In 1991 Paul Heckel, a software developer at Apple Inc., devised a set of 30 rules to guide software designers in their creativity. In short, the software designer had to learn to think like a communicator and to practice an artistic craft as well as an engineering one.

Basically, he saw software design as a new discipline in what he calls communication crafts. ‘Communication crafts’ is an overarching term to describe most of the creative disciplines such as writing, painting, film, drama, photography, architecture, music, and computers. A table in his book shows these categories of communication crafts on a timeline. (Heckel, 1991).

When looking at the the Heckel diagram we might consider it as incomplete. However, the diagram is somewhat taken out of its context by isolating it from an otherwise excellent book called “The elements of friendly software design”. The intention of the diagram was to show that, what Heckel refers to as communication crafts, started as a technology, as an invention, and then somehow became an art form. The diagram only shows the beginning of the curve up to where these crafts actually became art forms but it does not show what happened after the continuous advancement of the particular invention.

Taking music as an example, the diagram shows the invention of the Egyptian harp as a starting point and then stops at Beethoven. It does not show what happens after that, when other more ‘alien’ influences merged with the concepts of Western music, combined with the technological sophistication of the instruments and recording equipment.

Tab 2: Most communications crafts started as inventions and evolved slowly in the direction of an art form. Software is a newcomer to the world of communications crafts. Figure from Heckel, Paul (1991). Elements of Friendly Software Design, Sybex.

In an attempt to complete Heckel’s diagram, or at least to extend it, Graphic Design has to be inserted as another communication craft. The challenge for Heckel was that Graphic Design underwent a cross-domain evolution combining innovations in writing, painting, film, photography, and computer science before it transformed into its digital form – New Media Design.

Graphic Design became a real art form somewhere around the time avant-garde movements like Dadaism and Futurism started to use typography, and combined image and text to reveal powerful messages of social discontent. After that, a continuous tendency toward functionality turned this art form into an industry.
Technology (automation) is aimed almost exclusively at production and consumption with little regard to custom, craft and tradition. People embrace new techniques or innovative tools as a new medium and become artists in a new field. They surpass the initial intention of the tool, by becoming extreme experts with a high level of craftsmanship or operation skill in using the tool. At the same time, in a parallel flow there is OFTEN a mass movement in the use of the tool.

Ill. 11: Page from “The Studio” Magazine, 1920. It shows ads for the popular Camera Lucida or the ‘Periscope Sketcher’.


Ill. 12: A computer operator using Sketchpad in 1963, the first program with a graphical user interface.

Graphic Design (New media design)

Below is a list of events, mostly technological innovations, and theoretical constructs, from the five domains, that influenced a change in the domain of Graphic Design.

  • 400
    Codex book
  • 1150
  • 1300
    Block printing
  • 1435
    Linear perspective
  • 1436
    Printing press which uses movable metal type
  • 1465
    Drypoint engravings
  • 1502
    Portable books
  • 1509
    Color book-printing
  • 1525
    Course book on the Art ofMeasurement
  • 1530
    Type foundry selling fonts to printers.
  • 1555
    Print shop selling copper engravings and etchings
  • 1572
    Theory of optics and a portable camera obscura
  • 1620
    First illustrated newspaper
  • 1674
    First fashion gazette
  • 1788
    Typographic Manuals
  • 1798
  • 1800
    First industrial iron printing press
  • 1814
    Cylinder press
  • 1807
    Camera lucida
  • 1817
    Cardboard box packaging
  • 1826
  • 1827
    Comic strip
  • 1842
    First illustrated weekly newspaper
  • 1880
    Halftone screen
  • 1884
    Hot metal typesetting
  • 1900
    The snapshot concept
  • 1905
    System or style for poster design
  • 1907
    Creation of a corporate identity
  • 1910
  • 1917
    De Stijl movements & journal
  • 1919
  • 1920
    Stock photography and stock libraries
  • 1931
    New concepts in text and type
  • 1938
    Xerography or photocopying
  • 1938
    Concept of album covers
  • 1940
    Graphic Design Magazines
  • 1949
    Scanned color image
  • 1950
    TV broadcasting
  • 1953
  • 1957
    Graphic tablet
  • 1957
    Digital image scanner
  • 1960
    New layout processes andcomputational grids and techniques
  • 1968
    Computer mouse
  • 1970
    Personal computers.
  • 1971
  • 1974
    Good design
  • 1980
    WIMP interface
  • 1981
  • 1982
  • 1984
    Apple Macintosh
  • 1985
  • 1986
    Digital video
  • 1987
    Photoshop and other WYSIWYG design software
  • 1988
    CRT monitors to Retina displays
  • 1988
    Microsoft Office
  • 1990
    World Wide Web
  • 1991
    Wireless Computer Networks
  • 1992
  • 1993
    Graphical browser
  • 1994
    Search engines
  • 1994
    Cyberspace, AR and VR
  • 1994
    Video game consoles
  • 1995
  • 1997
  • 1999
    Web 2.0
  • 2000
    Search engine marketing
  • 2000
    Domestic broadband
  • 2001
    Computational design
  • 2001
    Online image databases
  • 2001
  • 2002
    UI/UX design
  • 2003
    Content management system (CMS)
  • 2004
    Social media
  • 2006
  • 2007
  • 2008
    Mobile apps
  • 2010
  • 2010
    Computer tablets
  • 2010
    Digital marketing
  • 2012
    Online DIY graphic-design tool
  • 2012
    HTML5 (a new standard)
  • 2013
    Generative Design
  • 2013
    Responsive Web Design
  • 2014
    Online WYSIWYG web builders
  • 2015
    Neural networks, algorithms and artificial intelligence
  • 2016
    Gig economy
  • 2016
    Internet of Things (IoT)

The Automated Designer is a research topic studied for the author’s MBA thesis paper at The Berlin School of Creative Leadership.