Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon

Course Number:
ART 214
Course Title:
History of Graphic Design
Credit Hours:
Lecture Hours:
Lecture/Lab Hours:
Lab Hours:
Special Fee:

Course Description

Explores the history of graphic design from the earliest communication technologies to the present, with a focus on the Modern era. Examines changes in style and technology within the field and considers the relationship between graphic design and its cultural, political and social contexts. Prerequisites: WR 115, RD 115 and MTH 20 or equivalent placement test scores. Audit available.

Intended Outcomes for the course

Upon successful completion students should be able to:

1. Recognize graphic design as representative of the historical moment in which it was produced, while acknowledging its effect on later developments in design.
2. Identify the impact of social, cultural, technological and economic developments on design.
3. Utilize a critical vocabulary to discuss, write about, and create graphic design.
4. Think critically about the relationship between form, context and meaning in visual communication.
5. Articulate the relationships between graphic design, the history of visual culture and world  history to enhance civic and global engagement.
6. Apply knowledge of the history of graphic design, visual communication and technology to design projects and/or encounters with visual culture outside of the classroom.

Outcome Assessment Strategies

Assessment tools may include:

  • informal and formal responses to discussion questions
  • analysis and evaluation of reading assignments
  • visual and contextual analysis of graphic design in writing assignments and exams
  • journals assessing learning in and out of the classroom
  • research projects resulting in papers or presentations
  • class field trips

Course Content (Themes, Concepts, Issues and Skills)


  • critical interpretations of graphic design
  • graphic design and gender, post colonial and post modern theories
  • communication techniques and the media
  • thinking critically about visual culture
  • technological and communication paradigm shifts

Stylistic and Interpretive

  • techniques and media used in graphic design
  • graphic design and technologies
  • formal elements and principles of design
  • relationships between form and content

Social and Cultural

  • world histories, values, and cultures as they relate to design
  • design and economics
  • design and the social fabric
  • design and religion
  • design and politics
  • design and gender
  • design as a cultural object
  • the historical impact of design and technology
  • the influence of design on how cultures are viewed
  • the role of the designer in society

The successful student should be able to:

  • Work creatively with art-historical data, using it to better understand graphic design history.
  • Assess the ways in which graphic design is affected by the viewer€™s vantage point.
  • Articulate the relationship between graphic design and its historical, social and political context.
  • Recognize and discriminate among various styles of graphic design and their cultural impact.
  • Conduct a formal analysis of a work of graphic design and articulate the way its elements are interrelated.
  • Research and write coherently about design.
  • Use knowledge gained in the course to study graphic design, multi-media, art history, fine art, anthropology or history at a four- year institution.