Merriam-Webster currently defines DIY, or “do-it-yourself,” as “the activity of doing or making something (as in woodworking or home repair) without professional training or assistance.” Or, broadly, as an activity in which one does something for themselves or with one's own initiative. Despite this being a massive trend in recent years, the concept of DIY is much older than you think. In 2010, Italian archaeologists discovered ruins of a sixth-century-B.C. Greek building in southern Italy that held step-by-step, DIY-like mason instructions. Archaeologists think these were meant to help other people build structures just like it. 

But the meaning of do-it-yourself has a decidedly different origin in early 20th-century America, when a “DIY” magazine publishing market developed. Popular Mechanics (founded in 1902) and Mechanix Illustrated (founded in 1928) were two such “DIY” magazines that presented readers with crucial practical skills, techniques, tools, and materials. Much of their readership was rural, so the content focused on farming and carpentry skills. The first known use of the word was in 1952, when the term do-it-yourself came into wide use to refer to home improvement.



Beginning in the 1970s, DIY began permeating college campuses and the homes of recent graduates in relation to the renovation of affordable, rundown older homes. But the movement also reflected the social and environmental vision of the 1960s and early 1970s. The “flowerchild” culture of the ‘70s created a welcoming environment for the homegrown connotations of DIY. What followed was a renaissance for DIY home improvement books, which started as collections of magazine articles. This is where we first see the publications such as Better Homes and Gardens and Time-Life (which later became Time and Life magazines) come to prominence.




In the mid-1990s, DIY home-improvement content found a home on the internet like many other niche communities. HouseNet was the first user-built site where DIY information could be uploaded and shared. was established soon after and differentiated itself by providing home-improvement advice from professionals. The presence of DIY on the internet, and in the media, only soared from there. From short DIY videos on Instagram and Facebook, to full-on DIY shows like Design on a Dime on HGTV and a whole network dedicated to the art of doing-it-yourself (DIY Network, appropriately), DIY is everywhere these days. Here at inDIYpendent magazine, we’re pushing the boundaries of DIY even further and applying independence to more than just home improvement. Today, DIY has come to mean doing almost anything for yourself, and that's what we’re all about.

A brief history
of diy

By Carly Thompson