Is Print Dying?

Not long ago, I wrote a blog-post asking what would happen if digital practices completely overtook everything else in the world, and included a small shout-out the ‘The New Day’, Britain’s first new independent newspaper since 1986. At the time, people were asking if the newspaper could survive in todays increasingly digital world. And now, two months after it’s original release, the newspapers cancellation gave us the unanimous answer of ‘no’.

This begs us to ask: is print a dying industry? Are we seeing the end of an era as more and more mediums, newspapers especially, turn into their digital counterparts?

Where’s All the Paper Gone?

Computers used to be costly, confusing, and frankly. ugly devices that only computer nerds and scientists ever found an interest in. So, for the most part, the everyman stuck to what they were familiar with: printed newspapers and the post.

That was until Steve Jobs came into our lives, and released the iMac, suddenly making the computer more accessible, aesthetically pleasing, and cheaper than ever. Technology continued to evolve, with the likes of laptops and mobile phones. And nowadays, not only is technology becoming more affordable, but it’s also becoming more portable. Gone are the days of computers being reserved to the office, as more people own smartphones than ever before, and the internet becomes more accessible with 4G services, and free wifi-hotspots in multiple towns and cities.

In short, the need for printed items, purely as a source of information, is declining rapidly in the western world. Information accessed via technology is overtaking printed information, due to its increased speed, reduced cost, and enhanced interactivity (it’s true what they say, “never look at the comments”).

Why Does Print Still Exist?

There are two main reasons why printing still exists in the vocabulary of people in the creative industry. For one thing, printed mediums are often a lot more practical than digital ones. Packaging-design, for example, can only be done with printed materials, regardless of whether or not the product is technological. I hardly believe we’re going to see holographic shopping-bags in the future. Signage also remains mainly print-based, since whilst electronic signs still exist, they provide little functional value, and aren’t as cost-effective as standard printed ones, due to the constant need for power to make the signs work.

The other reason is that there’s more variety when it comes to designing print-based items. With digital mediums, a designer can choose certain videos, cuts, animations and sound effects. Yet with print, a designer can choose from a variety of sizes, thicknesses, paper weights, finishes, cut-outs, embosses, debosses, printing techniques, textures, cover materials, special materials, mechanisms, bindings/stitchings, and even scents (limited editions of Katy Perry’s album, ‘Teenage Dream’, were given a ‘cotton candy’ fragrance). Plus, there’s something more aesthetically pleasing seeing a printed item on a shelf than there is seeing a digital item on a screen, overall enhancing the user’s experience when handling the product.

Where’s Print Actually Increasing?

Yep, believe it or not, there’s one kind of printing that works harmoniously with digital mediums, and is continuing to grow and improve in its quality by the day. What kind of printing is that, you may ask…? 3D Printing!

I’ll admit, I was initially rather skeptical about 3D printing, since I wondered if the products printed would be as durable as derivationally manufactured items. But, after a little product demonstration I was given last year, I was sold. Interests in 3D printing are not only expanding, but also diversifying, as the fashion industry has also take interest in the new technology.

Industries Never Completely Die

Remember back in the early 2000’s, when we thought CGI was going to eradicate both traditional animation, and practical special effects? Well, we’ve since discovered that traditional animation, much like print, offers more variety than CGI does. And, many a critic have grown tired of CGI effects, and favour traditional effects which involve makeup, puppets, and a lot of trial and error.

Remember when it was thought vinyl record were going to be wiped from public consciousness, too, since we now have CD’s and MP3 players? Well, the industry has now seen a resurgence in vinyl’s, since they have a stronger sound-quality, and are more nostalgic than the more modern technologies are. And, once again, a collection of vinyl’s on ones shelf is more impressive than a song-list on iTunes.

What Wen’t Wrong with the New Day?

Think back to what I said about the internet taking over printed materials as a source of information. When reading the news, few of us are ever bothered as to whether or not the paper is 120gsm or higher, or if the paper becomes saturated from the overlapping layers of ink. All people care about, when reading the news, is the news itself. So long as the typography makes the type legible, which would have to be considered regardless of whether or not the article would be put under the press, that’s all that matters regarding the design and layout of the article.

