Visual design digital tools timeline

1961 Bézier Curves

Pierre Bézier popularised but did not actually create the Bézier curve — using such curves to design automobile bodies. The curves were first developed in 1959 by Paul de Casteljau.

1963 Sketchpad

Developed by Ivan Sutherland. It allowed the designer to interact with his computer graphically: the design can be fed into the computer by drawing on a CRT monitor with a light pen.


Fontastic Plus — 1984

In first commercially available Bézier curve editing software for a personal computer. Developed by Altys Corporation founded by James R. Von Ehr.

It introduced many of the interface elements that would carry over into Fontographer.

Begining of the type designdemocratization

High quality fonts in the PostScript format could be developed for a fraction of the cost compared to other existing methods. For the first time in history, numerous self-taught type designers without substantial capital investment produced fonts for professional use.

Page Maker

Released the first desktop publishing software. It allowed designers to layout pages in WYSIWYG mode, rather than having to type in arcane typesetting code commands.

Adobe Illustrator

Adobe entered the consumer software market with a vector-based drawing program for the Apple Macintosh. Illustrator described shapes with more flexible Bézier curves, providing unprecedented accuracy.


Quark, Inc. released first version for the Macintosh. QuarkXPress quickly became widely used by professional page designers, the typesetting industry and printers as an industry standard.

Fontographer 2.0

Altys Corporation realeased premier PostScript font-design package with new editing tools and kerning pairs.

Partnership of Aldus and Altys

Seattle’s Aldus Corporation acquired a licensing agreement with Altsys to release FreeHand along with their flagship product, Pagemaker

Adobe Illustrator 88

It included special effects in fills and screens, text manipulation tools, and full support for CMYK color printing.

Aldus Freehand 1.0

Was announced as “…a Macintosh graphics program described as having all the features of Adobe’s Illustrator plus drawing tools such as those in Mac Paint and Mac Draft and special effects similar to those in Cricket Draw.


First release of CorelDraw 1.x. Introduces backups on save, and draw rectangles from their centre. IBM PIF file format support. Package included 102 new fonts

Fontographer 3.0

Aldus released 3rd version of Fontographer featuring an auto-trace tool and automatic generation of hints for Postscript printer fonts.


Adobe Photoshop

Adobe introduced what was to become its flagship product, a graphics editing program for the Macintosh.

Page Plus

Small team of software engineers from Nothingham founded company Serif Europe. They wanted to create a low-cost Desktop Publishing (DTP) package for everyday PC users and in early 1990’s released their first product PagePlus 1.0.

FreeHand 3.0

3.1 upgrade made FreeHand work with Mac OS 7 but additionally, it supported pressure-sensitive drawing which offered varying line widths with a users stroke. It improved element manipulation and added more import/export options

Adobe acquired Aldus and added Adobe PageMaker and Adobe After Effects to its product line later in the year. Altsys still retained all rights to FreeHand. Despite brief plans to keep it in-house to sell it along with Fontographer and Virtuoso, Altsys reached an agreement with the multimedia software company, Macromedia, to be acquired.

Altsys was acquired by Macromedia and both Fontographer and FreeHand were incorporated into the Macromedia product lineup.

Adobe and Microsoft announced the OpenType font format

Adobe Illustrator 6

Adobe made critical changes in the user interface with regard to path editing (and also to converge on the same user interface as Adobe Photoshop), and many users opted not to upgrade. Illustrator also began to support TrueType, effectively ending the “font wars” between PostScript Type 1 and TrueType. Like Photoshop, Illustrator also began supporting plug-ins, greatly and quickly extending its abilities.

FreeHand 6.0

Release included a redesigned user interface that allowed recombining Inspectors, Panel Tabs, Dockable Panels, Smart Cursors, Drag and Drop with Adobe applications and QuarkXPress, Graphic Search and Replace, Java (programming language) and AppleScript Automation, Chart creation, and new Effects tools and functions. Shockwave was introduced to leverage graphics for the Web.

