Is print design on its death bed?

Discussion in 'Design and Graphics' started by ac6789, Oct 18, 2007.

  1. ac6789 macrumors member

    Jun 28, 2007
    To get away from the "name that font", critiques and tech threads, thought I would post this issue that's been on my mind for a while now:

    I'm primarily a print designer. I can hold my own on HTML and CSS (still learning) but I enjoy print a lot more. There's nothing like holding a physical piece after working for days (or weeks/months) on a project. There's something in the smell of print and the feel of paper that makes it more "real" than web design. That and the finality of print really gets you paying attention to details and all the little bits that can't be easily changed in two seconds by tweaking code!

    I'm currently looking for work and I swear all I see are web design positions. The few (and I mean very few) print openings are more production positions which is OK but not for me. I'm looking for more of a creative challenge, solving visual and communication problems.

    So this got me thinking are print designers a dying breed? with everything becoming internet based, from news, invitations, books, magazines, etc. it sure seems that way. What are your thoughts?

    On a related note, with the web design positions, where is the line drawn between Web Designer and Web Developer? On 90% of the job postings for a Web Designer you're required to know Javascript, Actionscript, ASP.Net, XML, database knowledge, and to a lesser degree Ajax, ruby and PHP. I know a lot of people want a "all-in-one" designer, but at what point do you stop becoming a designer and start becoming a programmer?

    Discuss away!
  2. shecky Guest


    May 24, 2003
    Obviously you're not a golfer.
    print is not even remotely dead, and anyone who thinks so is kidding themselves and hopping on a bandwagon. the web (mostly) does not REPLACE print but it ADDS to print. there is simply more media (combination of print and digital) around in 2007 than there was in 1977 (or '87 or '97). while I do think the overall volume of print has gone down in the past 30 years (as the overall volume of web/digital media has gone up), i would call it a controlled seesaw drop as opposed to "on its deathbed." print is here to stay for a very, very long time.

    ultimately, print and web should work together, as parts of a whole. its not a contest between them. some things are better on the web (tax forms, news, videos) and some are better printed (books, promotional material, art monographs) and some are a combination of both.

    and it depends on where you are looking for work where you see only web stuff as opposed to print. most places i have seen are a mix of both web and print; however every job i have ever had was via my network as opposed to a classified or job posting, so im not the best person to offer an opinion on this.
  3. klymr macrumors 65816

    May 16, 2007

    I'm a graphic design student currently in school and I think my desire is print. There are basically three areas of focus at my school; animation, web design, and corporate identity. Of the three, I'm most interested in the latter.

    I think it's because it runs in the family. My great grandfather, grandfather, and father were all printers, possibly great great grandfather (can't remember). Well, my dad did it through high school at least. I used to hang out in the print shop when I was a kid. We are talking about OLD OLD machinery here. My grandfather sold the shop when he retired when I was fairly young. I am just fascinated by print stuff. It's much more interesting that an inkjet on a desk for sure! I agree with you on the fact that it's so much more satisfying to hold a solid tangible project in your hand after you are done with it. I hope it doesn't die!
  4. ac6789 thread starter macrumors member

    Jun 28, 2007
    This question was actually a discussion that myself and a more web-centric friend had. Ironically it was also the same time when many of my own networking connections were looking (and still are) for web designers to fill roles to keep up with their clients online demands. Which is why I ultimately turned to job boards to see what was out there for print.

    It was an interesting question so I thought I would post it here to see what the MR Community thought.

    I personally think print is here to stay, but like Shecky said, it has been declining. Perhaps it'll become a niche market? or rebound to a more balanced role once the web/interactive roles have reached a saturation point? Who knows, but from my own personal recent experience, it seems like print design is more of a bonus add-on lately (i.e: web designer with print experience).

    Oh, and this is what my friend said at one point: "Print is on it's death-bed. It's a loooong, slow and drawn out death, but it is dying" :) (had to laugh at her dramatics!)
  5. Iscariot macrumors 68030


    Aug 16, 2007

    I think the problem has more to do with the availability of print and a clients inability to properly understand the value of good work.

    If I want a thousand business cards or 10 000 flyers or brochures or what have you, I can just a) go to Staples/Kinkos b) recruit one of the thousands of starving students (who are trying to pad their portfolio with real-world freelance work so they're not completely SOL in a increasingly competitve market) to do it for a ridiculously low price c) ask my friend's son who's "good with graphics" or whichever.

