Graphic design is the applied art of designing for print. Graphic design as a practice can be traced back to the origin of the written word, but it only became identified as a separate entity in the late 19th century.
The compelling if somewhat obscure paintings in the caves of Lascaux, and the birth of written language in the third or fourth millenium BC, are both significant milestones in the history of graphic design.
The Book of Kells is a very beautiful and very early example of graphic design in a form that would be acceptable even today. The Book is a lavishly illustrated hand-written copy of the Christian Bible created by Irish monks in the fourth century AD.
Johann Gutenburg's invention of the printing press made books widely available. The earliest books produced by Gutenberg's press and others of the era became the benchmark by which the design of future books, even as late as the twentieth century, would be judged. Graphic design of this era is called either Old Style (especially the fonts which these early typographers used), or Humanist, after the predominant philosophical school of the time. Graphic design after Gutenberg saw a gradual evolution rather than any significant change, until the late 19th century when, especially in England, an effort was made to create a firm division between the fine and the applied arts.
William Morris' (1834-1896) Kelscott Press, published some of the most significant of the graphic design products of the Arts and Crafts movement, and made a very lucrative business of creating Books of great stylistic refinement and selling the wealthy for a premium. Morris proved that a market existed for works of graphic design and helped pioneer the separation design from production and from fine art. The work of the Kelmscott Press is characterized by its decadence and by its obsession with historical styles.
Modern Design of the early Twentieth Century, much like the fine art of the same period, was a reaction against the decadence of typography and design of the late Nineteenth Century. Modern Graphic design has evolved into an entity that is based primarily on computer manipulation as well as computer design. Common tools for this industry include computers, sketch pads, Adobe Photoshop, Macromedia Fireworks, Paint Shop Pro, Adobe Pagemaker, Quark XPress, and many other software programs.