall of Artistic Printing • The mechanization of type composition • The commercial artist and the poster • 6. Printing at the Service of Design: Craft, science and revival • The independent designer • Designers working with printers • Establishing credibility for design • Graphic design and the graphic designer

About the Author

David Jury is a prolific writer, award-winning graphic designer and head of the MA course Art, Design and the Book at the Colchester Institute. He has written a number of books on the subject of typography and was the editor of the award-winning journal TypoGraphic. His previous books include Typography Today.

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