    The market used to be built on exclusive knowledge, but now that anyone with 'l33t' PS skills and a warez version of CS2 can make "sweetz0r business cards", and you can rent Xerox Docucolours that even a ten year old could run, that market doesn't exist the way it used to.

    (Which is why I moved into financial document production and design :3)
  6. smurfjammer macrumors 6502a


    Jun 7, 2004
    Auckland, New Zealand
    The market for "print" has been diluted by too many people thinking that they can do it themselves.

    Now with Mac's at their current price compared to 10 years ago when the average joe couldn't afford a Mac and only design studio's could and with the increase of digital printing making the skill knowledge about printing now as simple as a click of a button.

    There will always be a need for a designer that has knowledge about offset printing that someone with a computer at home or a student will never replace.
  7. weblogik macrumors regular

    May 7, 2007
    I print for a lot of other so called designers as well as doing my own; sure it might be true that virtually everyone has access to design tools but 98% out there is utter crap and there is always going to be demand for a design pro.

    Print is never going to die by the way or at least i hope not or im screwed lol
  8. tsd macrumors regular

    Aug 10, 2007
    Greensboro, NC
    Anywho, print can't die. Can you see a world where Bibles aren't being printed anymore? Oh, and take a look at modern-day Bibles - they are designed!

    Plus, almost everything about the digital world is created to mimic the physical print-based world. Look at the browser window; it's laid out like pieces of paper. Those tabs at the top right? They mimic paper folder tabs. How often do you hear someone speak of wanting to curl up with a good book and just read all afternoon? Ever hear somebody say that about a computer screen?
  9. iscripter macrumors member


    Jul 18, 2002
    Your friend is right print is on a slow steady death spiral. I have worked in the IT department for a newpaper publishing company in the mid-west for the past 9 years. Every year is the same they struggle to get new subscribers and their base of subscribers gets smaller and smaller. I think eventually it will turn into a niche market.

    Most people now a days just don't have time to sit down and read a newspaper, magazine or book for pleasure. The people in the 35 and younger age group spend the majority of their time getting their information from online for free rather than paying for a subscription to a newpaper or magazine. As the older people who grew up reading newspapers and magazines start to die off so will the subscriber base of the traditional media.

    So is the print publishing industry dead now, no. But it is dieing slowly along with all of it's subscriber base.
  10. klymr macrumors 65816

    May 16, 2007
    So, I found out that the print shop that was in my family went back 5 generations. When my grandfather sold the building, he left the machines in it. I heard the guy that bought it sold off all the presses and stuff and made almost all the money back that he used to buy the building. Guessing from his birth date and death date, I'd say he started the company in the late 1800's.

    I really like this print stuff. It's fascinating to me.
  11. SwiftLives macrumors 65816


    Dec 7, 2001
    Charleston, SC
    Print is very much dying, albeit slowly. I agree with the poster above who said it will end up as a niche market. Rather than a daily newspaper, you'll only be able to find a weekly arts & entertainment paper. Direct mailers will be replaced with (more) spam. Catalogs are going online. Just a few things I've noticed over the years.

    Graphic design, however, is very much *not* dying.

    My personal theory is that the future of graphic design lies with interactive online documents, such as the PDF. Basically take the interactivity of Web 2.0 and combine it with a PDF and you've got where I think things are headed.

    Which is very cynical of me, since I am a print publication designer who thinks anything more than a bold tag is very complacted web programming.

    Print will never dry up completely. But (as all of you may have noticed) jobs are going to become much harder to find, much more exclusive, and much lower-paying.

    Wow. My cynicism is depressing even to me.
  12. Blue Velvet Moderator emeritus

    Jul 4, 2004
    Print design dying? Tell that to the junk mailers that send me all sorts of stuff... and products will always need some form of packaging.

    I don't see print design dying yet; I see many things that would have been printed in the past going online — like catalogues and directories as mentioned — but there will always be a place for brochures, reports and books until the technology of portable displays approaches 1200ppi or so at a reasonable cost... I've never seen anyone with an eReader and besides, print doesn't need batteries. ;)

    I'm inclined to believe the opposite; that people that truly know how to design for print will become rarer and more valuable to certain industries. Print covers display work, posters, billboards, packaging, books, reports, promotional work etc.

