Some years ago a client in the independent school sector announced to us that for them ‘print was dead’. Their prospectus and all other marketing communications hence forth would be digital. Certainly, they wanted to take advantage of print and mailing cost savings, storage and associated administration but mostly they wanted to embrace a new now; the perceived future of marketing communications. It was within a year this decision was reversed. Their digital output was good, even great but the lack of real and tangible documents that communicated their place in the world had created a void with deep and unsatisfactory resonances for the institution.
So what is it about print that has such power? Power to communicate, to illuminate and to persuade. For more than 500 years the printed word has been something we trust. A medium that has authority and gravitas. It has deep associations with learning and feels permanent. It is a way of communicating care and proper consideration of the subject.
Clearly there are many inherent rich aspects digital technology has to offer where print cannot compete. Moving image, interactive interfaces and linking text, for example, are hugely compelling attributes. But still, but still.
To be fair to new technology, digital is very much in it’s infancy compared to the printed document. Developments are almost daily and our reading and understanding of screen based media is evolving – certainly it has not yet settled. As a consequence, we tend to be sceptical of the more flighty digital and screen based content. Whereas with a book, we know the language and rules. How it works and what we need to do with it. We should not underestimate the comfort we take from this.
One thing that will always be true though, and digital has no defence, is the sheer joy conveyed through beautifully set type on fastidiously crafted pages, well considered stock and perfect binding. The fresh smell of ink and the feel of the paper. If the ambition is to convince a reader of care, craft and quality, much of the work is complete before a single page is turned.