Personally, I do feel really bad for the people behind ‘the New Day’, since they seemed to put a lot of time and effort into making it marketable, and they made all the right moves by making the paper more concise and quality-based. They just focused their efforts on the wrong medium.

So, Is Print Dying?

Despite the fact that many print-based products are going out of fashion due to the practicalities of digital methods, I say that print-design, on the whole, isn;t going to drop completely off the map anytime soon. there are still multiple things print has over digital products, as well as products that quite simply aren’t possible, or practical, when made digitally. All that may happen is that print will involve to favour form over function, and become more upmarket than regular digital mediums.

Newspapers may be on their way out, but print is still here to stay.

Do you agree? Do you think print, as a whole, is on its way out? Was there some kept factor I forgot to mention? If so, feel free to comment below with your ideas.

Creative People with Creative Ways to Sell Themselves

Sometimes, it isn’t just the art someone produces which makes them famous, but the way the artist sells themself which makes us look at them. That’s why I’m taking a look at some people who work in the creative industry that have managed to make a name for themselves by means which are out-of-the-box.

Just to be clear, I’m focusing on individuals and small groups, as opposed to big companies which used clever marketing tactics to make us buy their goods.

Also, I’m only looking at people with creative professions, so I’m excluding cases like Alfred Ajani holding up a sign in Waterloo Station. It’s a story worth reading, but not quite right for this list.

James Addison – ‘Puzzles for Postmen’

A talented graphic designer who graduated from Bournmouth in 2011, James Addison hasn’t just put his name on the map because of the big companies he’s designed for, but also for the ingenious ways in which he teases our Royal Mail.

Rather than use the standard address format, what James likes to do is send letters to various secret addresses in a variety of cryptic ways. From drawing the location on the envelope, to writing the address in morse code, James (to the annoyance of the Royal Mail) has inspired other creative souls to find equally challenging ways of getting their letters sent.

LESSON TO LEARN: Doing something unconventional will most-likely grab peoples attention.

My Dog Sighs – ‘Free Art Friday’

Artists are often incredibly reluctant to give some of their work away for free, but My Dog Sighs is an accepttion. The difference with him is that he only gave his art away on Fridays, and would give clues for people to find where the art was. Then, it was up to his followers to take part in a scavenger-hunt for that secret place and get a free piece of his art.

Now only was this trend popular with his followers, but it was so popular, that it spread to other artists from all around the world, and My Dog Sighs was the man who started it all.

LESSON TO LEARN: Encourage brand-loyalty by giving your customers a reason to keep track of the work you’re producing.

Maria Malone-Guerbaa – ‘Famous Face-Paints’

Maria-Malone-Guerbaa
A mother of two from London, Maria Malone-Guerbaa, despite working for various TV shows as a make-up artist, never found a way to make a name for herself. That was until one day when she decided to combine her make-up skills with those she has an an artist, and see if she can transform herself into different celebrities with nothing – yes, nothing – but face-paint.

With each painting taking approximately 4 hours to complete, she’s gained an immense following on Instagram, she has recently expanded her skills into transforming herself into animals. She has also had multiple media-appearances, and become involved in a variety of make-up based competitions.

LESSON TO LEARN: Sometimes, finding a niche where you can use your talents is enough to make someone want to follow you.

The Clarion Quartet – ‘Having a Jam in the Traffic Jam’

Between junctions 26 and 27 in the M5, a massive traffic-jam was caused when a horse escaped it’s horse box and ran rampant in the road. The quartet in question, on their way home from performing at a wedding ceremony, were also caught in the jam. So, as bored as everyone else was, they decided to step out of their vehicle, and play Pachelbel’s ‘Canon in D’ live on the motorway.

It wasn’t long before an audience crowded around them, video-phones at the ready, and were given a round of applause once they finished their piece. And, as you can guess, it was media-appearances all the way from there-on.

LESSON TO LEARN: If you see an opportunity to make your voice heard, you might-as-well take it.

