All That Glitters

The power of print in a digital world

Audio! Video! Animated gifs! The internet’s allure is indisputable, and calls out to business owners and consumers alike with each promise-laden hyperlink.

It’s no surprise, then, that the story being told for the last decade or so has often equated the rise of the internet with the demise of print. But we beg to differ.

While the immediacy and animation of digital media have their place and uses, what begins as an idea becomes, in essence, another abstraction: bits and charges flying from a keyboard to a microprocessor, which stores it as a bunch of on and off switches, just to be translated to hues and values on a screen. But with printed work, what begins as an abstraction is transformed into something greater than the digital world in which it’s created. There are qualities of print that digital media can’t touch, ironically because print is a media that can be touched. Printed work is something you actually hold in your hand. It exists!

There are certain elements of the physical world that simply can’t be reproduced electronically. Think of the qualities of paper: Thin or thick. Rough or smooth. Satiny. Translucent. Metallic. Pearlescent. How about the inks used? Not just the processed inks, but fluorescents, metallics, matte and gloss spot-varnishes. Then there are heat-transferred foils, embossing, die and laser cuts! And it’s not just paper. There are metal and plastic to be printed on as well as bamboo and wood.

All of this adds up to something the internet can’t provide: a tactile experience. Sight and sound play well online, but touch is non-existent in the digital world. Not so in our world. People still have a need for the tangible, and when our sense of touch is engaged, it satisfies us on a deeply human level. When we touch a piece of paper rather than just seeing the words on a screen, something in us reacts on an emotional level. Maybe it says, “I want to keep this.” And maybe we do keep it–pinning it to a wall, tucking it in our wallet, making it ours.

We live in an age of unprecedented choice and options. There are times, in communicating our message, where digital media makes sense—after all, you are reading this blog online. But there are times when the message calls for something we can hold on to, like that business card sitting on your desk, the brochure you put up on your fridge with a magnet, or the catalog where you dog-eared the pages of your favorite items.

Print doesn’t shout out our name with every click, but it’s there, standing over our shoulder, elegant and patient, waiting for when we have something special to convey. Words of wisdom. Declarations of love. Expressions of uniqueness. The things about us that we want to last.

Is there a piece of printed work that has made an impression on you? Something you’re glad you can hold on to? Something you keep? We’d love to hear your story.

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