Before themes were added to WordPress, customizing the design of the site meant modifying the main WordPress index.php file and the default print.css file. Version 1.5 added the first theme support and rudimentary child theme support. Over time, WordPress began to support other features, such as custom headers, custom backgrounds, and featured images.
Additionally, the capabilities of themes have grown steadily. Incremental improvement — beginning with a small, simple starting point and improving it over time — works very well in theme development. By developing incrementally, you can build a theme from start to completion from an existing, well-tested theme (most themes are part of a larger incremental improvement process) and maximize your development time. I can't think of a single theme I've developed that wasn't built on another theme.
There isn't a need to develop each theme from scratch. Choosing a good starting point will make a big difference on how quickly you can get your project off the ground.
Choosing a solid starting point to build your latest and greatest theme design on can be time consuming. Although exploring all the available themes in detail is tempting, I find exhaustive searches waste more time than they save.
Typically, I begin with the most current theme unless there's a more suitable ...