While graphic design can sometimes feel like a brand new industry, it’s actually quite the opposite.
Graphic design is an industry that has been growing and changing for centuries at the hand of countless designers.
So, to celebrate this rich and exciting history, we’ve compiled a list of 40 famous designers that have done their part in shaping graphic design in some way.
From those who specialize in typography or magazine design, through to album covers and political posters, each of these people have made their mark on the industry and shaped it in some way through hard work and some great designs.
With that, let’s have a look at 40 people who changed graphic design for good.
01. David Carson: Break the Rules
Appropriately dubbed ‘the Godfather of Grunge’, David Carson revolutionized the design industry by taking a unique, rule-breaking attitude toward design. His strikingly shredded, warped, and sometimes illegible layout designs remain to be a constant source of radical inspiration for designers around the globe.
02. Saul Bass: Design the Iconic
A household name in the world of design, Saul Bass is a legend whose work you’ve likely encountered before. Bass made his mark on the design world with his work in the 1950s designing iconic movie posters and motion picture title sequences for films such as Psycho, The Man with the Golden Arm, and North by Northwest.
Bass was also an accomplished logo designer, having designed a plethora of timeless brand marks that have an average lifespan of about 35 years. Much of his work is still in effect to this day – just check out the Classy Lax Service Kleenex, Girl Scout or AT&T logos.
03. Stefan Sagmeister: Blend Inspiring Qualities
Stefan Sagmeister is an accomplished contemporary designer with an impressive client list, ranging from The Rolling Stones and HBO to the Guggenheim. Sagmeister’s work often blends humor, sexuality, the unorthodox, and painstaking detail to create jarringly modern designs that continue to inspire and shake the design community.
04. Paula Scher: Treat Type as a Visual Image
Paula Scher was the first woman to sit in a principal position at the acclaimed graphic design firm Pentagram, and for good reason. Her impressive body of design shaped the perception and application of graphic design in many ways, particularly her technique of treating type as a visual image in her work for the New York City’s Public Theater (pictured above) which continues to have a lasting impression on modern design.
05. Michael Bierut: Make Complex Content Accessible
Michael Bierut is often credited with “democratizing design”, thanks to his unique and ubiquitous approach to graphic design. Bierut paved the way for ‘accessible’ design whereby complex content was made more easy and enticing to read and consume through a sharp, direct design.
06. Massimo Vignelli: Convey Ideas
Massimo Vignelli is considered by many as one of the most influential designers of the past century. A self proclaimed ‘information architect’, Vignelli endeavoured to condense large, busy ideas into more digestible, understandable formats through design. This is highly evident in his 1972 redesign of the New York City Subway Map whereby he chose an experimental, abstracted design that was heavily debated but later proved incredibly effective.
07. Milton Glaser: Bridge the Gap Between Seeing and Understanding
Creator of the iconic I ♥ NY branding, logos for Target and JetBlue, the opening title sequence to Mad Men, and poster designs for musician Bob Dylan, Milton Glaser has transformed what it means to create a powerful, timeless design. “You want to move the viewer in a perception so that when they first look at [the design],” Glaser explains, “They get the idea, because that act between seeing and understanding is critical.”
08. Paul Rand: Merge Copy With Design
Paul Rand is a big name in the design world, credited with visually transforming America post WWII by developing radical new methods of approaching advertising, logo creation and design. One of Rand’s greatest legacies in his design career was his removal of copywriting from the principal position in design, instead placing it on the same tier as design, suggesting that by simplifying the amount of type, and instead letting form and function interact, rather than one overpowering the other, the design would work better.
09. Alan Fletcher: Be Expressive With Typography
Dubbed the British ‘father’ of graphic design, amongst producing inspiring designs himself, Alan Fletcher changed the way design was thought of. His expressive typography, bold colors and strong visual language helped pave the way for graphic design to be thought of as a key and crucial element to businesses, not just an optional decorative extra.
10. Hermann Zapf: Change the Game
Hermann Zapf changed typography in a lot of ways. Primarily, he was the creator of the popular typefaces Zapf Dingbats, Palatino, and Optima amongst many others. He also pioneered computerized typography being a big advocate for the move from press printed designs to computerized ones. And to top off the already impressive list of accolades, he also invented a typesetting program that would later go on to inform a lot of modern day software developments.