John Lennon imagined a world without many things, but not a world without graphic designers. He had bigger fish to fry, but the truth is that it’s not that hard because the idea of a graphic designer is essentially a 20th Century development. Before that, design was part and parcel of the printing process – it was not even itemised on a printer’s bill. A magnificent new book by David Jury aims to bridge the gap between histories of printing which tend to overlook the so-called jobbing elements of the trade, and the histories of graphic design which tend to begin around the turn of the last century.
Graphic Design Before Graphic Designers is a beautiful look at the unsung heroes of the trade and the handbills, adverts and packaging they produced. It celebrates many sadly anonymous designers as well as those like Bodoni, William Morris and Oscar Harpel who pioneered graphic design before it was really called that.
It certainly supports the quotation from Dr Jonathan Miller that ends the book’s introductory essay: “It is in the negligible that the considerable is found.”
Graphic Design Before Graphic Designers, published by Thames and Hudson is available now.