A Designer’s Take on Print as a “More Precious Thing”

If you subscribe to the signaling theory of marketing, you realize that your actions as a brand speak volumes about your business.

“Almost every element of marketing sends a signal,” writes Patrick Strother of Strother Communications Group. “If you simply advertise, it signals a level of success that provided you with the financial capacity to advertise. It also signals your product has achieved a level of success that implies it is accepted. If you have a regular, well-written blog, it signals you have a commitment to sharing knowledge and are likely a thought leader.”

For designer Lucienne Roberts, this signaling helps explain print’s ability to make an immediate connection with an audience.

“Print has become a more precious thing,” Roberts said in an interview with Print Power. “And when you consider newspapers, books and magazines, the ones that are most successful are those that devote serious time and thought to what print does well.”

What print does well, Roberts believes, in engage on an emotional level.

“Recently, we’ve seen more and more designers experimenting with print in these ways,” says Roberts – “paying more attention to the things print can do that digital can’t. Colour is one example; but also beautiful inks, finishes and folding. Not forgetting that the paper itself is a form of art.”

She gives several examples – like ANGFA’s washable book and Volkswagen’s caution to Swedish drivers – that utilize the tactile abilities of modern printing to “show” rather than “tell” an emotional story.

It troubles her that there is a gulf between what the general perception around print and the reality. As Ebiquity’s Re-evaluating Media report shows, “there is a worrying gap between what marketers think drives an emotional response, versus what actually does. For context here, marketers put magazines in fifth spot, when in fact they are the second-most powerful channel,” the article continues.

Part of the problem, of course, is the overuse of print that doesn’t take advantage of print’s potential benefits, and a lack of awareness of what constitutes truly great printed material.

“Great print design isn’t as appreciated as it should be – and I wonder whether there’s enough education around what it takes to succeed,” she notes.” And that you need to have certain ‘persuasive skills’.”

She’s made it a personal mission to help raise awareness of the rich tradition of print, through her work with the graphic design advocacy initiative GraphicDesign&. Ultimately she helps make us all more aware of the precious nature of print … and what it says about the brands that use it creatively and powerful.

Print sends an important signal in this age of too much noise.