Think ink!

‘The ‘digitisation of everything’ explicitly threatens to supplant every single ‘old’ medium while claiming to add new qualities…as we have seen with records, radio and video. On the other hand, none of these media ever really disappeared; they merely evolved and transformed. The printed page is the oldest medium of them all and seems to be the last scheduled to undergo transformation’

(Ludovico, 2012, p15)

The end of print. Is that really our next step in evolution? Everyone had noticed that paper print is becoming more and more replaceable, but since it stuck around for hundreds of years is really in danger of extinction?

After a short introduction we were asked to write a list of the different print media in our life story and categorise it. Here is what my list looks like:

Lifestyle                                       Vogue
Childhood                                  Asterix & Obelix
Collectables                              Cinema tickets
Life management                 Newspapers
Childhood                                   Agatha Christie’s Poirot series
Academic                                     Exam sheets
Mementos                                    Museum posters
Collectables                               Movie leaflets
Life management                   Calendar
Mementos                                     Family photos
Life management                    receipts

As you can see print is still very much a part of our lives. I’m not saying that nothing has changed since the beginning of digital era. On the contrary we now witness the revival of print. The variety of independent magazines, experimentations, journey from web to shop (not the other way around) as it was the case with Magma, where we can purchase an exelent, high quality printed magazine ‘Elephant’. It is the development of the technology that made print highly accessible enabling small publications (such as Zines) to run. As the editor of the magCulture Jeremy Leslie said ‘it is a golden age of creativity and magazine making’. Designers are now able to push boundaries and experiment with print as they did in this raising awareness magazine which ink was mixed with HIV+ blood.

ThinkInkSlides18Jan2016

Digital world did not end print. Ironically plenty print enthusiasts are gathering online to organise meetings, form communities and talk about print. Publishing fairs are becoming more and more popular allowing individual artists to sell their unique work.

London Book Fair

‘Letter-press printing communities are emerging everywhere, creating original cards and posters in response to their mass-produced counterparts.’

(Huffington Post, 2009)

In the second part of the lecture we were divided in to groups and asked to create a Tetrad of ‘Print 2016’, which is a diagram examining the effects on society of any technology/medium designed by Canadian philosopher Marshall McLuhan.

MediaTetrad

ENCHANCE:

More (better) thought through process

Association with intelligence

Physical reward (texture)

More extensive colour palette

REVIVE

Positive impact on social ties

Flexible format (not limited to the screen)

No instant distraction

REVERSE

Can’t be updated

Can’t be edited

Higher costs

OBSOLENCE

?

As print has been around longer then any similar media it is hard to say what can it make obsolete.

During our seminar we had the most exciting debate about whether print could be replaced by the digital world and what is really the value of traditional print. We talked about the phenomenon of paperless societies, whole companies functioning almost without any paper! But just because something can be done does it necessarily means it has to be? Do we want libraries to become museums children would visit to see the ancient books that people once had to carry around? We mostly agreed that it is not what we think would happen (and established that we definitely don’t want it to). Answering the second question wasn’t so easy. Suddenly room divided into two camps: traditional (T) and anti-traditional (A). We based our discussion on the example of letterpress. The claim of A was simple: when we end up with the same outcome creating piece with letterpress and InDesign, whats the point of all the hard work that comes when using letterpress? T had a hard time admitting that sometimes the outcome was really the same, but even then they still defended the old technique. One of their main arguments was the satisfaction deriving from manual work. Then A accused T of focusing only on the creator leaving the audience out of the discussion. After 20 min we established that when it comes to letterpress often the only difference is the one to the creator.

Beside the obvious things that this discussion and the tetrad has given us (such as no instant distraction, flexible format, creators satisfaction and higher costs) there is one thing that does not come as a first thought. It is the simple fact that print is a physical object (which caries with it higher ownership value). It not only allows us to touch it (fell the texture) but it also possesses a value digital work often doesn’t: the truth. As a less anonymous media then the internet people tend to treat it more serious. Also because its more real – you can actually touch it.

‘Sight gives us dreams, touch gives us truth’

Johann Gottfried Herder (1778)

German philosopher, theologian, poet

Bibliography:

  • Hara, K., (2007) Designing Design. Lars Muller Publishers, Zurich
  • Jamieson, R., (2015) Print is dead, long live print: the worlds’ best independent magazines. London and New York: Prestel.
  • Ludovico, A., Post-digital print – the mutation of publishing since 1894. onomatopee77.
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