    Sure, newspapers might be reappraising their business models but the print industry is still in rude health in many quarters...
  13. bluetooth macrumors 6502a


    May 1, 2007
    I would tend to agree with the poster above, although there are certain companies that are converting some traditional media to online media, there are still various print medias that are crucial to businesses and their advertising;

    Billboards, POP (Point of Purchase Ads/Displays), Newspaper/Magazine Ads, to name a few...I suppose it basically comes down to reach and the more people that are online more often will lead to an increase in web advertising. However, people do not and will not (in our lifetime anyways) sit at a computer 24/7 and will therefore be outside or around various cities just waiting to be exposed to the next waiting print advert, be it on a busy subway, on a bus, on a building or inside a store.

    Note - I still receive about a half dozen flyers under my window wipers if I go downtown Toronto for a weekend.
  14. tominated macrumors 68000


    Jul 7, 2006
    Queensland, Australia
    web and print design basically compliment each other. For example, with a poster for a concert or something, it will probably have a URL in there where is where the web design compliments the print.
  15. coocooforcocoap macrumors 6502


    Sep 22, 2007
    kathmandu, nepal
    western centric idea...

    well, this question is so western-centric, or better put, developed country centric it made me laugh. the world is bigger then where there is web access by a long shot. where i live, Nepal, print media has not even matured yet. design opportunities abound (albeit paid in rupees or better, rice). many of the world's cultures don't really use the web for serious advertising, and depend on print adverts, radio jingles, and tv commercials - or forgo advertising altogether. That's changing however but i think we will all be gone before a dramatic change can be noted. so going to africa in this part of the century and designing unicef posters is still a good idea!
  16. Leareth macrumors 68000


    Nov 11, 2004
    While I cannot call myself a graphic designer I come from a family of them, and my earliest memories are of having pictures and text glues to me from my mother working at home doing layout work.

    I finally got my co-workers to see that there are different grades of paper and the the more expensive stuff can be alot nicer end product.
    Also why they should not use the "1,000 Cards for $20 -designed while you wait crap"

    The absolute worst was when my colleague spent thousands on her wedding catering and decor but decided to save money and print the invites and place holders from a template and her inkjet at home :mad:

    Now most people in my deptarment go get their stuff professionally laid out and printed for real submission.

    So now I do not think print is dead nor will be for a while - however finding good quality print and design is getting alot harder.
  17. bigeyedesigns macrumors newbie

    Oct 29, 2007
    I Hope Not..... :(

    Been Designing For 3-4 yrs Now And...All I see Is The Brokers Getting Rich Or Should I say paid In Full. I My self Is Now About To Invest In Some Printing Machine like a 4color Printing press, Cutter, and UV Machine....Should i? THe NYC Market For Print Media Is At A ALLTIME HIGH as Far As i see it....I Think That A new breed of printing Will come.. A Demand For Better Quality And more Fancy Card Stock.....ThatS Just Me...PLEASE I NEED FEED BACK ON THIS....As Far As Web Goes.. will im just To damn Lazy To be Messing With php and Codes.....smh
  18. Xeem macrumors 6502a


    Feb 2, 2005
    That's a very good point. In my own workplace (a small family-owned grocery chain), the advertising is all done in-house by people with no practical marketing background (i.e. people that are trained in running a store, not designing a brochure), and it shows. I don't think anyone in charge understands how much more effective the brochures and weekly advertiser could be if they were truly professionally done, and I doubt that they will ever spend the money to find out.
  19. elppa macrumors 68040


    Nov 26, 2003
    "Hello web design, you are looking very nice today"

    "Same could be said for you print design"

    It's complement, not compliment.

