Printing for Graphic Designers

New Babies, Sibling Rivalry, Visions of a Bizarre Future

Being a designer is like being part of a big family. And like any big family, this family can be a serious pain in the butt. There’s always new babies coming along, and everybody loves the new baby. It’s so cute and different and it does so many great things that you – now the neglected middle child – could still do perfectly well if someone would just give you a chance.

Right now, web design – you might even say web 2.0 – is the adorable new baby that everybody’s cooing over. Of course, it was fun waiting for the little tyke to be born: there was so much new technology gestating, so many fun plans to make, and everybody still wanted to hear what you had to say about the new arrival.

But now that he’s out there – all clean and smooth and rosy-cheeked – it feels like he’s the only game in town, whether you specialize in graphics, marketing, or even copywriting. But wait! There’s still a big, beautiful print design world out there! How and why has it suddenly become the overlooked middle child?

Design 2.0

When you’re designing for the web, the line between the designer that creates the concept and the programmer that publishes the design online is exceedingly fine. So fine, in fact, that at times it is virtually non-existent.

This means that online, designers and programmers work together in an environment where ideas are liquid, where the divisions between creative vision and technical excellence are smashed, and the phases of conception and publication meld together in order to create a final product that is well integrated and accessible.

As does any next-gen offering worth its buzz words, the online design baby is changing the way that we work together, and even the way that we think about the design process, which means adapt or die for the print designosaurus.

This doesn’t mean that print designers have to suddenly start offering a web design service to their clients. If you don’t know web design, take your time getting comfortable with it before you make any wild promises. It is, in the words of the Design Wizard of Oz, a horse of a different color.

Keeping it Real on the Front Lines of Print Design

Instead of rushing to compete, many print designers are finding ways to refine their own processes, and continue to create offerings that are too innovative and too high-quality to be replaced. Here are a few things that you can do to occasionally rip the limelight away from your rotten little sibling:

  • In the 19th century, publishing companies like William Morris’ Kelmscott Press created the great rift between fine art, design, and production. Web design is making its mark by blurring these distinctions, and you can, too.
  • Instead of going into the printing business yourself, and settling for low-quality DIY print solutions, use a professional printer that specializes in full color offset lithography, or even letterpress work. The difference is in the quality.
  • Rather than just sending work off to the printers, develop a close relationship with your printer – s/he is an artist too, with technical insights that can make or break your design concept.
  • Work with a printer that has design expertise, like the team at Hot Cards. These specialists can come at any challenges in the printing process with a designer’s eye. They also know when to back off and just let your baby be your baby.

All in the Family

It’s only a matter of time before ALL print materials are replaced by organic LCDs and even vehicle wraps have to be compatible with the invisibility shield on your flying car. When that happens, web design will be bumped out of his new baby status, and you’ll be there to pick up the pieces.

“Now you know,” you’ll soliloquize consolingly, “how all the old ad-men and artists felt when desktop publishing came along, or worse, how all those old monks with their scroll-y writing felt when Gutenberg blew them all out of the water with typography.”

It’s a big, messy, pushy family, this design family – depressingly hard to capture in a nice photo for the mantelpiece. Still, there is something to be proud of there in the profusion of shapes and fonts and colors, styles and trends and cut- throat rivalries. Viva la familia! Long live design, and may all little brothers someday have little brothers of their own. That’ll teach ‘em.

This series of articles is being published by Hot Cards as a resource catering to our amazing variety of clients. If you have a printing question or interest specific to your industry or specialization, let us know, and we'll work on featuring it here.