definitions: a rant

10 February 2010

So what does the word "print" mean to you?

I am in this course at the Savannah College of Art and Design called "Print Studio II." In this course we spent the first week discussing the apocalyptic-sounding topic, "the end of print" famously postulated by David Carson and others (see previous entry). This discussion pretty much revolved around the contrast of "electronic media" (read websites) and "print" (defined mostly as books, magazines, newspapers, and interestingly, packaging . . . which can't really be satisfactorily addressed by electronic media).

Now, five weeks into the course, a few of the students have been proposing topics and projects that are really environmental graphics by definition. However, the professor applauds their "out of the box" thinking and now says that we should think "beyond traditional print."

I don't get it. "Print" means printing, right? Ink or toner or something in some plastic state gets put onto some substrate like paper, or plastic, or cloth, or metal, or whatever. It's generally accepted to be a process of multiple reproductions and has been for more than 400 years. So why now can it mean all sorts of things?

According to this definition, Maya Lin's Vietnam War Memorial, consisting of yards and yards of black marble with soldier's names carved into it, is "print," even though the names are carved into the marble, not printed.

I just don't understand why the dictionary definition of something isn't satisfactory anymore.