  20. Artful Dodger macrumors 68020

    Artful Dodger

    May 28, 2004
    In a false sense of reality...My Mind!
    I can't see print dying because it goes back to the basics…at least for the print company I worked at for 14 years. The thing I saw was when money and lack of business is rough, people go back to the basics. Such as maybe not buying from the 6 color print but back to the 3 color job or just change from bleach white with a coating paper to flat white and no coating.
    I can't tell you how many local shops would bid for jobs and then "job them out to others" because they were way to busy but didn't want to turn down business. I just wish we had better educated/trained people working there because print does help sell the end result to both parties envolved not to mention the consumers appeal to certain print jobs. Everything we bring home in a box, bag or read, via mail or in a bookstore is printed by someone.
  21. MorzillA macrumors 6502


    May 16, 2007

    Just as coocooforcocoap mentioned, there are many countries who's many households don't have a "computer in each room" much less a television, so print becomes just as valuable as money.
    And like many other poster have mentioned web complements print in many ways! There are many mag sites outhere that have some material that is extra read from the current circulation. the best example is the comic book industry, you can still check out several issues of Marvels' library online but not everything they pull out, like wise with other comic book sites, why? because the bread and water is through subscriptions.
    The Miami News Times gets circulated every Wednsday eventhough you can still read the very same articles online. A coworker of mine always buys OK, USweekly, and various gossip rags, again having each a website. And on and on and on.
    I will continue to work on print why, cuz when the PC dies on you, and if you do not have the know how nor the tools to do a print job like in the golden ages! Your client will find someone who can!! there goes your bread and water!!!

    Print will eventually die, but we still have 5 billion years. Till then read till your eyes bleed :D

  22. Marilyn macrumors member

    Oct 29, 2007

    Print design will never are kidding yourself to even remotely think so. If anything, the market has increased...with the advent of direct mail slowly replacing telemarketing (thanks to the DoNotCall Registry and the like) as a viable source for cold calling.

    Nobody likes junk mail, but I sure have made a ton of money designing it. C'est la vie. :D

    Many people who think they can do it themselves with no training etc. eventually come to their senses and hire a professional. No matter how much money you think you save...if your design is crap and you get no really haven't saved anything at all. I hear the "I tried to do it myself but I couldn't" or "I did this and when it printed it looks like poo" or "I sent out 10,582 of these and I didn't get a single call!" story at least once a day.

    Ironically, those are usually the people who are now willing to pay YOU more because they realized that designing a successful piece of advertising takes skill.

    I've been in this business for 11 years, both working at a large agency and now working for myself. Maybe I'm just fortunate (knocking on my wooden head for luck) but I've never had a hard time finding work, or even work that pays well.

    Sure, the marketplace is competitive especially when - no offense to anyone here - you as a professional have to compete against kids just out of school who will do anything for $25, or the guy in India who will do it for even less. But...the kind of client who wants those kinds of designers...are not the clients I want. I think people who truly value their business and it's image understand that $25 for a logo might not get them such a great or unique logo. Those people GET it. And those are the people that as a professional, I strive to work with.

    The minute I hear "Well, I found a guy over in Pakistan that will do a 8 page brochure for $50..." is the minute my conversation with that client is over. I end it with: "Well, Mr. get what you pay for." :D
  23. redwin11 macrumors member

    Feb 12, 2006
    There will always be a need for print design, as people will never tire of reading print materials.

    However, the print industry is going through a rocky patch at the moment as it tries to re-establish it's position in today's media.

    Fewer newspapers are being sold and more magazine titles are being closed down every year.

    The latest rumour (in the UK) is that the dear old NME, staple diet for anyone with a keen interest in music, is to become web-only as it's readership figures are falling through the floor.

    This may have something to do with it losing core readers with little interest in the 'latest' music scene, or the fact that it has a brilliant, well-established website with a lot of the magazine content, but there's no doubt it's following the trend of most other paid-for publications.

    Will it be missed? Of course it will.
    When did i stop buying it? 2 or 3 years ago.
    A lot of people will say the same.

    And we're not too far away from losing a large, national newspaper either.
  24. mashinhead macrumors 68030

    Oct 7, 2003
    most certainly not. anyway you should just focus on being a good designer. Good design works in any medium.
  25. Z.Beeblebrox macrumors regular


    Nov 27, 2007
    NJ / NYC
    Print isn't dying, it's just evolving. Like others have mentioned, somethings are moving digital (books, catalogs, newspapers) while other things remain (packaging, invitations, business cards, stationery, forms, signage/displays). Things are really starting to move towards the disposable end (and hopefully more towards the environmentally conscious). There is still a niche for high-end print work. It's just becoming trickier.

    In the past four years as an in-house designer, I've watched at least two dozen paper manufacturers collapse. It really sucks!! When your corporate identity calls for a very specific paper stock from one company and they go out of business, you have to research new stocks and re-adjust your entire identity program to adapt to the constant flux of paper manufacturers.

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