Tuesday, 25 October 2011

A Furture in Print

Print Media:
Assignment 2

A Future in Print Design

As a print focused designer my profession will be subject to constant change until its focus eventually becomes that of design for web and digital devices. This is unavoidable due to the growing importance of computers and the internet in our everyday lives. Due to this my career will be one of constant adapting and innovating in order to maintain employment in the field and also to maintain the validity of the field itself. Sustainability is a concept previously compromised in order for businesses to make a maximum profit at a minimum cost. Using print in new and innovative ways, in conjunction with new digital devices, may help to replace previously unsustainable and irresponsible mediums. These innovations will provide a future for print in a decades time. Adapting to the change in consumer needs and innovations in technology will decide what work will be printed.

The history of print itself is a story of constant adapting and innovating. Originating in Ancient Sumer in around 3500BC cylindrical seals were rolled onto clay to form printed images. The Phaistos Disc dated between 1800 and 1400BC was a development closer to modern printing 'press'. Later in 220BC in China the more commonly recognised woodblock printing techniques were developed and formed the basis of the techniques used to create the first printed book in the year 868 in Western China. The most important early printing development in China was developed by the chinese alchemist Pi Sheng in the 1040's. Pi Sheng created movable type characters that were made of a combination of clay and glue hardened by baking. These characters were used to compose texts through arranging them side by side on an iron plate coated with a combination of resin, wax, and paper ash.(2011) Pi Shengs ideas of reusable movable characters preceded the Intalgio technique that consisted of a copper or zinc plate with etched designs filled with ink that were then rolled over to press ink and paper together. This technique was used mainly in the 1430's and is still used for print items such as currency, passports, and sometimes high-value postage. At the end of the decade the printing press was developed in Germany by Johann Gutenberg. The Gutenberg Press eventually replaced most other printing methods of the day. Lithography was another innovation in print that is still used today for aps, posters, books, newspapers, and packaging in a process called offset lithography. It was invented by Alois Senefelder in Bohemia in 1796, in which designs were made on stone and then acid was used to burn the image into the stone. A substance called gum arabic was applied to the stone before it went through the press. The stone was kept wet with water as it went through the press thus functioning on the concept that water repels oil, or oil based inks. This was later adapted into the first method for making multi-coloured prints known as Chromolithography. This technique was patented by Godefroy Engelmann in 1837. Offset Lithography eventually replaced the early techniques and introduced rubber rollers onto which the design was transferred from the original plates. Further developing these ideas the Rotary Press included offset lithography as well as Rotogravure, a process that consists of etching small holes or indentations into the copper cylinder, and then filling it with ink in order to print and also Flexography was later found and uses a raised design on a rubber or polymer-based plate that uses the Rotary Press to roll out the image. In 1907 screenprinting, or silkscreening, was developed. This technique is still popular today especially for items such as t-shirts and posters although any finely woven fabric may be used instead of silk.(2008)

In the 1950's the first popular computer printers were developed. In 1957 the Dye-Sublimation Printer was created. The printer is similar to the inkjet printer and produces images with a higher quality due to it's use of CMYO (cyan, magenta, yellow, overcoat) colours. The overcoat layer waterproofs the image. It wastes a large amount of dye but despite this many items such as photos, identification cards and postcards have been produced using this type of printing. In 1949 the very first photocopier was created, a technology still widely used today. The later Xerox copiers, developed in the 1960's, were the most popular and the first to copy in colour in 1969. The technique they used was similar to the Dye-Sublimation Printer. In the same year Gary Starkweather of Xerox Corporation developed the laser printer. This made use of a laser beam toscan the document and then determine the toner distrobution. The dot matrix print arrived in 1970 and became the most popular for home and office use up until the 1990's. The printer used rods to print tiny dots and thus allowed many different fonts to be used. In 1976 and until now the Inkjet printer has become the most popular consumer printer. It 'shoots' ink droplets onto paper and is the most cost effective method to date. Lastly, in 1993, the first 3D printers were developed and have the ability to print onto 3 dimensional objects such as toys. The computer must be fed a digital model of the 3D object then it uses nozzles to create layers of the chosen material, such as polymer, resin, gel and more.(2008)

As computer technology and the internet evolves and becomes increasingly useful, traditional print mediums such as books, newspapers and magazines are transforming into e-books, websites, applications and blogs. With the advent of the iPad problems previously encountered with sitting at a computer to read were addressed through its smaller, more comfortable and readable format. In addressing these problems the iPad, along with the Kindle and iPhone, has helped to speed up the process of converting print mediums to digital formats. Within the next decade it is very possible for the majority of these mediums to become entirely digital. A future for print lies in providing a tangible experience not otherwise available.

