Considering the Future Value of Print: Will ‘Tradition’ Still Have a Place? (Part 1)

In Thoughts on tech by Digital Bunker Overlord0 Comments


Image Credit: Naldz Graphics, n.d. 1

In a world that’s rapidly shifting into non-physical spaces, the term ‘success’ often corresponds with a brand or company’s promotion of their innovation, and willingness to stand out from the pack. The production of various technological and digital platforms is a key driving force behind the need for innovation. With one eye always firmly set on the future, today’s designers must produce a huge variety of outcomes suited to these current demands.

It’s little wonder that with consumer and business expectations increasingly centred on digital outcomes, a number of other areas have seemingly been left behind in the wake of this exponential growth.

So, with that said, one must ask themselves several questions: what’s the value of pursuing other forms of design education that deviate away from the web? Is the continual rise of the digital world at the expense of other more ‘traditional’ forms of communicative material, such as print? Will we soon be waking up to the morning news on our tablets, as hard copy printed news become a thing of the past?


Image Credit: Westhill Blog, 2015. 2

With these questions in mind and more, many would suggest that the value of print is on a continual steep decline. A number of print reliant businesses regularly feel the pinch from rival web-based firms and companies being in such high demand for their services. One of the most cited examples is the decline and, in some cases, extinction, of large and small newspaper industries around the world.


Image Credit: Stroma, 2011 3

In his insightful essay to the Brookings, Former Washington Post editor Robert G. Kaiser documented that ad revenue at newspapers was $US63.5 billion in the year 2000, before falling to $US23 billion by 2013. This took place at a time where Google ad revenue rose significantly. In addition to this, he reported that today’s “young Americans” get up-to-date with news from a number of web-based sources, including “social media, news aggregators, search engines, RSS feeds, and blogs.” (Business Insider Australia, 20141)

One key point often touched on when examining the newspaper industry’s decline is the ‘replicable’ nature of today’s digital formats. Why not simply download reading material when it’s made available and accessible so easily? Furthermore, the desire for instant gratification is a trait that’s attributed to today’s consumer market. Many brands and companies promote their digital based assets to fulfil this requirement.

It’s important to note, however, that although the role of innovative technologies is a key factor for a company’s prosperity nowadays, the requirements for other familiar forms of media must be maintained. Outside of examples outlining print’s decline–such as the downturn of the newspaper industry—are examples of print design also being utilised in ways that are hugely beneficial to various companies. This is particularly true relating to many of the Internet’s big players, in addition to smaller and independent brands. Websites such as, online gaming websites such as Moshi and even Google publish print magazines to freshen aspects of their business model that other web-based solutions can’t reach. Some of these solutions don’t provide a financial return, but instead help create an extended form of multimedia advertising. “For online brands, print is a neat way of gaining extra marketing attention and boosting their community, even if there’s no money in it,” explained David Rowan, editor of UK Wired (The Guardian, 20122).

It shouldn’t be surprising that many different audiences and demographics aren’t quick to abandon something that’s deeply familiar to them. After all, generation upon generation of humans grew up with printed media as the most readily accessible form of readable material. While ‘innovation’ is at the heart of many current business models, designing for what is known or expected by current target audiences is paramount for success.


Image Credit: Social Pain, 2014 4

The sense of permanence that comes with print helps ensure its longevity. A prime example is the preference many audiences report having for reading hardcover books, magazines, as well as other printed types of media. The physical presence of weight, texture and even the smell of the pages are aspects that can’t be replicated in cyberspace (Canva, 20153). While E-Books also have their own unique qualities that open up unique opportunities, such as animation effects, aspects of touch, sensation and intimacy through interacting with physical forms can’t be an underestimated quality in design overall.

The world of design benefits from the continual progression of media outlets to match the requirements of an evolving society. In saying this, any attempt to seek innovation nowadays won’t be beneficial if it comes with neglecting the aspects seen in traditional media; especially as these still have much to offer to the public, as seen with various types of print design.

The future holds a number of uncertainties for various types of businesses and their services, as has been documented with the struggles of many newspaper printeries around the world. However, the sheer longevity of the printed word and/or image’s appeal is not to be underestimated, and will continue to hold a place in many people’s collective psyches for some time yet.


To be continued…


Citation References:




Image References