Why is print design still impactful and important in our digital age?

In the digital age that we currently live in, more and more physical mediums are disappearing. It’s not all bad—the digital space has made it much easier for artists, writers, musicians, and more to get their work out into the world. It’s cheap, it’s easy, and never before has it been simpler to get your work noticed.

But is there something that is forgotten when physical medium is left behind? As a self-taught designer, print design is how I first became interested in graphic design. It wasn’t enough that I created something that lived in 2-d space on the internet, and I remember when I first got to hold in my hands something that I had designed: a poster for an event for a local non-profit.

I remember having to teach myself so much: bleeds, safe-areas, ink types and colorspaces. I remember ogling my design going margin to margin. I remember the weight of the paper, how heavy it felt in my hands, how substantial it felt.

With print medium, the physical dimension of touch brings another type of intangibility to the world of design. How many of us have held up a wine bottle with a beautiful label and rubbed our thumbs across the label to find that it was wonderfully textured? Or held the business card of a colleague, with its perfectly chosen thickness and soft, eggshell color? For me, the physical dimension of print design brings a joy that digital design simply can’t—touch, after all, is one of our primary senses, and there are qualities that only touch can illuminate.

That’s why when I designed The School Garden Cookbook for the non-profit organization I was serving at, I knew that it had to have both a digital version and a physical version. The digital version was to make it as accessible as possible for anyone: if they were in California, they could easily download the book. The physical version was for schools and teachers in Georgia so that students and teachers could hold something, could cook from a real cookbook and leaf through the pages as they might do of their grandma’s recipe book.

And Grandma’s recipe book is exactly what I think about when I think about the power of print design. The physicality of the object itself holds significance, and that’s something only print design can accomplish.

This essay was submitted for The Chelsy Tomashoff Memorial Scholarship for Print Design Excellence, a scholarship established by Thomas Group Printing that is open to any undergraduate or graduate student in design, art, or visual communications programs.

Click here to view my School Garden Cookbook.