The digital age has been sweeping the world of design for the past decade. Back in the day when we were graced with the presence of the internet on our 128mb of ram Windows 95 Gateway PCs little did we know that digital would impact graphic design in the way it has.
Working in the newspaper industry, print is our most dominant product – daily papers six days a week, niche publications every month as well as in house promotions and community awards that require a lot of attention to detail to be print ready. But even in an industry that has been around for centuries we are hit by deficits. But it’s not just the newspaper industry, digital has revolutionised so many elements of our everyday lives that it’s astounding to see how far technology and the internet has come from the dial up connection on our retro Windows 95 computers.
As digital takes over, everything has drastically changed. For instance, the way in which we receive the news and weekly celebrity gossip – if that’s your type of thing – is instantaneous. We can trawl the internet for the latest Kardashian ‘story’ and find out all about the latest events in Syria before they hit the news stands. By the time the newspapers and magazines are on the printing press they are old news, and when morning comes Syria is no longer a country and the Kardashians are now joining the circus. Fact of the matter is, print cannot keep up with the momentum that digital has. It’s incredibly sad to say and to witness because print, and what it brings to design, means so much to me. But we cannot deny that things have changed. The way we find a local plumber or labourer through the Yellow Pages can now be done at the click of a button on Google; tickets for concerts, sports games and even transport give you the option to print at home on your inconsistent Epson inkjet, or show a PDF on your phone, rather than have a nicely designed and high quality printed ticket to keep at the end of your day as memorabilia. These are just simple examples of how things have changed in the design world with all signs pointing to yes on the ‘Is Print Dead?’ question.
Without delving too much into what both print and digital can offer it’s important to note that each have their advantages and disadvantages and each person will have their own views and opinions on the subject. ‘Is Print Dead?’ presents designers with a conundrum that is best to agree to disagree on.
I of course disagree. Print is far from dead. As a graphic designer, print is entering a new and exciting time. Old printing techniques such as letterpress and screen printing have become popular again, magazines and newspapers are refreshing their look with creative editorial design to compete with the sleek look that digital can offer and I’ve received more junk postcards and flyers in the post this past year than I have seen pop-up adverts online.
While we as designers can do everything in our power to make print as attractive to our audiences, it’s not an easy challenge competing with the digital market – especially when it comes to editorial design. More so now the types of products we see on our newsstands have changed. Ruth Jamieson expresses this issue best: “The print magazine as we once knew it is dead or dying. Since the early 1990s, we’ve said goodbye to many of the magazines that once defied the newsstands. The Face, Blender, Spin, Vox, Grafix, Sleazenation, BLITZ, Arena, Nuts, Front, Company, Easy Living, She, CosmoGirl, Bliss, Sugar, Teen, Just Seventeen and many more have closed. We’ve seen other publishing giants much reduced. New York magazine is now only printed fortnightly; Newsweek has closed and reopened at a fraction of its former print run. In the ultimate humiliation, Melody Maker was merged into its long standing rival, NME. For those that remain intact, the question is no longer whether they will always be here, but how long will they hang on for. Will there always be a Vogue? The very fact that we think to ask that question shows how much things have changed.” (2015) With this said, we have every right to be concerned. Will future generations know what a magazine or a newspaper is? Will they understand the concept of crop marks, bleeds and outlining fonts to send to the printers? While I don’t read Vogue it would be a dream job to work for such a huge corporation. If the day came and Vogue as a magazine came to an end, where does this leave editorial design? Where does this leave the newspaper industry? Or perhaps newspaper will die out quicker than magazines?
Many questions surround the future of print in this digital age. Few of us believe in the power of print and appreciate the texture and smell of a publications gloss or matte finish. The reality is Windows 95 no longer exists, the iPod has become irrelevant, and the vintage Nokia 3310 has been replaced with a watch that now answers all your calls and replies to your emails. Despite these technological changes, you cannot go wrong with the traditional and old-fashioned. Elements of print are making a comeback and editorial design is seeing a burst of independent magazines that aim to appeal to those who would rather hold physical paper than swipe through the pages on their tablet using Issuu.
So long as their is print, there will be editorial. As their is always news, there will always be newspapers, and celebrities seem to keep the magazine sector in business with their latest shenanigans. Print is far from dead. If you believe it, then you’ll see it.
Jamieson, R (2015) Print is Dead. Long Live Print. The Worlds Best Independent Magazines. New York: Prestel Verlag.