Ben Wilson – ‘The Spitting Image’

ben-wilson.
Don’t you just hate it when you see a pavement that’s littered with chewing gum? Well, so did painter and sculptor, Ben Wilson. So, being the son of an artist, and a graduate from art-school, he decided to brighten both people’s spirits and streets by getting on his hands and knees, and painting tiny paintings into the individual pieces of spat-out gum

He was once arrested by police for allegedly vandalising property, yet was released without charge after a wave of supporters wrote letters demanding to set him free. He went full-time doing his chewing gum paintings in 2004, and still gets media-appearances for it to this day.

LESSON TO LEARN: Producing work that can turn a negative into a positive can make you popular.

Doug Walker – ‘Calling it Quits’

Whilst working as an illustrator, Doug used his spare time to make comedic videos of film-reviews. After discovering he was making enough money from the reviews alone, he decided to quit his job in the most OTT way possible, by parading around his workplace to ‘Bohomian Rhapsody’ and putting the clip on the web.

It’s an extremely risky move to make (and one I’d never try in a-million years), but seeing as his reviews have remained successful, even labelling him as one of the Top 10 YouTube Movie Critics according to WatchMojo.com, I’d say it was a successful move.

LESSON TO LEARN: Not everyone will like what you do, but if your target market is going to enjoy something you want to do, it’s a chance worth taking.

‘The Rack Pack’ Review

Well, here’s a first. I’m actually going to do a review of a TV Movie which has been exclusively released on BBC iPlayer, The Rack Pack!

Why am I doing this instead of something more graphic design related? Well… I actually designed some of the props for this film. Specifically, I designed these drinks-labels…

drinks labels
The labels I designed for this movie.

There’s even an old blog-post about the time I spent designing them, and watching the show be filmed. So, it only seemed right for me to review the show I helped created (if only by around 0.2%).

Synopsis

Based on true events in the early 80’s, Alex “Hurricane” Davies is a bombastic, alcoholic snooker-player whose just too good at his craft for anyone to criticise. That is until Steve “The Nugget” Davis comes along, a nerdy, ginger-haired newbie to the sport who spends his spare time playing arcade games and staying clear of the booze.

Steve’s manager, Barry Hearn, knows he has the skills, but not so much the personality for being in the limelight. So, he gives the lad a new haircut, a new suit, and trains him to be the well-manored yet startling snooker-professional we all associate with the sport today. But as Steve gets more positive publicity throughout the tournament, it looks like it may be more than Alex’s championship that’s on the line here.

Davis made to look threatening.
Davis made to look threatening.

The Good Points

Let’s start with the actors in this film, because they all did wonderful jobs. Luke Treadway did really well as Higgins, especially as we watched his life go down the pan. Will Merrick was really good as Davis, too, and it was fun to watch him grow from being the underdog to the quasi-nemesis. Kevin Bishop was spot on with his voice when playing Hearn, as well. Honestly, there isn’t really an actor or actress in this movie who I was swap. They were all right on the money.

Higgins and Davis prepare to lay against each other.
Higgins and Davis prepare to lay against each other.

I also thought this was written especially well, not only for the memorable characters and sequences, but also because it managed to cater to both sports-fans and the general audience. I’m saying this, because even though I’m not into snooker by any stretch of the imagination, I still felt as if I could grasp how rules of the sport worked simply by watching the film. I didn’t have to think too hard about what they were, I could just watch them play and grasp if they were doing well or not.

By the way, were these actors really playing with real balls? There’s one continuous shot I remember in which we see Higgins pot them all one after the other, and I was trying to figure out whether or not this was really him doing it, or whether there were some very clever effects being used in post-production. Either way, it was still very impressive.

Was this moment real, or some very clever movie magic?
Was this moment real, or some very clever movie magic?

Speaking of which, I loved it how cinematic this movie felt. It didn’t feel like the director shrugged his shoulders and said “oh well, it’s only going to be on iPlayer, so we don’t have to work as hard on it”. No, I actually felt as if I could watch this on the silver-screen and be very satisfied with what I saw. I loved the desaturated colour-palette, I loved how the editing flowed seamlessly between all of the different camera angles, and admittedly, I’m a sucker for the 2.39:1 aspect ratio. There’s just something about wide-screen that I fall for every time.

