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Ideas from the History of Graphic Design

This condensed survey course focuses on four key periods or themes from the history of design in the West. Together we’ll trace the emergence of design as a ...
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Platform: Coursera
Video: 3h 5m
Language: English

Table of contents


This condensed survey course focuses on four key periods or themes from the history of design in the West. Together we’ll trace the emergence of design as a recognized practice, why things look the way they do, and how designers approached specific design problems in their work.

Students will develop an understanding of where the wide variety of today’s design practice comes from. By participating in this survey of the works of innovative groups and individuals, we outline the process by which graphic design moved from a purely instrumental practice, to becoming a demanding creative and hybridized field.

Each week, a short quiz will test your knowledge of concepts, and a short reflective assignment will give you the opportunity to analyze the questions designers ask themselves today.

This is an essential course for emerging designers entering the field, or for students interested in learning more about visual culture and analysis. No previous experience is required.

A note about this course:

This course is taught from the perspective of contemporary design, to connect ideas that helped formulate design practice from the 1850s through the 1960s to the ways that designers think today. The relationship of words and pictures in graphic design is looked at through the ever-changing social and cultural contexts, technologies, aesthetics, and politics of their eras.

The definition and practice of graphic design includes all public visual communications, which is a global practice. It was the evolution of mass production and communication in the West that specifically redefined graphic design as a professional practice and is this course’s particular narrative. We hope students will consider how to connect the themes and ideas offered in this course to your own culture.

You will learn

✓ Learn about the history of graphic design
✓ Understand the emergence of design as a recognized practice
✓ Learn about graphic design radicalism in late 1950s to early 1970s
✓ Make informed design choices


There is no prerequisite, anyone can begin this course.. This course is also great for beginners without any History knowledge.

This course is for

This course is suitable for beginners.
School of Art
California Institute of the Arts
Louise Sandhaus is the former Program Director and current faculty in the Graphic Design Program at CalArts. Her design office, LSD (Louise Sandhaus Design), partners with multiple disciplines to realize interpretive projects from the simple to the complex, regardless of media. Clients include Los Angeles County Museum of Art, UCLA Hammer Museum, City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department, Los Angeles Natural History Museum, Los Angeles World Airports (LAX) and Association of Children’s Museums.?? Her book on the most ecstatic and distinctive California graphic design, Earthquakes, Mudslides, Fires and Riots: California and Graphic Design 1936-1986, was published by Metropolis/Artbooks D.A.P., Fall 2014. Louise’s work, writing, and writing about her work, have appeared in numerous publications including The Women of Design, Information Design Handbook, and Metropolis magazine as well as SEGD journal, Eye I.D., and Metropolis magazines and her work is in the permanent collections of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris. Louise recently completed her term on the AIGA board and as Chair of the AIGA Design Educators Community steering committee. She received an MFA in Graphic Design from California Institute of the Arts and a Graduate Laureate from the Jan Van Eyck Akademie in The Netherlands.
Platform: Coursera
Video: 3h 5m
Language: English

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