Print Design Is a Lesser Form of Design

I thought that headline might get your attention. Don’t get me wrong; I love to look at print design, but I much prefer working on the digital side of things. Mostly that’s because designing for print sometimes leaves me feeling trapped creating static, even passive, layouts. Digital design, on the other hand, feels like a much more complete and satisfying experience.

John Maeda once said: “Design is a solution to a problem. Art is a question to a problem.” To me, art is an observation or a statement while design is part of a function. So it follows that if design equals function and function equals design, and print lacks in function, it is therefore, a lesser form of design.

Now that that’s out of the way I look forward to showing you in future posts why I believe digital design is superior to print. If I’ve pissed someone off, feel free to badmouth me in a comment below.

I’m gonna try to post something every day regarding web/interactive design, with a bit of favoritism towards Sweden.

10 thoughts on “Print Design Is a Lesser Form of Design

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  2. E-Dogg

    I personally LOVE print design… I specifically love it because it doesn’t require I be attached to some device sucking fossil fuels. I don’t WANT to be on a beach reading an egocentric blog or mindless Twitter posts… I don’t want to read e-magazine or e-books simply because I enjoy the tactile life. Print and web continue to co-exist and will for some time… as with all new things, there’s a rush to adopt and appear excessively hip/valid, and then the wave ebbs a bit and reaches a more sustainable level. All I know is that after teaching design to younger kids, they all loved print and tolerated/accepted the digital. It’s the touch… the REAL if you will… But both mediums do have uses that are more or less propietary or best served by one form or the other. THAT is the goal… find what suits each best and carry on with life. And by “life” I mean life that’s not defined by the latest e-device or staying “connected” 24-7-365 with mind-numbing trivial information we can all do without.

  3. Alvalyn Lundgren

    So I think you’re going to need to make the case that print is less functional than digital. That’s going to be a difficult case to make. Print is a different medium with different sensibilities, interactions and environments.

    Also, by “digital”, I assume you mean web, motion and interactive media as the end result. Because most everything in print is developed digitally.

  4. john witcombe

    I do agree with the posted criticisms and would just add that for me a printed page is restful and allows time to think, too often digital pages do not. Great if you need a hyper but not otherwise. Still, times are a changing.

  5. Jhol

    The worst kind of designer is one who has prejudices of things and of their functions. Your title is great, but his speech fails to convince. thanks by the intention.

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  7. Hansam

    Having worked on both sides of design for a number of years I hopefully stand on middle ground on this one.

    Yes, digital design gives the creative more leaway in being productive in a ‘tradionally functional’ manner, as it empowers the designer with a million ways of producing emotions in an interactive environment that can be far more engaging than print. Also, more often than not when you ask a print designer to indulge in this discipline they will reluctantly agree or politely refuse.

    But similarly, I feel that digital designers have yet to grasp the finer points of print design which, in my opinion, is quite often a tougher task master than digital design. How many digital designers would relish the prospect of creating compelling and emotion enducing design with the limited raw materials at hand, not to mention being ‘clued up’ as to the limitations and requirements each piece of design has to adhere to with regards to the production process of the print.

    Although at the moment the distinction is becoming more and more obscure with digital designers offering print design and vice versa, there is a distinction. I wouldn’t dare to call either disciplines lesser, just different.

    It’s like telling Monet that he is a lesser artist than Jimi Hendrix because at least the latter moves about and makes noise, likewise i wouldn’t say that Jimi is a lesser artist because he is not as beautiful and thought provoking to look at . As my old thermographic printing friend used to say “swings and roundabouts son, swings and roundabouts”.

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  9. John McWade

    Not lesser. Different.

    As a lover of print, I’m sure that eloquence is possible here, but I lack it, so I’ll just compare the two to still and motion photography. Each does things that the other can’t. Print is painting on canvas; in the hands of the masters, it is sublime, dynamic, fluid, bold, incredibly powerful. Lesser designers create passive, static, even banal layouts.

    Same is true of digital design. The masters move mountains with it; the inexperienced make animated clip-art, poorly.

    As for function, you can say that a book lacks function. It doesn’t move. Likewise, a movie lacks function. It doesn’t stay still. But stillness is a virtue. It gives the reader time and space, vital for thoughtful reflection and deep learning. It allows the reader to wander the theater of his own mind, fashioning characters and scenes as he sees them. A book discloses the thoughts of others, impossible in a movie. The reader controls the rhythm and pace. These are real superiorities.

    Digital design has the huge benefit of interactivity. And sound. And light. It presents us with the physical world pretty much as we experience it. It is the superior medium . . . when the physical world is what’s required . . . which is often.

    Print designers are the ones who brought order to the Web. (This page, for example, is pure print.) Ten years ago it was visual chaos.

    The iPad will merge the two in ways we have yet to discover. I, for one, am looking forward to it.

  10. Nonnu

    I think you are opening a Pandora’s box with this headline. But then again that’s your point.
    Yes in part you may be right because Print design will eventually evolve towards Digital or Interactive design, as much as Illustration has evolved towards animation. But like the latter example they both co-exist because their function is different, that don’t mean that one is superior to another, they both serve their own purpose. It’s the same thing with print. You cannot say print lack in function.
    For example: Imagine that you publish a Digital project and a print project. The user has a power failure that lasts 24h. Which one of the projects is still usable?
    After both are published one as more chances of keeping their function then the other.
    I know that that is not your point, and yes know that I am waaaay off. But so is your opinion on Print. And yet I will look forward to your posts.