Sunday, April 17, 2011

Print is NOT dead.

You’ve been hearing countless rumours about its demise. The words are being spoken from the lips of many designers. You’ve even started to believe it yourself…

Is print really dead?

If you are like me, a traditional art director who LOVES creating magazine advertising campaigns, full page newspaper ads, outdoor posters, and hell, even the magazines themselves, this is the very last thing you would ever want to hear, or see happen.

But is it true?

The world has gone digital. There is no doubt about it. Marketing on the internet is no longer just a fad, the hottest technological toys on the market are personal tablets (e.g. IPADs), and creating APPs for new technologies can be quite lucrative. Every company now wants an amazing website, and somehow, “back end programming” and “art director” often appear in the same sentence on job listings (this one REALLY irks me).

Is that to say that a traditional creative should hang up their hat?

I don’t think so.

It is true that in the last few years, the website designers I know have seen their workloads explode and print jobs have become a much smaller percentage of clients’ budgets. But the fact remains that print is still a necessity in many client budgets.

Designing for print is not going away, it is just becoming more of a specialty area and those that remain dedicated to it, and produce it correctly, will find themselves in a niche.

90% of what I do for a living is print. I’ve seen my main clients do less of it recently but the fact remains that they still have it in their budgets. They might not be doing both a magazine ad and a direct mail piece but they are likely to need one of them. People will always network. They still need corporate materials to hand out with their website address. A business card, postcard, or brochure. Trade shows will still need print materials. Companies will always need signage. Products will always need packaging. Supermarkets still utilize promotions and POS displays.
I don’t care how much I love my IPAD, I still like thumbing through my favourite magazine while sitting on the throne. I still like reading my newspaper at breakfast and I’m far from alone on this.

Print is not dead. It’s just becoming a little old-fashioned. And it’s not as needed by each client as it used to be.

You can still remain a dedicated print designer. I intend to remain one until I retire. But what I am learning is that you can no longer rely on just a few clients to give you endless print work. You must hustle a little more. You must work harder to gain more clients that need SOME print work. Many small jobs make for large paycheques. Small projects build a solid foundation for more projects. 10 small projects in a week for 10 different clients at $300 each is $3,000. A trade ad here, a business card there, a handout, a menu, these projects are not going away so quickly.

I know people will say “but won’t everything eventually become electronic?”

Maybe, but here’s my answer…

What percentage of your clients are willing to spend the money to go completely electronic? Can you see every one of them willing to pay for a large storefront pixelboard sign? In this day and age, many companies are shopping around on crowdsourcing sites for $100 logos. Do you really see them forking over the cash to go fully digital?

Lets face the facts. You can’t do everything. So focus on what you love. Even if websites are the hottest commodity to a client at this very moment, in 5 years, will you be reading a website or will you be watching an interactive, online infomercial? Everybody will have to adapt to changing technologies.
Let’s say design schools are currently churning out APP designers. Where will these designers be in 10 years when design schools start churning out say, 3D hologram designers? (I just made this up).

Are the current design students learning how to output and produce work for print? I don’t know. But I’ll bet they don’t entirely focus on it. Which means that you have designers that will end up in the freelance pool that will have no choice but to outsource print projects. To YOU.

There is still much work to be done in print and there is still a LONG way to go before somebody hands you an electronic business card. We are still a long way from my breakfast cereal coming in something other than a box.

I will gladly continue to creative direct and outsource web design projects. I will happily take (and produce) other’s print design projects. That’s my specialty. That’s my love. As the old saying goes, “focus on what you love and the money will follow”.

Print is not completely dead. It’s just not the current fad anymore.

For all the website designers (that are currently swamped with work), for all of you designing for what’s “in the now”, there is a question you have to ask yourselves…

How long before the next one?

Until next time, keep dreaming.


TeaBerry said...

Thank you, thank you! I've been a print designer my entire career, and love the smell of ink!

To your question about design schools teaching students how to output print pieces: I say no. Throughout my career, I have seen graduates with very little basic knowledge on what happens to their designs after they leave their screens. I am proud of my skills to produce a piece that is technically re-producible.

I've also gotten so frustrated lately that job listings want a morphed professional who can not only design something, but also do high-end online developing as well. As my husband (a web developer) and I have come to conclude about each other is that a designer is a designer, and a programmer is a programmer -- and although we understand what each other does, we rarely see things the same way.

I love print, and promote myself as a graphic designer who specializes in page layout and book design, and it's good to hear that there are more like me still out there.

Calvin Lee said...

Good read. Sad that print design is a niche market now. I think a mid-large size company will still require, us print designers.

Steve Glasgow said...

Print is definitely not dead, but like anything we just have to evolve. Really, it's no different than when computers hit design and replaced the exacto. A new set of skills were needed to compliment the base knowledge.

I remember when I was a hardware tech (back before designing) and I felt the writing on ten wall would be that it was hot then, but hardware guys would soon be like car mechanics, and it happened. We need mechanics, but it's not the hot field it was. I say this as a web guy - websites will have the same thing happen (and already is). The new thing will come out (mobile platforms, apps, plus things we don't see yet), and the web guys will either have to evolve or see their workload go down.

Print however will always have a market. It's becoming more specialized and for the time being more completive. But as more young designers learn web but not print, the print designer may very well become more in demand, simply because they have that skill. In other fields, it's the trades. In the 80's and 90's, we all went to college, and the trades got neglected.

My dad is a very experienced welder. Not many people like him. Now days he doesn't have problem finding work. I'm not comparing welding to design, but it's the same concept. As fewer and fewer people learn print skills, they will become more valuable. It just may take time.

Mihaela said...

verry nice

Nora Reed said...

People won't need a physical bookstore on any more than they need a physical record store, they need something to read.

In fact a bookstore using by it's nature can only grabs a limited sample of what's out and what's in there. Not really optimal for new authors and writers.

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