What Has the Last Decade Taught Us About Print?

That it needs to get to the point!

This week, Communicate – a London-based publication that looks at the ways in which corporations conduct public and internal relations – posted an interesting article on the decade in print.

Communicate asked industry types to identify their favorite pieces of print material over the last decade. And the results were very interesting. Overwhelming, respondents favored print that prioritizes readability and information quality, integrating these elements with other aspects of visual design in order to create a uniquely easy-to-use and straight-to-the-point experience.

Normally, terms like “usability,” “accessibility,” and “functionality,” are used to describe web design, but in the case of the last decade's standouts in print, it seems like these same terms apply because the priority remains quality of information.

So what does this say about the future of print?

As print vies for consumer attention and marketing dollars with digital communication, the tendency – throughout print design – seems to be to focus on color quality, huge, intense imagery, and even webpage-style products.
Of course, the problem with this approach is that print is never going to beat the web at its own game.

Where print can succeed, and continues to succeed, is by placing useful, accessible content into the hands of relevant viewers. Ever since the invention of the printing press, people have instantly been drawn to print's ability to communicate clearly, to increase access to information, rather than obscuring information.

While the web takes this mission to a whole other level, it also requires from viewers a comprehensive knowledge of how to access that information, how to navigate the glut and find what we're looking for. Simply speaking, it's the world's largest library at our fingertips, but sometimes, I don't want a library, sometimes I just want a book, a catalogue, or even a flyer – a finite amount of specific information that's important to me, and clearly represented.

And that's what print has always offered readers. The idea, conversely, that it should try to compete with the web over issues of design or distribution is absurd. To remain vital and relevant over the next decade, print and print design must play to its strengths – clear, concise, relevant communication, targeted at and delivered to the people who are interested. Anything other strategy risks turning print into a lost cause.

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