Graphic Design before Graphic Designers

Published today, David Jury’s new book, Graphic Design Before Graphic Designers: The Printer as Designer and Craftsman 1700-1914, (Thames & Hudson, £36) looks to chart the evolution of ‘print’ into ‘graphic design’…

Published today, David Jury’s new book, Graphic Design Before Graphic Designers: The Printer as Designer and Craftsman 1700-1914, (Thames & Hudson, £36) looks to chart the evolution of ‘print’ into ‘graphic design’…

“Johann Gutenberg invented movable type with one purpose: to print books,” writes Jury in the book’s introduction. “However, from the outset, printers were asked to put their presses to other uses,” he continues.

“Such tasks, collectively called ‘jobbing’ work, increased in volume and commercial importance as industrial and business interests grew in variety and ambition, enabling many printers to specialise in this area. This book focuses on the printers who did this kind of work – effectually graphic design before graphic designers – their training and working environments, the products they designed, and the changing social and technological circumstances in which these were achieved.”

The book’s main focus is the developments of the 19th century which saw the printing process undergo a technological revolution and the printer become integral to the expansion of industry and trade. The book doesn’t just focus on letterpress but also takes into account the importance of various crafts vital to the world of print and design such as engraving – which allowed for more flowing calligraphic styles of text and, of course, illustration – and sign-writing, the art of which influenced type design, in particular display type.

The 312 page, hardback book (with 3/4 length dust jacket) contains nearly 800 illustrations of engraved frontispieces and title pages, handbills, posters, catalogues, type specimens, pamphlets, advertisements and product labels, many of which were specially photographed from private collections,  that served the demands of the emerging consumer classes of the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries.

Here are some spreads:

Graphic Design Before Graphic Designers: The Printer as Designer and Craftsman 1700-1914, by David Jury, is published today by Thames & Hudson (£36).

More info at


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