Wood block printing technology transformed graphic design in Europe beginning in the 1400’s. This allowed for written materials to be available to more then just the rich elite. Traditional scribing methods which took considerable artistry and time commitment now gave way to woodblock printing. This enabled faster and easier to produce printed materials. This is what defines early graphic design in Europe. One well known example: the Gutenberg bible. Johannes Gutenberg is largely credited with the creation of movable type.
During this time graphic design was flourishing in Italy, though Germany remained the heart of the early printing industry for a good while. During this era, graphic design shows an aesthetic that included the liberal use of decorative flourish designs, and because this was an early transition from Calligraphy and traditional scribing methods, the aesthetic of typography of the time had a calligraphy feel. This technological shift also coincided with political and religious shifts and graphic design today as it was back then is a reflection of the social, political and technological climate of the times.
Example of 1500’s woodblock print.http://www.sciencephoto.com/media/137643/enlarge http://www.pinterest.com/pin/402650022905429529/ Flourish from http://rlv.zcache.com/abstract_vintage_medieval_swirly_flourish_design_postcard-rf80c1b79534a4d74afeb978d48a52de7_vgbaq_8byvr_512.jpg