Thursday, 21 July 2011

Print's not dead

More and more I seem to find myself an analogue Luddite in an increasingly digital world: I like old-fashioned air cooled v-twin engines - and the smell of ink on paper in the morning.

Sometime ago my alma-mater, The London College of Printing blandly re-branded itself as the London College of Communication. Now I see that one of the industry's newsletters - Design Week - has stopped publishing a print version and is only available online.

This depresses me on a number of levels. Despite wasting a lot of my time reading (and writing) stuff on screen  I really do love the tactile and sensory experience of ink on paper. I celebrate the craftsmanship of understanding the manual processes behind design - and I had some of my happiest times fiddling about with hot-metal setting at college.

But this 'digital' obsession reflects the narrow elitism of a media world that is firmly up its own arse. 98% of the UK population don't own a tablet device let alone an I-Pad, two-thirds of the country don't own a smart-phone and a quarter of households don't even have an internet connection. And that's national - if you look at statistics for impoverished areas  like the North-East you'll find that the digital stats drop alarmingly.

As a kid growing up in the 70's I remember being fed images of the year 2000 where we would all be wearing silver jump suits, commuting to work on our own personal hovercrafts and eating our meals in tablet form. Thankfully that all  proved to be bollocks  - and so I suspect is the predicted death of print. As it first was in the sixteenth century, the printed form stills represents the most universally accessible means of communication. Just ask anyone with any sort of political involvement - what's the first thing we all do  - in almost any circumstance -  produce a leaflet.

And here's another thought: As an I-Book, I-Phone user who works in a graphic studio in Soho I suppose I have to acknowledge that I could be seen as a card-carrying  'meedja-wanka'. But I can't help noticing with some ironic satisfaction that the signature object of desire for so many of my fellow meedja-wankas is that most basic of technologies - the fixed gear bicycle. They wax lyrical about the purity of its unity of form and function - I wish they'd apply the same logic to print.

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