Branded print communications – Nov, 2020

The power of print – still

The power of print – still. The suggestion that print is over and digital is the way forward is vastly overstated. Print still has immense power. According to The Guardian, 88% of magazine readers in the UK still prefer to consume articles via print. Print has the 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 has a feeling permanence. It is a way of communicating care and proper consideration of the subject. This is the power of print.

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.  Furthermore, there is the misconception print and paper production are horrifying detrimental to the environment. Regularly we hear organisations determined to shift more toward digital for ecological reasons without fully understanding the bigger picture. The truth is, paper is a uniquely renewable and sustainable product. More than 90% of the pulpwood used in the paper industry in the UK is sourced from EU forests. And, European forests have grown by 58,000 square kilometres, an area the size of Switzerland, in the last 10 years.

It’s certainly true, every intervention in some way has consequences for our environment from brushing teeth to making PDF’s. The paper industry is relatively energy intensive but because of it’s commitment to energy efficiency it is responsible for comparatively low greenhouse gas emissions – actually only 0.8% of the European total. Compare that to 31% in the transport sector or 15% in the services sector.

Forests also directly affect the livelihoods of 20% of the global population and have recreational and cultural importance. They provide wood products and renewable energy, natural carbon capture and storage and other ecosystem services such as controlling floods and droughts and protecting watersheds that are a sources of water. In nutshell, having trees around is a great and wonderful thing. The European paper industry only adds more trees and forests to our environment not fewer. Of course there are charlatans, who tread heavily but in general, good design agencies select paper stocks from reputable paper merchants such as Fedrigoni, GF Smith and Antalis often selecting Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC®) and Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC™) paper and board that has clear chain of custody.

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.

Keith Lunt from Opal Print in Bath – a traditional, Bath based printers renowned for their attention to detail – states;

‘Communication in print, when used to relay a message, market, advertise, or package a product or service, is a powerful tool. It is visual and tactile, both elements of which are key to successful engagement.

Print has an important role in supporting great design, get all the ingredients right and the ordinary can turn into the extraordinary. Creativity in both the choice, and use, of paper and board, relays a message from the first moment of contact. Creatively considered print, where it is clear that careful attention to detail has been taken, will stand head and shoulders above the rest.

Support the visual design with beautiful or unusual stock, embellish with additional features, and put the piece together as if working passionately at a craft, and the result will be the extraordinary.’

The power of print is self evident but it is very much under attack.  Of course there are lesser printers and paper producers in our industry, just as there are rascals in every industry. Statements by utility companies such as ‘switch to digital billing and save a tree’ are at best partial and at worst nonsense.

Great design coupled with experienced and considered print companies using well considered paper stocks often makes for powerful and beautiful pieces of communication that tread lightly on our planet.

See more our our print work here.

Many of the facts and words used here are sourced from the twosides organisation created by member of the graphic communication supply chain. You can read more about their work here.

Posted by Jack Owen