Archive for January 2010

Is this the end of print?

16 January 2010

written for a print design course and originally posted as a facebook note

We are not at the end of print any more than we are at the end of horseback riding, rail transport, or ocean-going shipping. The automobile significantly altered the role of the horse in industrialized society, but horses would be a valuable fallback means of personal transportation if for some reason we no longer had the car. The tractor-trailer and the airplane diminished the need for railroad traffic and marine shipping, yet both modes of transportation persist in various applications and in varying importance in different parts of the world. While ephemeral media (such as newspapers and magazines) are succumbing to the competitive realities of electronic media, printed objects will persist for a number of reasons.

There is an important place for the printed object in society. Most notably, in many parts of the world the printed book will be hard to replace, even by the Kindle and Plastic Logic. The codex form is deeply implanted as a cultural legacy in nearly every society and is widely understood and appreciated. Printed objects require no electrical power to operate and are extremely simple to use, especially in certain reading conditions. Printed objects offer a materiality that functions on both an emotional and an intellectual level. The challenges of fine typography and printing techniques continue to engage designers and printers alike, to the delight of consumers.

Dimension is a particular drawback to the traditional printed object. Libraries, book stores, and bookshelves all attest to the storage needs for printed objects. Paper consumption and conservation concerns are also detractors to the printed object. Production and distribution costs are considerably higher for printed objects than for electronic media. However, the reverence that many societies feel for the printed object more than balances these considerations.

For the graphic designer, print presents a unique set of opportunities, challenges, and benefits. Collaboration, materiality, typography, and a connection with the past all contribute to the joys of print design. As designers find ways to work in both print and electronic media, they expand their skills and abilities, and interesting cross-pollination is possible from one model to the other.

As an older designer, I have had far more experience and opportunity to work with print than with screen-based projects. For me, all visual solutions stem from the same basic principles. Format is a guiding feature of the design, as is content, purpose, target, strategy, and visual elements of line, color, space, shape, texture, value, and form. Each medium requires a specific technical understanding and skills, but my design approach to each is the same.


Published on January 16, 2010 at 4:55 pm | | 0 Comments