If you’re new to the world of graphic design, you could be unfamiliar with many of the different types of design we do. While designers do a lot, the work itself can generally be divided into two types: Print and digital design. Print design refers to things that will be physically printed like business cards, brochures, books, etc, while digital design is anything you’ll see on a screen. That includes websites, online ads, ebooks, and more. Digital design also includes anything built for smart phones or tablets.
There’s so much more to print design than just brochures and business cards. Different paper stocks and coatings, embossing, foils, spot glosses, and custom die-cuts can dramatically add interest to a printed piece. The magazine IDN is a great example of this. Each issue is a textured, sensory work of art.
Print design is great for experimenting with textures, physical dimensions, and so many things, but it can be limiting. If you’re working with a strict budget you might only be able to go so far with colours and print effects. You’ll likely be limited to standard print sizes as well. Fortunately, with printed items, once it’s printed, it’s done. You won’t need to fix a broken link on a brochure. That also means you need to be 100% sure of everything on a printed piece of work. Once it’s printed, mistakes can be expensive to fix.
A lot of design schools these days seem to only focus on digital design. There’s nothing wrong with that, but students are graduating without knowing how to set up files for print. Print is still very much a part of graphic design, although we are certainly doing less of it than we used to.
A lot of print design simply comes from necessity. Others, from preference. Physical handbooks, agendas, textbooks, and novels are still very much alive. Then there’s marketing materials like real estate feature sheets and folders, and office must-haves like forms and letterhead. All of those things need to be designed. And let’s not forget packaging design, which is likely to stick around for a long time.
Digital design has become massive in the last decade. So much of what we do is online, and that all needs to be designed. Websites, online advertising, social posts, UX/UI design, there’s a ton of digital content being created. This includes digital art as well, which tablets have become incredibly useful tools for.
Digital design can include a ton of interaction you simply can’t get with print design. Digital design has also opened the doors for simplicity in a lot of the everyday tasks we do. For example, income taxes. The old way of submitting paper forms versus what we can do now with a few simple form fields and good UI. I much prefer the latter. Digital design is constantly evolving so it’s important to stay up-to-date. Fortunately, there’s so much more room for it to grow and so many more things that can be simplified via our digital world.
Digital design also has it’s drawbacks. Because the web is an ever evolving place, things change all the time. Links get broken, sites get hacked, hashtags become obsolete. To keep up, we need to continually update our digital content. We also need to find new ways to cut through the clutter since there is so much digital design out there.
Print and Digital Design: In Conclusion
Print and digital design; they each have their place in the design world, and in the world as a whole. Some projects will always work better in print, and some better digitally. Right now, physical business cards are still used, but all they really do is direct to a website. You can get an audiobook or eBook of almost anything in your library, but you still might prefer the weight and feel of a real book. As you drive down the highway you could see a billboard for a restaurant nearby, or you might instead check Google Maps to see what’s close.
There’s no doubt that digital design and digital media in general is taking over. That’s not up for debate. The point is that there is still room for print design today, and maybe for a little while longer at least. If this post were written twenty years ago I might say the opposite. Although, I certainly wouldn’t be saying it on a blog.
What do you think are the biggest differences between print and digital design? Which do you prefer working on? Let me know in the comments below.
If you want to learn more about both print and digital design check out Know Your Onions: Graphic Design. This is a really cool book that gives a general overview of a multitude of different design topics including print and digital design.
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