design programsTechnology

History of Design Programs

The molding of graphic design over the years was largely influenced by two processes: the printing press, and the computer-aided technologies or programs that formed in more recent years. At the original inception of graphic design everything had to be hand copied over, one by one, much like everything back then. When the printing press appeared, design was thrust forth into a new age which provided a way to mass produce pieces of art or similar graphic content at a more efficient and convenient level. But it wasn’t until the 1980’s that personal programs came into existence to help assist drafters in producing the works they needed to design.

Design in the Sixties

But first, we step back to the 1960’s when the first computer-aided design companies were being formed, such as Intergraph and IBM. Additionally some of the first computer aided software programs appeared, like sketchpad, which utilized the recently developed light pen, which was a device culminated to be able to write digitally while still on paper. 

Design in the Seventies

As the 1970’s rolled around, much of the two-dimensional software that had been devised was in steady commercial use by these companies and in the mean time they were researching the three-dimensional application. This search for the perfect 3D program brought on the mass craze of 3D drafting near the end of the 1970s and early 80s and stemmed into much of what design programs deal with today.

Design in the Eighties

By the beginning of the 1980’s 3D drafting had become a steady component to many design companies and even developed to the point of possessing a previously established mathematical principle known as solid modeling. The early eighties also brought out the first existence of personal computers through both PC’s and Apple, which led to a revolution in the office and at home for graphic design. However it wouldn’t be until the nineties that the true aspect of design and programs had been realized, all thanks to better processing power from the personal computers and the introduction of the internet.

Design in the Nineties

Suddenly the printed world had been floored by the inception of the internet and what it came to mean with graphic design being on the web instead of printed. No longer was graphic design solely an advertisement area, instead everyone on the web could find a use for the programs that came to develop in the later eighties and early nineties. Two such main programs came from the Adobe Systems Inc., known as Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, and they dominated the market completely to the point that they are still widely known programs used today in more advanced forms.

With the release of the internet, drafting and graphic design moved toward what had become its ultimate goal, finishing the three-dimensional modeling while on the screen. This wasn’t just met with software but exceeded with the base programs of illustrator and photoshop. But mentions of internet-based software that could create and alter 3d models brought a new race. It was no longer just a dream to be able to do three-dimensional modeling on a two-dimensional screen, but actually do it in a way that everyone connected to the internet could be involved with the process or be capable of doing it.

This led to the late nineties boom of every graphic design company mentioning the inception of a client-server based graphics manipulation program, that would allow 3d model viewing and creation. Such programs came right at the turn of the century and led to most software being developed at the time to follow suit in a fight for who would win out the best computer aided design web-based software. Both Unigraphics Solutions and Hewlett Packard subsidiary called CoCreate led the field with their special CAD (Computer-aided design) divisions.

Design in the new Century

With the new century Y2K scare behind them, the first true 3d web-based design program appeared on the market with Alibre. It was quickly followed by AutoCad, with their year 2000 software which was capable of being viewed through web browsing. Unfortunately no new innovations were truly occurring in the design software industry for years afterward, only newer spins on what many could already do.

However around 2003, Parametric Technology (Now known as PTC) did release their Wildfire software which led to the creation of 3D geometry at a finer and simpler level. Disappointingly, there continues to be no true further innovation with the design software than what is already known, although 3D printing has been surfacing as an entirely new capability of producing real world items through three-dimensional modeling on the computer and provides promising new releases as the market pushes into the second decade of the new century.

Instead we have ended up with old programs being reborn with new technology developing and much of what we have seen for the past decade have been programs that were rehashed or updated to fit the new technological advances. Although design had originally been such a few-person existing process, it has quickly become something that anyone can obtain, much like the internet, cars and other forms of technology. This has gone to the point that we can actually find entirely free photo manipulation and graphic design programs straight on a web browser such as image host sites like photobucket.

It is clear from the last few years that the graphic design world is currently waiting on the next great innovation to create yet another race for a more advanced design technology. In the meantime, we will continue to see the same rehashed programs from as early as the 1980’s.

Carla Eaton has a B.A. in Mass Media and writes on the topics of business, technology, and design. She currently blogs for, who specializes in Canon printer ink.

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