People say we have only recently become visual storytellers, but look back to ancient cave drawings and you’ll see storytelling has always been picture-driven. It wasn’t until the invention of Gutenberg’s printing press in the 15th century that the publication of words was democratized and made available to the masses.

Throughout the 20th century, magazines like Life used photojournalism to capture the world in pictures. Beginning in 1936 with the introduction of broadcast television in the US and the beginning of the programming schedule, TV brought pictures and sound into people’s living rooms.

In a blog post examining the history of visual communications, social media and communications strategist Richard Binhammer says, “Over thousands of years, or just over a generation, visuals have proven to be always present and a powerful means to communicate. They work to tell stories, account for what is happening in the world and represent opportunities to reflect on values and being.”

Here’s a timeline of major visual milestones since the 1800s.

Timeline infographic

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About Martin Waxman

Waxman is a social media, content marketing and communications strategist. He conducts social media training and workshops and teaches digital strategy at University of Toronto. He is President of Martin Waxman Communications and one of the hosts of the Inside PR podcast. Waxman is a member of the South by Southwest Interactive Advisory Board and serves as chair-elect of PRSA Counselors Academy. Find him on Twitter @martinwaxman

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