I realised this back when I saw this movie being filmed, but what I didn’t realise was that what I actually saw was the movies ending. And I have to say, there’s something really chilling about this. Despite all of the editing in the finished product, I can tell you from personal experience that this scene was actually acted and filmed in one continuous shot (albeit multiple takes), and it really felt like these two characters had been in this mad journey this entire time. They had their highs, and they had their lows, and with the way they were talking to one another and saying their farewells, it actually kind of left an impact on me.

A still from the very shot I got to see being filmed.
A still from the very shot I got to see being filmed.

My Little Criticisms

What, you didn’t think I was just going to be calling this movie perfect on the pure basis I had some involvement in it, did you?!

Well, I for one think honesty is the best policy, and I think it’s only respectful to be honest with the crew of this movie about the little problems I had in order to know what improvements could be made in the future. And besides, it really was only minor problems I had with the show.

Most notably, it was simply that I noticed a few details in the props they used which gave the game away that they weren’t real. For example, when one character stuck a cigarette in his mouth, I could see the indentation of where the fake logo was glued over. I can’t really criticise the show for that, though, because the naked eye wouldn’t have noticed. You’ve got to really know what you’re looking for to spot these errors.

Also, the soundtrack could have perhaps been worked on. Don’t get me wrong, the actual playlist is fantastic. One of the songs they used, Baba o’Riley from The Who, is actually my favourite song (I love songs with a strong build-up). But whenever a song started playing, it seemed to come out of nowhere. Once again, perhaps that’s simply a case of me being farmiliar with the material.

Overall Opinion

On the whole, I found this to be a really well-produced, cared-for, enjoyable TV movie, and surprisingly enjoyable for those not into Snooker. If it comes out on DVD sometime soon, nothing’s going to stop me from buying a copy.

Now, I’m not exactly the best person for making predictions for award-season. I thought Inside Out might have been a contender for Best Picture at the Oscars this year, and it wasn’t (good grief, will an animated movie EVER win Best Picture?!) With that said, this did remind me quite a bit of another TV movie I found to be exceptional, Murdered by my Boyfriend, and that had its fair share of BAFTA nominations.

So, keep your eyes peeled, folks, because this might be a BAFTA contender.

Keep your eyes on this, Higgins!
You heard me, Higgins!

If you fancy watching this movie, feel free to click here and experience the rack pack play the game the only way they know how!

Last Week, I Went Back to School

Even though I’ve now been to University and had the experience of schooling which has more more in common with the ‘real world’, many of my old teachers from my secondary school remain to be my favourites. After all, I still write Christmas Letters to them each year (which reminds me…)

So, knowing that I still had some connections to Queen Elizabeth High School, I wrote an e-mail to Jason “Mr. K” Killingsworth and asked if I was able to come by for a few days and represent a former pupil who’s gone on to do their own freelance work. It didn’t take long for him to write back, and for us to start planning ideas of what I could do for my short time back at school.

What’s Changed About the School?

Not much, in all honesty. There was a slightly creepy feeling as I walked through my old corridors and the layout started coming back to me. With that said, some of the paintwork has been redone with a new colour scheme, and I could have sworn that the roofs were taller when I first started.

The only major difference there, as far as I was concerned, was that the 6th Form Common Room now had its own fully-functioning cafe. Back in my day, all we had was a microwave and a sink filled with a mountain of mugs taller than the nearby sign which read “Anyone who doesn’t wash their cups up gets a £1 fine”.

Regardless, it did feel good to be back in school, especially with the added bonus of now being a grown-up. The teachers and I could talk to one another like real adults, now, and believe me, that was a wonderful feeling to be able to talk to them in that way.

Day 1: The Presentation

On Wednesday, I gave a presentation to some of the 6th Formers who were considering having a career in a similar field. It was based on the pros and cons of going to university, as well as a way to offer some general tips on how to succeed in the creative industry.

There was a slight technical blip when my recording device unexpectedly ran out of memory, yet the day was saved when my friend whipped out her iPad and did the rest of the recording on that (I owe her one!)

Other than that, the presentation itself went really well. Feel free to watch the video below and see for yourself.

