Friday, August 12, 2005

Die Hard

Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.
--Niels Bohr (1885 - 1962)

According to a recent survey print design is still going strong even in this age of electronic and broadcast media (MAN Roland report as reported in the July 2005 Graphic Design USA magazine). There are several reasons for this, but the most telling is a quote by one of the survey participants:

"There is nothing as great as curling up with a good book or magazine outside under a tree, or by a warm fire in the fireplace...Also paper letters! A dying art form. People treasure written love notes, save wedding invitations, funeral cards. They just can't be replaced by e-cards."

The idea that e-books, broadcast media, or the web will replace print is always a gross overstatement. If anything, electronic media will simply augment the existing and familiar communication of print. Each supporting the other. After all, there is often the need for print communication to alert people of the presence of a website, even though search engine rankings can increase awareness.

People connect with printed objects. There was a survey done on mail and electronic advertising vehicles, and direct mail still tops the list as most effective and desirable (2004 DMA Response Rate Report Summary as reported in EU Services News Insights December 2004 newsletter). There is something about the tactile that creates a curiousity and sense of excitement that electronic media just can't produce.

If you think about the history of communication the prognosticators are often wrong whenever they predict the demise of traditional media, in light of new technology usage. Radio never replaced newspapers or magazines. Television never replaced radio. Cassette tapes never replaced records. (Although CDs did do away with records, the process took an agreement with different market sectors to basically force the change.) The web will not replace print communication. People just don't feel the same in front of a screen, as they do holding simple and personal technology of print.

A couple of years ago after a devastating storm came through our area, someone said something I will never forget. Part of their job was to help residents devastated by the storm with needed emergency information. They said, "Even though it is easier to get a website up with this information, my clients demanded that I give them printed materials rather than a website address, because they couldn't get the web when the power was out, and their home was destroyed anyway."

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