It’s the End of Print as We Know it, But I Feel Fine.

By: vibethink

August 27, 2014

Physical Medium is Still Effective

I love print and everything about it, the way it bleeds and smells and crinkles and folds. There is nothing better than holding a well-constructed, beautifully laid out print piece in your hand, especially one that you’ve created. But even I’m guilty of throwing away catalogues, brochures, and newspaper after barely affording them half a glance. I find myself, guilt-riddled, setting them in the trashcan gently, as if they hadn’t been sent out into the world by a designer, like me, who had big dreams (practically parental) for their futures.

In the digital age, paper has to work really hard to justify its existence. Printed products are typically high-cost to the client, limited in quantity, incapable of interactive communication, and slow to execute. They can only offer a finite amount of information, without the option to expand and explore whatever kernel catches the increasingly fleeting interest of consumers. Sounds dire doesn’t it?

But the point of this blog isn’t to dance on print’s grave, it’s to celebrate its elevation to a different sphere of influence. With all of print’s inhibitors, it’s a medium that still possesses singular aesthetic and strategic advantages that cannot be replaced by digital modalities. At Vibethink, we rely on them consistently.

1. Tangibility and Permanence

Print exists in the 3D world, responding to light, texture, scale, and relationship in physical space. We allow printed objects to become a part of our environments and they invite responses from our senses of feel and smell that are often sub-rational. The digital format can never replace a scribbled postcard stuck on the fridge or a favorite food-stained storybook from childhood. If we think of a spectrum with an illuminated manuscript on one end and a coupon insert on the other, the digital revolution is pushing us back towards using print for objects that are intended to last and make a long-term connection.

2. Clarity and Control

Every print design is bounded by finite parameters. From the process of determining the priority of information to the proofing stage, scarcity of space poses creative problems that can only be solved by continuous refinement of purpose and message. The experience of consuming print is bounded in the same way. A person can’t click away into a universe of rabbit holes or read it side-by-side with eight other sources. The print designer has to make irrevocable decisions that demand the reader to focus on what’s in hand and nothing else. The digital age asks us to take these processes to their logical extreme to take advantage of clarity and control of message. What letters should you carve into the oak tree?

3. Beauty and Commitment

There’s a sense of mystery and discovery every time you pick up an intriguing looking print piece, the same as when you pass a beautiful stranger. If the piece is interesting enough to catch your eye, you make a certain commitment to it. If it’s compelling enough to hold your attention, the commitment deepens. As a designer, print creates an opportunity to design a first impression that becomes an emotional memory. When something is beautiful to us, we connect with it viscerally and automatically. Print creates an extra step, asking us to commit a physical experience to memory.

Case In Point:

Balanced Chiropractic and Physical Therapy, a wellness practice based in Charlottesville, came to us for marketing help. After a series of strategy meetings, we proposed a top-to-bottom rebrand of the business that would position it to achieve its plans for the future. The overhaul included everything from logo to website. Because Balanced relies heavily on word-of-mouth and walk-in referrals, we also decided to design a new print brochure.

The goal of the brochure was to create an immediate connection with people who picked it up. We chose a square gate fold for its fit and durability in purses and pockets and because it was a departure from the tri-folds you are used to seeing in doctor’s offices. Because anyone who opens the brochure has already committed to the initial experience, we used the first two inside pages to deliver the Balanced philosophy of healing. It’s something many online users, who are often focused on utility, would skip. It requires time and focus to read, but it communicates the essence of the practice like no other branding material. The brochure opens out in a third fold to a four-panel overview of the practice that mirrors the web content, providing the same basic utility and highlighting client testimonials. The brochure has an eye-catching presence in the office, invites the reader to commit to reading the practice’s core philosophy and connect emotionally, and serves as a portable tool for patients to advocate friends. It’s also elegant and intimate, value qualities for a business that’s trying to reposition itself.

Further Reading

Johnson Banks: If print is dead then this is a very long goodbye 
Print media is no longer our top priority, but it will still hold its own in the world.

Digital VS Print: Which is better for you?
A pros and cons list is a great way to determine what would be most valuable for you. This detailed list answers a lot of those questions.

Design Week: The right fibre
Paper has to work really hard to justify its existence. Paired with quality design, paper stock, texture and color all play an important supporting role.

The Verge: The Bible’s a mess, but a designer is fixing it
Adam Greene is a designer who has transformed the traditional layout of the Bible into a literary art. His design carefully considers every element to change the reading experience.