Chapter- 1-1: The Birth of Graphic Design


The “Spotted Horses” mural, painted by woman artists inside France’s Pech Merle cave dated 23 millennium BC is a fine example of the prehistoric graphic design. According to the analysis of Pennsylvania State University archaeologist Dean Snow many of the artists working in that cave were women. Until recently, most scientists assumed the prehistoric handprints on the rockwalls around such images belong to man.National Geographic

As a manifestation of human culture, the Graphic Design has played a primordial role in the history of man as a social being. Many hundreds of graphic designs of animals by the primitive people in the Chauvet Cave, in the south of France,which were drawn more than 30,000 B.C., the image of “Spotted Horses” ; painted by woman artists inside France’s Pech Merle cave dated 23,000 BC, as well as similar designs in the Lascaux cave of France that were drawn more than 14,000 B.C. , the Altamira cave paintings of bison between 9000 to 17000 BC, the designs of the primitive hunters in the Bhimbetka rock shelters in India that were drawn more than 7,000 B.C. , the Aboriginal Rock Art, in the Kakadu National Park of Australia, and many other rock or cave paintings in other parts of the world are apt testaments to the very long history of  graphic design,  a history that is shared among humanity.

The image of a bison in Altamira Cave, Spain.
Image of a horse in the Chauvet cave.

Drawing of a horse in the Lascaux cave.



A rock drawing in Bhimbetka India.
Aboriginal Rock Art, Ubirr Art Site, Kakadu National Park, Australia

A battle image on Tassili rocks of Ajjer (Algeria),

A good example of this art is observable on the paintings of Altamira, which are located in the deep recesses of caves in the mountains of Northern Spain, far out of the reach of the destructive forces of wind and water. As a result these paintings have been preserved rather intact from 9,000-17,000 B.C. In addition to these murals, Altamira is the only site of cave paintings in which tools, hearths and food remains also have been found. These signs shed light on the habitat, and living conditions of these prehistoric artists . Unlike the other similar caves in Europe and elsewhere, the Altamira caves show no signs of soot deposits, which perhaps suggest that the people at Altamira had slightly more advanced lighting technology emitting less smoke and soot than the torches and fat lamps which Paleolithic people are given credit for.

The Altamiran artists primarily focused on bison, which was a main economic resource for them. Not only as a source of food, but also other useful commodities like skin, bones and fur. These prehistoric artists used natural earth pigments like ochre and zinc oxides, some of the images are painted with three colors. This is a significant artistic achievement, particularly when taken into consideration the masterly execution of the animal’s anatomy, and their accurate physical proportions.

In Tassili-n-Ajjer in Algeria, one of the most famous of North African sites of rock painting, various images depict a historical evolution. This historical documentation of mankind evolution is something that graphic design has always done, and will do so in future. Tassili paintings depict at least four distinct chronological periods, which are: an archaic tradition depicting wild animals whose antiquity is unknown but certainly goes back well before 4500 B.C.; a so-called bovidian tradition, which corresponds to the arrival of cattle in North Africa between 4500 and 4000 B.C.; a “horse” tradition, which corresponds to the appearance of horses in the North African archaeological record from about 2000 B.C. onward; and a “camel” tradition, which emerges around the time of Christ when these animals first appear in North Africa.

This history together with the history of writing which was emerged in 3000-4000 B.C. are at the foundation of the visual communication design.
Priest Guiding a Sacrificial Bull- Fragment of mural painting from the palace of Zimri-Lim, Mari (modern Tell Hariri, Iraq) 2040-1870 BC.
The tomb of Sebekhotep in the reign of Thutmose IV (c. 1400-1390 BC), The wall from which this fragment came almost certainly showed Sebekhotep receiving the produce of the Levant and Africa, which he then presented to the king.


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