Clip Art Was Once “Professional”?

Ready-To-Use Office and Business Illustrations, Dover Publications, 1988

“Just clip and use to add a professional touch to newsletters, reports, advertisements, catalogs, almost any graphic project.” (Back Cover)

You mean, clip…like with actual scissors? Oh yeah.

I have often wondered where clip art came from. It is the subject of much ridicule. Did you know that graphic designers existed before computers? Me neither. They used things like burnishers and proportion wheels to do what we can now easily do with word processing or graphic design programs. So if you wanted to make your workplace memo look classy and add an image of Mrs. Doubtfire, you would cut it out of a book like the one shown above. Ooh look, it comes in three sizes for your convenience.

I’m convinced she was the inspiration for Mrs. Doubtfire.

Here’s another example of a clip art book:

Creative Backgrounds, F&W Publications, 1994


You are now entering the Clip Art Zone.

A couple of years after this clip art book came out, Microsoft Word began making clip art a built-in feature. How quickly things change.



5 thoughts on “Clip Art Was Once “Professional”?

  1. I have lots of clip art books from the 70s and 80s and use them all the time for a cool retro look. Back then I used them to crank out quick graphic design (along with Presstype). Hey, the circle is clip art — it’s how you use elements of design.

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