What is print design?

The first time humans used a form of graphic design was when the primitive people surrounded themselves with images and forms of communication in their caves; more than 30,000 years later not a great amount has changed in that aspect. In the modern times print is everywhere, in the books on our shelves or our Kindles to our computers and smart phones.

Like everything else though, there is conflict within print design and it’s community.

“In the matter of layout forget art at the start and use horse sense.”

Simple yet informative – his business card summed up his view point

The words of the man considered the daddy of the term graphic designer by many, William Addison-Dwiggins captures the ideology of the side of the spectrum which favours to make the message as clear as possible before looking at their work in an artistic fashion.

Whereas on the other side of the argument, followers of the view point of British poet and printer Francis Meynell, think the complete opposite and feel that the aesthetic value of their work is their primary concern.

The “epic battle” of form vs function comes from where what the client wants and the artist wants differ. The client, lets say they want a sign for a business, will want something which will function to inform potential customers of their business. However, the artist has a wave of inspiration and wants to explore his creative thoughts and build something quite unique and visually brilliant, but will serve no purpose to the client other than looking nice.

The two have to meet in the middle and work together in creating something which makes both parties happy.

Ultimately though, it is Dwiggins who is correct in this debate as nowadays it is more common to hear that form must follow function, with all artistic additions added being there to draw in eyes and support the function of the work.

Here is an example from the FourFourTwo Stats zone app. In it you can clearly see what stats they are trying to inform the user about, in this case Alexis Sanchez’s attempts at goal and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s crosses vs Burnley at the weekend, and it also gives you a simplified yet aesthetically interesting visual representation which backs up the stats.

An interesting subject to look into is the work of newspaper designer and design consultant Jacek Utko, known for his work with the Polish business paper Puls Biznesu. While speaking at TED (which can be watched here) he talked about how he takes a very “egotistical” approach and how he “wanted to make posters, not newspapers” when it came to designing his front page. His revolution of what is a very formulaic and standardised thing in papers here led to his work being named Covers of the Year three years running.

The argument of style vs content is very similar to form vs function in that some will want more of the other, but it more common when it comes to infographics.

In THIS TED video Jer Thorp talks about infographics and dissects the science behind them and what they can teach the world about… The world. We also see the basis of the argument of style or content when it comes to data presentation. On one side you can argue that how the data is presented in a visual way is important as if it didn’t look interesting then people won’t want to bother reading it or will struggle to get what they want to know out of it. Whereas on the other side, you can argue that the way it looks is pointless and that it needs to show as much detail as possible to inform.

Here are some bad examples for style and content:

Here’s a bad infograph from the style spectrum – I’m still trying to figure out what it’s meant to be telling me…

This is an example of a bad infographic on the content spectrum – There is far too much writing and it is easy to lose track of the dotted line you were following.

Here is a great example of the two working together to create one infograph. It has a very simple, yet is visually interesting to watch and at the same time teaches you which way the wind is blowing over the US: http://hint.fm/wind/

Last year in the Creative Media Sector unit we discussed the future of journalism and looked at how the print industry is in danger of becoming a thing of the past with IT being one of the fastest growing employment sectors within the journalism industry, as more and more newspapers print their news on line, and advertising on social media like Twitter. This also applies to other areas of print design, with books also in danger thanks to devices like the Kindle, which take away the need to carry around books which can take up a lot of space in or can weigh down a bag.

Companies are liking this method more as it is also cheaper as less books produced in paper form means less variable costs, and newspapers are liking it because it allows them to print breaking news any time of day. When was the last time you read a story in the newspaper which you hadn’t read on Twitter, or saw mentioned on BBC News, the Guardian online etc a matter of hours before?

I don’t think the print industry is totally doomed quite yet though. Like with vinyl records, there are groups of people who appreciate the more manual way of doing things, and as Chip Kidd shown, some people look down on Kindles and would rather hold a newspaper or a book in their hands. Personally I am one of those people like Kidd, who feels it is more of an achievement when you open a book and finish it.

Examples of Utko’s work

Going back to the work of Jacek Utko, newspapers could follow in his trailblazing footsteps and radically redesign how the front page attracts any potential readers, using imagery and different forms of fonts to catch the eye, rather than a massively scare mongering headline, with Utko’s work helped sales rise up to 35%.

Also, like style and content, the two can work together to make each one better thanks to things such as QR codes. For the Creative Media Sector (again) we were tasked with making business cards and I chose to make one with a very simplistic design but added a QR code, meaning that people can see the necessary information and can then easily access more information on myself and my work by following the link on their phone.

Try it, it works

A knowledge of file types is essential when working with technology nowadays as they each have their own characteristics and uses. A lot of businesses use PDF files which are read using Adobe Reader as they allow information or work to be moved from one computer to another completely unchanged and also securely as passwords can be added so no prying eyes can have a nose.

Examples of PDF files on my computer

There are multiple types of file of images which are also very different which include JPEG, PSD, TIFF. The JPEG is the most commonly used which can be very high quality and is mainly used for emailing and printing. PSD files can only be opened and altered on Adobe Photoshop and are mainly used for editing as they are layered and remain so even after saving (which JPEGs don’t) and can also be used for printing. TIFF was created as an attempt to be the standardised form of image file but was quickly forgotten as the JPEG reigned supreme due to the fact that the TIFF file took up so much space as it couldn’t be compressed.


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