Back in the 90s, when desktop computers, interactive media, the web and email first came into people’s homes, businesses and into daily use, the surge in popularity and the accessibility of the information superhighway lead some to predict the end of print communication. Brochures, books and magazines would be superseded because all the content that people wanted or needed was just a point-and-click away. However if you have a look around today predictions of the demise of print were hasty and premature. It has panned-out to be a similar situation to the predictions of the end of cinema when home video first entered the market in the late 70s.
The novelty of the web and interactive media quickly faded, and by contrast with its ephemeral nature, the tactile appeal, the substance and enduring quality of ink on printed page, brings a sense of permanence and a personal touch that means print is still going strong.
As a designer, choosing a favourite between print and web design makes as much sense as choosing a favourite lung.
Digital short-run print
While the digital-in, digital-out design workflow have revolutionised the creative, production and pre-press side of the print, the physics of ink on paper remains unchanged. While it often employs toner rather than ink the digital printing process bypasses the need for costly printing plates, and offers a number of advantages over traditional printing methods;
- Print on demand—short run digital printing is used to print high quality customised photo books such as the books of documentary photos I have produced for TruLine Civil, travel souvenir books and inflight magazines for Pionair and Wedding photo albums. The page numbers and binding techniques for these vary according to the brief.
- Variable data printing—the ability to revise the digital image on the toner drum ‘on-the-fly’ opens up the ability to produce data base-driven variable data printing, which I often used for personalised direct mail campaigns for Pionair Unparalleled Journeys.
- Advertising and promotion—outdoor advertising, retail environmental and point-of-sale materials, display materials for trade shows and other event signage.
- Photographic prints—wide-format digital inkjet printing paired with a colour-managed workflow and skilled use of powerful image editing software tools to correctly expose, colour correct, sharpen and retouch photographs before printing has profoundly improved the quality and range of practical applications for photo printing that MagentaDot Brands can offer.
Branding that unites the strengths of print and web design
I develop brand and identity systems that combine the exciting potential of print and web working together in a coordinated way that reinforces the strengths of each platform. Usually the most effective brand expression and delivery of the message or messages to the client’s market is with an integration of the two. Also people’s behaviour increasingly requires multiple channels of connection and interaction with the brand.
A website is by the nature of being on screen more about how it behaves, it must communicate visually in attractive and useful ways for the user to enjoy the experience and want to return. It is not practical or workable to strive for the finesse and complexity of layered and overlapping elements that work well on paper, and the physics of the screen means that, for example, body type on the web set on an angle is a fail. Unlike a printed publication, where when you turn the page you still know exactly where you are with respect to the entire volume, good websites need carefully thought out navigation that gets the user to where they want without too much thought. A website is well suited to news media and the likes of this Velocette Racing New Zealand blog—while a refined, high-resolution printed piece is best for the story and imagery of an artist’s print or book.