Is Print Design a Dying Art?

With the emergence of digital advertising, the web and web-based design has reached a whole new frontier. Collaterals for advertising campaigns now have the capability to reach a much broader audience in a much shorter time span. So with this new digital revolution, where does that leave print?

ad campaignUnderstanding Paper and Ink

Everything included in an ad campaign has had a designer working on it. Print design is a subset of graphic design that is purposely made for printing. The output varies by medium and by purpose. The most basic examples are the well-established printed posters and billboard ads. There are also marketing collaterals like business cards, letterheads, envelopes, and resumes, and branding materials for product labels and packaging. Designers need to understand their medium, their audience, and their message to create a successful, memorable design.

Print Design in the Digital Age

With each new hashtag, mail blast, viral marketing campaign and social media outlet, it cements the effectivity of online advertising. Marketing teams focus more on social media campaigns than printed ads. Posters and banners can be optimized for the web. Company letters framed by letterheads are sent through email. The future draws that much closer, shiny and chrome in all its technological glory. What use is there for print and paper in this shiny new world?

Truth be told, the print design market is no longer as strong as it used to be. With the continuing shift to digital, designers had to compensate to stay afloat. Printed design skills had to be supplemented with some skill in web design. It wasn’t enough to simply complete a magazine spread. It may also have to be optimized for online viewing. Print ads had a web-based counterpart. Printed marketing collaterals may need an accompanying website. It is not just print anymore.

online advertising
Print vs. Web

The main reason online advertising–and by extension web design–has become so popular is because of its ease and sheer scope. The global social media agency WeAreSocial reports that as of early 2015, there are around 3.010 billion active internet users worldwide, a 525 million user increase from last year’s report. This is in conjunction with wireless technology becoming more available and devices becoming more user-friendly. With the aid of mobile, the number of people who go online will keep on growing, and WeAreSocial predicts that by mid to late 2016, digital penetration will go beyond 50% of the world’s population. Companies would be fools not to take advantage of those facts.

It is much faster and cheaper to reach an audience online than doing it through print. Marketing campaigns also allow their audience to get more involved, by the use of hashtags and word-of-mouth.

Another, much more technical advantage web has over print design is color management. Computer monitors use the RGB, or Red-Green-Blue color model to display colors. They take a certain amount from each color and mix them together to make the colors people see onscreen. Print media, on the other hand, makes use of the CMYK, or Cyan-Magenta-Yellow-Black color model, which cannot match some colors created by the RGB model. They also cannot take advantage of the backlighting properties of screens, so, as a result, the colors appear duller. That is why designers have to compensate for color depending on what mediums will be used.

With those being said, understand that print isn’t rendered completely useless. One of the advantages print has is its longevity, both physically and mentally. While digital ads do have the ability to be long-runners, they can also disappear at the slightest provocation. So while digital advertisements may reach a huge audience, they have to clamor for attention alongside dozens and dozens of other ads and content. Just because an ad reaches more people, it does not automatically mean that it has made its mark on them.

Printed designs like magazine advertisements leave a more lasting impression because the readers’ attention is more fixated and linear. Also, according to the 2013 Trust In Advertising study by Nielsen Holdings N.V., despite the continuing reign of word-of-mouth advertising, the audience still find it easier to trust printed advertisements compared to their online counterparts.

Finding that “Golden” Ratio

There will be no shortage of studies supporting print or online advertising over the other. The reality is while printed advertisements are becoming less and less of a priority, that hasn’t halted their effectiveness at all. After all, companies wouldn’t invest in printed ad campaigns if print was dying.

The key is finding ways for online campaigns to support printed campaigns and vice-versa. It is a matter of handpicking the best qualities of both to create a good synergy.