HERE ARE MY TAKEAWAYS FROM THE POLL, CONDUCTED IN SPRING 2022, THOUGH I URGE YOU TO REVIEW THE RESULTS AND THE COMMENTS AND DRAW YOUR OWN CONCLUSIONS:
Print continues to play a vital role in how professional graphic designers make a living. Fully 96% of respondents say they work in print as part of their professional mix, 54% of their projects involve a print component and 55% of their time is devoted to print. 64% say they expect the same level of print design this year as in the past and, of the remainder, more designers say they expect to do more print (21%) rather than less print (14%) in the coming year. Interestingly, roughly half of all respondents worked on a project related to the hot button issues of the day: pandemic communications, political advocacy, and/or social justice in the past year. In short, the creative community, or at least our readers, are reaffirming the relevance of print.
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.
And then there is digital fatigue. The fatigue factor from our long global nightmare is sparking a new appreciation for the attributes of print and stirring hopes for a print rebound as one sign that we are putting “remote” behind us.
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. For many designers, the fleeting nature of digital communications does not inspire similar confidence.
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 part of the marketing mix, designers try to retain responsibility and control for critical steps in the process: 78% buy or specify paper, 85% buy or specify printing, and 83% value resources such as swatchbooks and samples as decisional aides.
Everyone understands that print 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 requires more sophisticated judgements about how and when to deploy print. And the mastering of new technologies such as QR codes and AR combined with print deliverables. Designers are excited about using print and digital in tandem to expand the message and reach people in the manner they best like to interact with a brand.
All that said, there is clearly less print volume and a lesser focus on the substrates, materials or the intricacies of printcraft. Digital solutions tend to be the default position — bigger, cheaper, easier, more titillating to clients – and this is especially true for each younger generation of designers and consumers.
For most of the six decades we have conducted this survey, Brochures & Collateral have topped the types of print projects. During the pandemic years, the Posters and Packaging categories rose to the top. This year, Brochures & Collateral reclaimed the top spot, another hint that normalcy is returning.
Sustainability and climate change remain important factors when assessing a project — including, of course, whether to recommend print or digital media. In earlier times, there was an easy assumption that digital had the lighter footprint. But designers have a clearer understanding of the negative environmental impact of the digital infrastructure and, in turn, the progress made in smart and clean printing, paper recycling, and tree replanting. As a consequence, print is now often seen as a green option and paper as a renewable resource.