HERE ARE MY TAKEAWAYS FROM THE POLL, WHICH WAS CONDUCTED THE FIRST WEEK OF MAY 2021, THOUGH I URGE YOU TO REVIEW THE RESULTS AND THE COMMENTS AND DRAW YOUR OWN CONCLUSIONS
Print plays a vital role in how professional graphic designers make a living. Fully 90% of respondents say they work in print as part of their professional mix, 55% of their projects involve a print component and 57% of their time is devoted to print. Interestingly, 50% worked on a pandemic-related print project in the past year. The importance of print work to the creative community should not be underestimated.
Designers believe print endures because of its classic strengths. Foremost among these is tangibility — it is sensual, touchable, physical, real, permanent, and encourages a human connection often missing in the virtual world.
These classic strengths are amplified by digital clutter. Because print is relatively rare, it 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. Closely related is the issue of trust: quality printed pieces are often perceived to possess authenticity and credibility because they feel real and present, spring from an identifiable source, and are the result of a deliberate act of craftsmanship.
And, of course, there are large swaths of the country that don’t have access to internet or resources for smartphones who still need to be reached, especially with things like … say … public health campaigns.
As the pandemic, hopefully, winds down, digital fatigue is real and pervasive. This may spark a new appreciation for the attributes of print and spur a rebound in the utilization of print.
If print is to stand out and be special, that imposes a responsibility on creators and producers: superior print design, well-crafted execution, strategic deployment, sustainable methods matter more than ever. Perhaps that explains why, when print is included as part of the marketing mix, designers try to retain responsibility and control for critical steps in the process. Nearly 8-in-10 make the paper specification and print buying decisions, quite a substantial number though modestly lower than in past decades.
Despite the inherent strengths of print, most everyone understands that it is now a role player rather than the star — best used as part of an integrated marketing mix or for certain targeted audiences and purposes. That leads invariably to less volume and a lesser focus on the intricacies of the craft. Digital solutions tend to be the default position, and this is especially true for each younger generation of designers.
In this context, the survey records a modest increase in those who expect to do less print design rather than more, and we also record small declines, once again, in the percentage of time spent on print by designers and on the number of designers specifying premium papers. This is part and parcel of the continuing challenges that confront the overall commercial printers and papermakers.
Clients are drawn to digital media’s value proposition of a big reach with small budgets, fast turnaround times, and ease of use. The lure of “fast and cheap” is especially seductive when it comes to utilizing major social media platforms owned by Facebook, Google, Twitter and Amazon. It can be hard for print advocates to convince a resistant clientele otherwise.
Just as digital fatigue may spur a rebound in print, a weighty counterbalance is the “Zoomification” of our world. This phenomenon, the argument goes, has made everyone more comfortable with technology, more expectant of instant communication and less patient with traditional means, and more likely to “stuff purge” which, writ large, means embracing a more virtual and spartan workstyle and lifestyle.
And then there are the vicissitudes of the economy. How it moves will dictate much of what unfolds over the next year. The vast majority of designers — 90% in fact — expect an economic recovery in the second half of 2021 and an attendant rise in demand for design and related services.
There is some disagreement as to how strong the recovery will be and how quickly and how directly it will stir creative businesses. There is no disagreement that good economic news will be welcomed by a community that has been rocked but remains resilient.