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Looking back at 50 years of design excellence

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› Looking back at 50 years of design excellence
  • Published on January 15, 2014

Even though you may not realize it, graphic design is everywhere. From the familiar corporate logos you see on TV to the design of the print on your T-shirt, graphic design is ubiquitous once you begin to look for it. Taking Photoshop classes or Adobe training at the American Graphics Institute is an excellent primer on the fundamentals of design, and once you've completed your training, you'll be ready to bring your creativity to life. If you're in need of some inspiration, Graphic Design USA recently compiled a survey of the most iconic graphic design projects from the past 50 years.

Looking back
Many of the entries in the list of finalists in the GDUSA poll will be instantly recognizable. Many of the designs featured in the roundup have become so popular, they have are inextricably interwoven into the fabric of modern life and popular culture.

The top design, as voted for by GDUSA members, is the "I (Heart) NY" design that redefined the Big Apple's tourism industry. Milton Glaser's design perfectly blends typography with a simple yet striking layout, and this famous slogan has graced countless T-shirts, mugs and other merchandise since it was unveiled in 1977. Glaser's eye-catching logo isn't the only design to hail from New York, however, as the intricate beauty and flowing lines of the Manhattan subway map was also voted a firm favorite by GDUSA members.

Apple has grown to become one of the world's leading technology companies, so it should come as no surprise that some of Apple's design work made it into the list. The classic series of Apple Macintosh desktop icons were one of the most popular designs of the past 50 years. Although not technically graphic design, Apple's famous "1984" TV ad that aired during the Super Bowl of the same year also scored high marks for its production design and wry underlying message.

Looking forward
Browsing through the finalists for the most popular graphic design projects of the past half-century, it's difficult not to be inspired. However, once you've mastered the principles of image manipulation through Photoshop classes, how can you showcase your talents? Well, graphic design competitions often attract the best and brightest designers from around the world, and there are plenty of contests to choose from.

Stock photography website Shutterstock runs an annual competition known as "Pixels of Fury," where you're likely to see some of the most innovative and eye-catching design work around. Pitting designers against one another, and tasking them with creating a design based on a randomly selected topic within 20 minutes in front of a live audience, Pixels of Fury is a lot of fun and a great way to discover inspiring new design work.

The American Institute of Graphic Artists also runs a range of competitions throughout the year. During its most recent contest, "Justified," participants were asked to tell the story of a project they undertook for a particularly challenging client and show off the results of their work.

Even corporate designers can get in on the action. One of the oldest graphic design contests in the U.S., the Print Regional Design Annual celebrates innovation in design across the corporate world, from eye-catching infographics to beautifully laid-out annual reports.

Graphic design is about so much more than pushing pixels - it's a dynamic, vibrant ecosystem of creative talent from all over the world. If you're ready to make your voice heard and unleash your creativity, let the American Graphics Institute show you the way through Photoshop classes and a range of other training programs.

About the author

 is a user experience designer, Photoshop expert, educator and author based in Boston. She is the author of more than 20 books on design tools and processes, including Adobe Creative Cloud for Dummies, Adobe Creative Cloud Digital Classroom, and Photoshop Digital Classroom. She has been awarded a Microsoft MVP three times for her work with user experience design in creating apps for touch, desktop, and mobile devices.

Jennifer delivers UX training and UX consulting for large Fortune 100 companies, small start-ups, and independent software vendors. She has been hired by Adobe and Microsoft to deliver training workshops to their staff, and has traveled to Asia, Europe, India, the Middle East, and across the U.S. to deliver courses and assist on UX design projects. She has extensive knowledge of modern Windows UX Design, having worked closely with the Windows team to create educational material and deliver UX workshops to key partners globally on behalf of Microsoft. Jennifer works with a wide range of prototyping tools including Fireworks, Photoshop, Illustrator, Blend for Visual Studio, and Balsamiq.