Letter from Print’s new editor-in-chief

 

The father of Print was a printer, William
Edwin Rudge, who in 1940 founded the magazine to share technical savvy
and inspirational examples with his journeyman colleagues in fine-press
printing, printmaking, and book binding.

As Print’s new editor
in chief, I have the privilege of overseeing the magazine we have become
nearly 70 years later. Even in its earliest days, the demands of wartime
commingled in Print with the preoccupations of the graphic arts,
as graphic design was then known. Eventually, the word
“culture” began to define the magazine’s point of
view. The issue you are reading now is a celebration of the social and
professional bonds so vital to innovative design, and the visionaries of
all stripes who find connections and take action—in person and on
the web.

We find ourselves in a troubled time for the industries
Rudge and his fellows served so faithfully. Megastores have devoured
most of the independent booksellers, which means the browsing shopper
won’t encounter many of the most innovative titles. Advertisers
are trying frantically to find new strategies for survival in print and
online. As we went to press, a magazine seemed to be folding every week,
and a newspaper every day.

The outlook can appear alarming outside
the world of media and publishing as well. Design students find
themselves majoring in everything at once, unsure what future will greet
them in a digital landscape that changes as often as the headlines. In a
shaky economy, who can afford to take on the most needful clients? Paper
costs are rising; mailing costs go up as energy resources dwindle.

So
why are we not inconsolably gloomy? Because we’re convinced that
print culture is too vital to die. Defending the primacy and vitality of
print is more than privileged nostalgia. We would have no design field
at all without the craftsmen and women who refined the art over the
centuries. Each time we look back, it makes our work better.

We’re heartened to see that commitment to print culture
reflected all around us. Even the most digitally addicted (and we count
ourselves among them) are—as a result, perhaps?—craving
magazines. On her blog, Still Dottie, graphics and marketing coordinator
Ann DeOtte writes: “I love seeing that stack of magazines next to
my couch; I love flipping through them, running my hands over the pages,
tagging them with Post-its & tearing out things I truly love. There is
something about the glossy, the matte, the textured, the
scented—the print.” Design for Mankind’s Erin Loechner
agrees: “There’s just something to be said for holding
inspiration in your hands rather than online.”

It’s no
surprise that Print believes in print; the page is vital to all
we cover. And yet there is no standing still. For seven decades,
we’ve moved forward with all that print culture has become.
We’re consumed with the extraordinary—the ways in which
visual pioneers transcend the requirements of a job and create something
that raises the bar for all of us, designers and design appreciators
alike.

We found that talent and energy in the Alabama designers who
appealed to citizens’ imaginations with posters of a new city; in
the Argentine comics artists discovering an international audience
online; in images of a world of vacation resorts that welcomed
African-Americans in the Jim Crow era; in a Chinese stained-glass-window
artist’s reinvention of a Catholic church in Shanghai.

We also
want to know what’s going on in the design communities in which
you work, travel, and play. In the January/February 1958 issue of
Print, then-publisher Milton L. Kaye (no relation to Joyce Rutter
Kaye, our stellar former editor) wrote encouragingly, “We want
Print to communicate with you…we also hope you will
communicate with us. We are anxious to make our relationship more
intimate.” One of our favorite things about the 21st century is
how many forms that intimacy has come to take. There will be plenty of
room for your contributions on the ever-evolving printmag.com, and on
our pages at Facebook, Flickr, and Twitter. We’re starting to host
online events and conversations. E-mail us; we’d like to hear what
you want to read and see more of.

When Rudge launched the magazine in
1940, “print” didn’t sound like the name of an
endangered species. Like His Girl Friday’s Hildy Johnson,
the world had ink in its veins. Back then, it was printers and
typographers who needed us most. Now, we celebrate all those inspired
people who bring word and image to a limitless array of spaces, from the
wet impression on the fiber of a page to a floating web of digital
typography, to signage wrapped around a building, to tiny but brilliant
icons on a mobile phone.

Is it possible to cheer this pixilated
beauty without losing touch with the precedents, processes, and
standards we’ve lauded for so long? Can new technology also
deliver ways to help designers and their clients establish and meet
ethics and environmental standards? We won’t lose sight of those
questions.

Alongside our coverage of classic forms of visual
communication—including new challenges facing product designers,
ad firms, and in-house designers—we’re reaching beyond
print. Our readers are fearless explorers of craft, fashion, film, and
street art; we are, too, and you’ll see it in our pages.
Non-practitioner enthusiasts and passionate amateurs will also see
themselves reflected here.

We share with you what’s worth
printing, worth posting, worth saving—worth looking at as we face
the world we live in.

Emily Gordon is Print‘s editor in chief. This letter appears in the February 2009 issue of the magazine.

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