10 Thoughts on the State of Print Design

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1. Print remains crucial as to how professional graphic designers make a living. Fully 98% of respondents say they work in print as part of their mix and 3-in-4 projects involve a print component.

2. Designers retain responsibility and control for critical portions of the print process, with more than 8-in-10 involved in print buying and paper specification.

3. Designers believe print perseveres because of its classic strengths. Foremost is touch – sensual, physical, real, permanent, credible – the human connection that is missing in the virtual world.

4. These classic strengths are amplified by context. In today’s digital clutter print has the potential to stand out and be special – fresh, welcome, surprising, disruptive, personal, engaging, meaningful, a statement that a brand values itself and its customers.

5. Print lends itself to certain audiences and offerings where communication needs to be retained, contemplated, touched or trusted: luxury goods and premium services are a classic example. Age is also an issue: the older the audience, the greater the need for a print component, and vice versa.

6. Print’s special role comes with responsibility: superior print design, well-crafted production, strategic deployment, sustainable manufacture and distribution matter as much, perhaps more, than ever.

7. Year-over-year trends move almost glacially. Still, today’s results reflect continuing trends that will not surprise: paper specifying is modestly declining, somewhat less print is being bought, and digital printing and related papers play in an increasingly larger role in the print marketplace.

8. There is less resistance to the idea of social media as an advertising and marketing vehicle. Many respondents don’t love it but increasingly acknowledge that this is “where the eyeballs are” and seek ways to maximize response through cross-media approaches that sometimes include print.

9. Package design and packaging papers, labels, and substrates are a growth area since the need for packaging is less impacted by online communications than other traditional print areas.

10. In this moment of in-your-face political activism, many designers say that print works exceptionally well to embody and make tangible political expression. One consequence is a mini-boom in posters, signs and flyers that appear at events and then as memes online. Temporary or permanent? Hard to know.

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