FutureSplash was acquired by Macromedia and released as Flash

Rise of QuarkXPress

QuarkXPress 3.3 was seen as stable and trouble-free, working seamlessly with Adobe’s PostScript fonts as well as with Apple’s TrueType fonts.

FreeHand 8.0

This version began integrating to the Web with the ability to export graphics directly to Macromedia Flash. Customizable toolbars and keyboard shortcuts were prominent features. Also Lens Fill and Transparency, Freeform tool, Graphic Hose, Emboss Effects, and a “Collect for Output” function for print.

Adobe InDesign

Adobe released direct competitor to QuarkXPress and as an eventual replacement for PageMaker.


Rise of the Adobe’s market dominance

In this decade the markets competition shrink by acqusion of Macromedia. And QuarkXPress start loosing its market share.

The difference in strengths between Photoshop and Illustrator became clear with the rise of the Internet; Illustrator was enhanced to support Web publishing, rasterization previewing, PDF, and SVG. Adobe was an early developer of SVG for the web and Illustrator exported SVG files via the SVG File Format plugin.

FreeHand 10.0

Macromedia released FreeHand as Carbonized for both Mac OS 9 and Mac OS X. It shared a common Macromedia GUI Interface and several tools were added or renamed to match Flash tools. New features include Brushes, Master Pages, Print Area, and a Navigation Panel for adding links, names, and adding actions or notes to objects. Also “Smart cursor” Pen and Bezigon Tools and a Contour Gradient Fill.

Adobe InDesign CS

The first Mac OS X-native desktop publishing software. In version 3 it received a boost in distribution by being bundled with Photoshop, Illustrator, and Acrobat in the Creative Suite.

QuarkXPress 5.0

Release led to disappointment from Apple’s user base, as QuarkXPress did not support Mac OS X, while InDesign 2.0, launched in the same week, did. At the same time the Quark CEO Fred Ebrahimi exclaimed that “the Macintosh platform is shrinking,” and suggested that anyone dissatisfied with Quark’s Mac commitment should “switch to something else.

Corel was bought out by the private equity firm Vector Capital for $1.05 a share (slightly more than the cash in the company). The company was voluntarily delisted from the NASDAQ and Toronto Stock Exchanges.

FreeHand MX

FreeHand 11 was marketed as FreeHand MX and featured tighter interface integration with the Macromedia MX line of products. Release also featured a revamped Object Panel where all attributes and text properties are centralized for editing, Multiple Attributes for unlimited effects, Live Effects, Live-edit of basic shapes, Connector Lines tool, Flash and Fireworks integration, Extrude, Erase, and Chart tools, along with improvements to the standard tools.

End of the Macromedias

Adobe acquired its main rival Macromedia in a stock swapvalued at about $3.4 billion.

In May 2005, FontLab Ltd. announced that they had licensed distribution rights from Macromedia, and resumed development.

Fontographer 4.1

For Mac OS, running natively on OS X and featuring numerous bug fixes. They have since exercised their option to buy all rights to Fontographer, so it is now fully owned by FontLab Ltd.

CorelDraw X3

Double click Crop tool the first vector software able to crop groups of vectors and bitmap images at the same time. Trace became integrated inside Draw under the name PowerTrace.

Adobe InDesign CS3

universal binary software compatible with native Intel and PowerPC Mac


Fontographer 5.0

This represents the first major features added to the product since 1996. FontLab has positioned the product as an easier-to-use alternative to FontLab Studio, though without as many of the high-end features needed by professional type designers, and given it a price intermediate between FontLab Studio and their more introductory font editing program TypeTool.

Turn to subscribtion Software as a Service

Adobe first announced the Creative Cloud in October 2011. Another version of Adobe Creative Suite was released the following year.

QuarkXPress 9.0

With QuarkXPress 8 and 9 the product seems to listen more to its user base, as reviews worldwide became more positive and several Mac magazines gave awards to QuarkXPress, even best product of the year (MacWorld Awards 2011: Grand Prix Winner)

On May 6, 2013, Adobe announced that they would not release new versions of the Creative Suite and that future versions of its software would be available only through the Creative Cloud. The first new versions made only for the Creative Cloud were released on June 17, 2013.