The Tate Modern is hosting a marvelous exhibition of the Constructivism movement that emerged in the Soviet Union. Rodchenko and the rest of the Constructivism gang compared the artist to an engineer – someone who arranges different materials to make something that fulfills a purpose. They applied their ideas to many medias and contributed to graphic design, architecture, clothing design and advertising. It's pretty amazing to see what they got away with working for the Bolshevik government.
As this movement rejected art for art's sake I'd like to imagine that this was the beginning of artist-designers in a modern sense. People who were using art in order to improve everyday life in practical aspects. For me Alexander Rodchenko seems like the first Art Director ever, he even designed lots of ads that Vladimir Mayakovsky, a Russian poet wrote copy for. It's well worth well checking out.