With the introduction of CDs and DVDs piracy, due to the ease of ripping and burning, of these products has evolved into something that is so easily accepted and widely available that the term "piracy" has simply been replaced with "downloading". The digital counterparts of these products are no longer "stolen" as they are "free". Many consumers however still find the ease of downloading as more of a "try before you buy" option and still prefer to own the tangible product if it is something they really like. This makes the role of a print designer ever more important in impressing the consumer and convincing them that the product's tangible form is worth paying for. Tangible products are directly perceived by the senses and thus provide a much more personal connection with the consumer. According to Lee Boyan Tangible products must ultimately be translated into benefits that satisfy intangible buying motives. The consumer seeks to gain pride, pleasure, profit and security while avoiding criticism or ridicule, pain, loss, fear or anxiety. (Boyan, 1989, p. 72) With so many mediums moving towards digital formats and with the availability of them for free on the internet the consumers desire for owning products in a tangible form is diminishing. Even as people are enjoying music for free through downloading the feeling of owning the tangible product helps them avoid criticism and ridicule of doing something illegal and thus helps prevent any fear or anxiety. The pleasure of the artwork and experience of supporting the band/musician, filmmaker or writer are something that consumers will find hard to part with. Vinyl, despite being replaced by the cd in the eye of the populace, has never completely gone away and is, at the moment, enjoying a revival. Even cassette tapes are seeing a comeback as the music industry is largely avoided by small bands and independent record labels. This cult idea is something that print design may experience in the future.

The sensory perceptions provided by the tangible products themselves are intangible as are the buying motives. There are now an increasing number of ways to satisfy these buying motives through digital and online options. Last FM is an application that tracks the songs being played on an individuals computer or other devices and updates the users online profile. Through doing this the satisfaction of pride usually provided by owning a physical product that can be shown off is replaced by a simple application that makes it ambiguous whether the songs have been payed for or not. This helps to bypass the security and avoids anxiety and ridicule.

Through linking printed items to online content many art forms and products may be reimagined and reinvigorated thus sustaining it in a largely digital design environment. The idea of 'Paper Computing' is certainly helping to reinvent and reinvigorate design for print. The Papercomp workshop team believe " In a near future, printed documents could become new ubiquitous interfaces for our everyday interactions with digital information. This is the dawn of paper computing." (2011) Papercomputing is a concept central to the future of print. Volumique are an interactive design company providing some of the most interesting and successful examples of what the future of print may look like.

A Quick Response code, or QR code, is a type of matrix barcode (or two-dimensional code) that was designed by Toyota subsidiary Denso Wave in 1994 for the automotive industry. It's purpose was to track vehicles during the manufacturing process. Due to it's large storage capacity and it's quick readability the codes have become popular with smartphone technology. The codes originally consisted of black rectangles arranged in a square pattern on a white background. The black rectangles and white background have been replaced often with other colours as long as their is an obvious contrast between the squares and background. The information encoded may consist of many types of information including binary, alphanumeric, or Kanji symbols. Websites have become a common type of data encoded due to the growing use of smart phones to browse the web. Free applications allow for you to scan any QR Code and then for a browser to launch for the site or other digital content to be viewed.

Night of the Living Dead pixels is an interactive printed work, in the form of a book, that unfolds to reveal a number of different paths through the story of Night of the Living Dead. The pages have QR Codes hidden among pixel art that, when scanned with a QR Code reader on a smart phone, reveals an animation of part of the story or one of its many endings. The digital side of the work uses PHP code and MySQL software according to the MOMA website.(2011) Not only does this work reimagine the book, and even film and gaming, using innovations in technology, it also provides an experience that print designers could not previously offer. Games are the most successful form of environment, in terms of producing profit, and to link the concept of gaming to the books and even films is one of the many avenues down which print might be sustained. This interactive print work provides an experience that can not be downloaded and is thus an example of how to sustain print in the modern environment. Ideas like this are ones that will help print design to flourish in our future digital environment.

This use of technology may not work for all designers as QR Codes are limiting in their appearance.Their design can only be manipulated so much before they cease to function. Designs might be themed around geometric patterns in order to sit more harmoniously with the codes. In Night of the Living Dead pixels the pixel-like squares of the QR code set the theme for the visual aesthetic and concept of the book. This approach may not suit many designers who are successful due to a characteristic style. Organic designs done by hand may not marry well with the codes and in a reaction to the over use of QR Codes to add a quick interactive element to a print work, many designers may reject this sort of technology in favour of organic and hand drawn works with no interconnectivity with the web at all.

