Preview: 46th Annual Print Design Survey
PUBLISHER’S NOTE: MIXED SIGNALS
With the economy contracting and digital media expanding, one might reasonably expect this 46th annual survey to show our readers fleeing from print design. One would be wrong. The findings indicate that professional graphic designers remain deeply committed to the medium as a practical, and a philosophical, matter. That said, the signals regarding the state and future of print are mixed: there are clouds, most notably less volume of print work, and silver linings, such as the steady growth of digital short run printing and online print buying. Here are excerpts of the results: the full report, complete with provocative reader comments, will appear as a cover story in the June edition of Graphic Design USA magazine. A special thanks to Modern Postcard for making this enewsletter report possible.
— Gordon Kaye
The survey affirmed one thing, first and foremost: Even in a multimedia world, designers today still value print for its classic strengths as a medium — permanence, tangibility, physicality, sensuality, convenience, portability, authenticity, confidence. Indeed, many respondents report that these qualities and characteristics can be more important than ever in the ephemeral world of digital communications because they offer a human connection otherwise missing in our daily lives.
IT’S THE BUSINESS
Print and collateral continue to anchor the business of graphic design, much as it has for decades. Some 93% of GDUSA readers work in print as part of their mix, more than 70% of projects involve print, and nearly 85% say they spend the majority of their time working in print, all figures similar to the prior year.
DESIGNERS ARE DECIDERS
Graphic designers also maintain their pivotal role in the print process, with 87% of readers saying they specify paper in their jobs, 86% buy printing as part of their responsibilities, and the vast majority ranking themselves as the primary “decider” in paper decisions, again figures roughly consistent with the past couple of years.
Sustainability exerts an increasingly powerful impact in print decisions, as exemplified by the record 58% of designers say they spec environmentally-friendly papers, the 57% who are doing more so this year, and the growing number of designers who say that “green” printing and third party paper certifications matter.
DIGITAL AND ONLINE PRINT BUYING
A couple of non-traditional print buying options are surging, including such as the remarkable (and record shattering) 84% of readers who say they are buying or recommending digital short run (on demand) printing, and the 44% (and growing) who are purchasing printing online for certain jobs. The emphasis on ease of use, affordability, precision and customization seem to resonate with today’s designers and the ethos of the moment. Still, designers express concern, especially with online printers, that quality, price and customer service must meet traditional standards.
SOME FUNDAMENTAL QUESTIONS
Despite the graphic designer’s clear and continuing commitment to print, the volume of print work overall is dropping — buyers and specifiers are buying and specifying less. This raises some fundamental questions about the trajectory of print communication: Are we experiencing the cyclical and temporary impact of the economy? Or a watershed cultural and technological change that will finally force graphic designers to abandon their attachment to the printed piece? Or a middle ground in which print lives as a more targeted, rarified and personalized component of integrated branding and marketing?
Check out the June magazine, in your mailboxes on June 15!
A MESSAGE FROM MODERN POSTCARD: