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.