With advances in technology linking print to digital content many new and more sustainable products may be designed. In this sense printed works can really become the "...new ubiquitous interfaces for our everyday interactions with digital information" PaperComp mentioned. One industry that is notorious for unsustainable and unethical practices is the music industry. Compact Discs (CDs), as well as Digital Video Discs (DVDs), consist of a combination of various mined metals (aluminum, gold, silver and nickel), petroleum-derived plastics, lacquers and dyes. Due to their complicated make up they are almost impossible to recycle and are mostly discarded as waste. According to EarthTalk Environmental damage such as groundwater pollution can contribute to a number of health problems with people.(2008, para. 3) As with many industries the most time and cost efficient method was sourced and became the industry standard. Similarly PVC/Vinyl, voted by Greenpeace as the "worst plastic for the environment" after a two year study, can not be recycled and is also linked to conditions such as cancer, food and breast milk contamination. Other impacst such as reproductive disorders, birth defects, impaired neurological development, immune suppression, diabetes and numerous other disorders are all linked to this dangerous plastic. (1997) Despite all of this music is still released on this format, that is currently enjoying a revival, and people have been kept largely ignorant to the facts.

An extremely simple remedy for the problem is to do away with both mediums. QR Codes can link us to the digital format of the music through our smart phones and even a printed url can be copied into an address bar on a web browser for the user to stream or download the music for free or to pay what the artist, or record company, desires. This is a far more ethical, and logical, approach. Thus using printed works as an interface to digital content can provide a positive and valid future for print designers.

In the light of these current innovations in technology, namely the use QR Codes in conjunction with tablets and smart phones, as well as my growing concern with unsustainable practices my work seeks to both reinvigorate and reinvent a traditionally printed medium and to create a more sustainable design. The band To the North required new merchandise and a collection of all of their releases. Rather than going with the traditional mediums such as CDs or vinyl I used QR Codes linking to a stream of each recorded release where anyone with a smart phone may scan and listen and, if they would like, they can pay to download the songs. The site that provides this is called Bandcamp and it is free for anyone to use. Illustrated in a style that sits with the bands previous releases and printed on recycled card and paper the booklet may have easily been the insert to a CD or record, although printing in an a5 format creates a more tangible experience and the booklet instantly becomes more than an insert that is generally the part of the tangible product most consumers are purchasing. The mp3 files are easily downloaded without paying and these days many people will have downloaded them before purchasing an actual copy. My approach is something that I believe solves the problem of the unsustainabilty of traditional music industry practices and also helps to reestablish printed works as an interface to digital content. The booklet itself is cheaper to produce than a CD or record and can be recycled, even aspects as simple as weighing less help reduce transport costs and carbon omissions.

Designing for print with this train of thought is where I see the industry moving over the next decade. As print becomes a more intimate and special connection, with most data moving to digital formats, a more special concept is required of the pieces and the recycleability of print must be highlighted as one of the points that sustains its use and validity. Print will need to be adapted and innovated as it has been historically and will still be designed in future decades to come. The metaphors for print available digitally will still require skilled print designers to create them and thus an even greater demand for graphic designers, trained in todays print design practices, will be desired.


Steiner, H.C. (2011). Movable Type. Retrieved from on october 25, 2011 form http://stage.itp.nyu.edu/history/timeline/movabletype.html

Walker, T. (2008).The History Of Print: From Phaistos To 3D. Retrieved from on october 25, 2011 form http://www.cartridgesave.co.uk/news/the-history-of-print-from-phaistos-to-3d/

Boyan, L. Successful cold call selling (2nd ed.) Lee Boyan & Associates, Inc.

├ęditions volumiques (2010) "The Night of the Living Dead Pixels". Accessed on october 19, 2011 from http://vimeo.com/10523702

MOMA (2011). Talk To Me. Accessed on october 26, 2011 from http://moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2011/talktome/objects/146359/

PaperComp (2010). Paper Comp 2010. Retrieved from on october 25, 2011 form http://www.papercomp.org/Papercomp/PaperComp_2010.html

Cooper, H.L. (2010). A brief history of tactile writing systems for readers with blindness and visual impairments. Retrieved from http://www.tsbvi.edu/seehear/spring06/history.htm

EarthTalk (2008) Accessed on october 26, 2011 from http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/local/articles/2008/08/01/20080801earthtalk0801.html

Miller, C. (1997) Accessed from http://archive.greenpeace.org/majordomo/index-press-releases/1997/msg00100.html.