Originating from architectural design (as in design of buildings), when design patterns crossed over to computer programming in the 1980’s, only a small group of people using a language called “SmallTalk” were applying them. In 1995, a group of four authors released a book called “Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software”.
The four authors where nicked the “Gang of Four”. SmallTalk, but also C++ where the languages applying design patterns at that time. It is still the most respected book on design patterns to this date. “Gang of Four” (abbr. GoF) is also commonly used to refer to the book, rather than the authors.
Soon after, ‘Gurus’ such as Martin Fowler started publishing their own works, perhaps most notably “Patterns of Enterprise Application Architecture” (abbr. PoEAA). By then, most books where using Java in their examples. The Java community has played a big part in the evolution of Design Patterns, not in the last place thanks to efforts from Alur et al. with their “J2EE Core Patterns”.