I also gave a small lecture to the pupils about how to use Adobe Flash. And you know what? This experience gives me a whole lot more respect for my teachers. Knowing a subject is one matter, being able to teach it is another. If you ever wonder why teachers get paid as much as they do, I can tell you from that little bit of experience that they deserve their pay cheques at the end of the day!

Day 2: The Open Evening

The next day, I returned to the school and took part in their open evening, when potential pupils and their parents came around to see if the school was the right one for them. And, it was a good thing that I returned, as Mr. K was unexpectedly dragged away from the D.T. room for a meeting, and I had to take the reigns for an entire hour.

It was great being able to talk to some of the parents and tell them about the sort of things I learnt from school. Furthermore, it was great to see some of the things the pupils had made and put on display for us all to see. What they had on show was more focused on product design than on marketing, yet I could still tell that some of his pupils have outstanding creative skills, and great futures ahead of them.

Once Mr. K had returned, I was able to show him some of the physical products I’d designed. Amazingly, I managed to teach him about some of the websites and companies I use for my printing services, too. They may be expensive, but they’re worth it!

Soon, it was dark, and we had to call it a night, but not before a few book recommendations and a photograph of the two of us together, holding what was easily my favourite of the products they had on show.

mrk Continue reading Last Week, I Went Back to School

My Work Experience at ‘Elvet Woollen Mill’

Last week, I gave you a round-up of what it was like to complete my work experience at ‘Bay Studios’ in Swansea. Well, now that that’s ended, I’ve moved straight onto another round of work experience, this time travelling in the opposite direction.

What It’s Like

About half-an-hours bus ride from my home town, hidden behind some fields and forest in the middle of nowhere (otherwise known as Cynwyl Elfed) is ‘Elvet Woollen Mill’. It’s actually quite surprising to find this mill secluded amongst the trees and hedges. The owners, Alison Thomas and Mike Tolputt, told me that most of the villagers don’t even realise the mill is there, especially since it’s an old building at the end of a narrow lane which most probably wouldn’t realise is still manufacturing. Once, they even had some strangers turn up mistaking the place for a village museum!

Despite this, my time working there has been a pleasant time. Much like with my previous experience, I got to get a closer look at the manufacturing side of the business.

How It Works

There are a dozen or so machines which I need to remember how to use, of which rely on a system of transforming individual threads of wool to elaborate fabrics. After that, some of the giant rolls of fabric are taken to the finishers to make the fabrics soft and comfortable to use, whilst others are ready to use immediately.

Once they’ve returned, it’s a case of cutting the fabrics up and, if need be, sewing them into a variety of different woollen products. From coats to cushions, and from tapestries to teacosies, just about anything woollen can be made at this Mill. Oh, and we have to attach labels and package all of these products by hand too.

How’s This Related to Design?

I suppose what’s fascinated me most with this work experience is seeing how similar some of the criteria are in both creative industries. Many of the things which need to be considered when manufacturing woollen products also need to be considered when creating graphic products.

For example, I was shown how by adding a single colour to one of their patterns, the whole look of the fabric seems to completely change appeal. The same can be said in graphic design, as to how a single colour can make an entire brand feel different and give it a new appeal.

Furthermore, when looking at both fabrics from a distance, the colours merged together into a new, seemingly solid colour. This reminded me a lot of spot colour printing, a process commonly used in magazines where the four key colours, cyan, magneta, yellow and black, are printed with thousends of tiny dots. Once looked at from a distance, those dots blur together to create the illusion of a solid colour and shading.

There was even the fact that when these fabrics were sent to the finishers to be softened, the colours of the fabrics changed slightly upon return. The same can be said for graphic design, as colours generally darken when being transferred from digital to print (which is why a good designer will always test their designs in print as well as digitally), and change colour yet again when the printed material is finished in some way (e.g. glossing )

Summary

Once again, I suppose what you can learn from this is that just because your skills lie in one career, that doesn’t mean those skills can’t be adapted for something else. So long as you’re able to recognise the simularities of both industries, you can, with training, convert those skills to change from one industry to the next.

And I get to expand my skills further,this time around, because my work experience here is far from over!