Empowering change empowering Tech

Have you ever wondered what attracted you to a new iPad, a new smartphone or any other modern device? Was it its fascinating technology or its design simplicity? Design has become an essential communication tool and it is hard to imagine a new technology without it. I wanted to look at the timeline of history to define the correlation between technology and design and their mutual impact. I used an art history timeline to compare the evolution of both areas.

1750-1850 The Industrial Revolution and Romanticism.

The first prominent interaction between technology and design (art at the time) began with the Industrial Revolution. It goes without saying that the Industrial Revolution was the starting point in the development of modern technology and has changed the social, economic and cultural conditions of the time.

Design existed primarily in art form at the time and was in transition from the Baroque movement (1600-1750) to Neoclassicism (1750-1850) and later to Romanticism (1780-1850). While Neoclassicism was inspired by the “classical” art and culture of ancient Greece and Rome, Romanticism was already a reaction to the Industrial Revolution with its population growth and urban sprawl. Romanticism portrayed the achievements of heroic individualists and artists, whose pioneering examples would uplift society.

Highlights of the period:

  • 1765 steam engine.
  • 1783 First hot air balloon.
  • 1796 Lithographic printing process.
  • 1816 First photographic negative.
  • 1835 First photograph.
  • 1843 The typewriter is invented.
  • 1847 Rotary printing press.

1850-1900 The Second Industrial Revolution and Realism.

The second part of the Industrial Revolution is also known as the electromechanical era. Technological and economic progress led to the development of steamships, railways, electric power generation, and many more.

The visual art of the time was about truth and accuracy and was called Realism. Many paintings depict people at work, emphasizing the changes brought about by the Industrial Revolution. Advances in photography, made during the 19th century, took the popularity of realism to the next level, creating a desire in people to reflect everyday reality. Art during the second half of the 19th century was called Impressionism and it emphasized an accurate representation of light that might have been influenced by discoveries in photography.

Highlights of the period:

  • 1867 Dynamite.
  • 1876 ​​Telephone.
  • 1879 Electric light bulb.
  • 1892 diesel engine.
  • 1894 Radio waves.

1880-1914 Art Nouveau.

In the late 19th century, machine-made art production was on the rise. The first device that could easily and quickly set up entire lines of type for use in printing presses, the Linotype machine (1886), revolutionized the art of printing. This invention increased the demand for typography and resulted in the Akzidenz Grotesk design (1898), the first widely used sans serif typeface.

The same 1898 was a year of the first commercial film. Many others soon followed, initiating a new and separate form of visual art: moving images.

This period was critical in the history of design as it broke away from art and made its way into all kinds of commercial design. The movement called Art Nouveau started advertising and graphic design and by 1909 magazines had become the main channels of advertising. The art continued to evolve from one movement to another, from post-impressionism, expressionism to cubism and others.

Highlights of the period:

  • 1886 Linotype (typographic composition).
  • 1892 Alternating current generator.
  • 1900 First mass marketed camera: the Brownie.
  • 1903 Motorized Airplane.
  • 1907 color photograph and helicopter.
  • 1908 First mass production of the Ford Model T automobile.

1910-1930 Art Deco.

The growth of the professional graphic design industry has grown in parallel with the rise of consumerism. As technology continued to improve and monetize its inventions, design evolved into a communication tool. Art Deco was a style of ornamental design based on geometric shapes inspired by technologies such as aviation, radio, electric lighting, and others. Its linear symmetry was a distinct step towards the simplicity of the flowing asymmetrical organic curves of its predecessor Art Nouveau style. The Art Deco design was suitable to be read from a speeding car.

In 1919, the first model of the modern art school was founded in Germany: the Bauhaus, which had a profound influence on art, architecture, typography, and all forms of design, ultimately providing the framework for modern design.

Highlights of the period:

  • 1919 First air service and first electric typewriter.
  • 1920s Regular wireless broadcasts for entertainment.
  • 1923 Electronic Television and first sound cinema.

1930-1945 Modernism.

The technology of the Industrial Revolution found its way into the daily lives of ordinary people. Electricity, the telephone, the radio, the automobile created the most visible social changes of that period. The need to learn, work and live with technology demanded new skills and the ability to perceive a lot of information.

Modern ideas in art and design appeared in commercials and logos in rejection of the ornate flourishes of earlier design styles. With more new information than the average person had to understand, the need for clear, easily recognizable and memorable design also increased. Straight lines, minimalism, lack of clutter, primary colors prevailed in Modernism design and art.

The Times New Roman font (1932) was designed. The Bulova Watch Company aired the first television commercial with the tagline “America is running on Bulova time!” (1941).

Highlights of the period:

  • 1936 The BBC began broadcasting the world’s first public service.
  • Jet engine from 1937.
  • 1938 Ballpoint pen.
  • Kodak negative from 1941.
  • 1943 Aqua-lung.
  • [1945TheAtomicBomb[1945Labombaatómica

1955-1980 Pop Art and Minimalism.

The post-war technology of that period buoyed us up with several great inventions and gave birth to a new type of human species: the geeks. The invention of a personal computer dramatically impacted and forever changed the way people live, work, and communicate.

In the history of art, this period is known as Pop Art and Minimalism, which we can also see reflected in the design. The rise of different forms of media and the modern advertising industry increased the need for a legible and easy-to-display typeface. The new font, designed for simplicity, was the Neue Haas Grotesk font (1957), later renamed Helvetica. With the rise of personal computing in the 1980s, Helvetica was replaced by Arial as the digital standard.

Minimalism also played a fundamental role in advertising. Between the grouped and eye-catching ads a new simplified advertising approach appeared. The “Think Small” advertising campaign (1959) for the Volkswagen Beetle became the number one campaign of the 20th century.

Highlights of the period:

  • 1951 The Universal Automatic Computer (Univac).
  • 1956 Videocassette recorder.
  • 1961 The first human being to orbit the Earth.
  • 1968 First computer mouse.
  • 1968 Computer video game, compact discs and email.
  • 1974 Personal computer.

1980 – 2000 Postmodernism.

With the release of the first Macintosh computer in 1984, a new era in technology and design began: an era of collaboration. Technology continues to open new doors in consumerism and in everyday life, but design drives the aesthetics and usability of more technological innovations. Apple computers gained popularity not because of their unique technology (the first personal computer was created a decade before the Mac), but because of their unique design and simplicity.

Apple created a new standard in design: web, print, advertising, marketing, product design, but it didn’t invent any of the above. It was surely the first to successfully take advantage of the symbiosis between technology and design.

In 1990 the first Photoshop software was released and at that time the technology gave all it could at the time to invite design on its side.

Highlights of the period:

  • 1984 Apple’s first Macintosh computer, with bitmap graphics.
  • 1985 CD-ROM; Pixar digital image processor.
  • 1990 World Network.
  • 1994 Advertising on the Internet.
  • 1995 DVD.

Since the industrial revolution, technology began to develop rapidly and today it occupies every corner of human life. Although art as a form of communication existed long before technology (since the cavemen), it only became a powerful communication tool after it merged with technology in the mid-20th century.

So, although art and technology had different roots and development processes, now both are part of an inseparable unit. One can not exist without the other.

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