A friend of mine asked me if I missed designing print. My response, “Hell No!”
“But, don’t you miss actually seeing what you’ve done? Feeling the paper? Putting it up on the wall, or leafing through the brochure?”
“No. Naha. Nope. Nyet.”
I have no illusions about what I make. It is not art. It is marketing. It is advertising. It is materials to get someone to buy something: a pill, a service, a thing. I refer to it as toilet clogger and to my self as a landfill contributor. The recipient of my garbage usually doesn’t want it. The ads interrupt the vital flow of the story; the flash cards are never flashed again; the catalogues weigh down garbage heaps.
Digital has redefined my world. It has lifted my guilt, because not only am I reducing my carbon footprint and no longer rape forests and the viewer actually wants to visit the site I designed, or the app I built. And, from a creative perspective this is an engaging and more interesting way to manipulate an audience.
A brochure is limited to one dimensional, linear story telling. The bells and whistles such as special die cuts, handles, pop ups were innovations to remedy boredom. They were not durable. The switches, wheels and levers broke after a few uses. However, a website or an app transports the viewer into the experience of the product with the addition of video, animation, 3D pop ups and other digital magic. And, if there is an actual idea behind all the smoke and mirrors, and the message is engaging, the visitor will come back.Take a look at this State Farm site. It interfaces with your Facebook for a fun, personal experience. Each time it is different, entertaining, and engaging. Who said insurance had to be dull!? http://www.seeyourfuturebook.com/
A website can have many tentacles, extending the reach of the message. It is also much easier to add things like Easter Eggs to keep the visitor entertained and coming back for more. However, a brochure’s add on is yet another brochure that will suffer the same fate as its predecessor (how many mouse skeletons can we hide?)
The same is true of posters and billboards. I was at Times Square the other evening. It looks like Blade Runner. I adore the interactive component: Twitter a photo and you can see YOUR face splattered over Broadway. I’m a jaded New Yorker and I still played. The print ads next to the screens looked sad.
My love of digital is not only its environmental friendliness, or its WOW factor. Digital enables me to fulfill my god complex. With my limited knowledge of IA/UX (little enough to be considered very dangerous) I am able to build a face, a world, a maze. I guide the visitor through the labyrinth of information, feeding them the idea behind the product, leading them to the “tada” not only to get the cheese I’m selling, but recommend that cheese to their fellow mice and all the while making them think it was their idea.
As for job satisfaction, creating a website is much more instantly gratifying. Designing on the wireframes is putting lip-gloss on a face, but if the lip-gloss doesn’t match the outfit it can be remedied much faster than print. And, as we all know, modifications are a necessity with digital. Your website “cool” factor becomes obsolete five seconds after it is posted. The bright-shiny-new feeds into the creative ADD DNA. This is also the definition of marketing or advertising: speedy, impulse buying power. Press a button and poof, you’ve got a sale. K-A-T-C-H-I-N-G!!!!
However, with all this progressive dogma I’ve been rattling, I am still a purist and believe there are printed icons that should never be extinct. The New York Times is one of those. It is a Sunday ritual. If you don’t have black ink on your fingers, does it really mean you read it? No. It doesn’t count.
The other non negotiable is books. Not the trashy kind, but real books, things we call literature. A bookstore is my Sunday where Tower Records used to be my Saturday. But, Tower Records went by way of the Dodo. It is replaced by the homogony that is iTunes. I don’t like iTunes. I much preferred going to the record store and talking to people, not chat, or text, but talk to real people and get turned on to music. That’s how I met allot of my friends, and yes, boys. Perhaps all us single NY women should blame iTunes for getting rid of the one place where a girl could meet a guy and have a conversation about something more meaningful than work. iTunes also influenced the way music is made. Let’s face the 90’s was the last time music was worth listening to or buying. This century has been death to the ears and the soul.
I fear that Kindles, iPads, et al will do the same to the bookstore. I love browsing The Strand. And, I engage in conversation with people. That’s how I became a die-hard Murakami fan. Someone recommended it. And, I took her recommendation because it was delivered in person. Her zeal and passion could not possibly translate to 140 characters or less. That’s what is missing from downloads, and social media or anything virtual: the sense of comradeship, a sense of belonging and being with your geek brethren, a sense of intimacy and depth. If you have 500 friends and they’re not really there, are they your friends? I don’t think so. They’re your illusion. There are meds for that.
Books and music are a part of our society. They represent the time and human condition. They are better gauges of our human history than history books since those are written by the winner and don’t hold the objective, soulful interpretation of an era.
Words are art. They are intricate puzzle pieces manipulated to paint a picture, an experience. Although Kindles et al have a great place for things like industry books and fluff, they cannot and must not compete with the personal book experience—an experience that should not be interrupted by email pop-ups, or Facebook trivialities, or pings or dings.
There is something very wrong in my mind about reading Tolstoy on a computer. I’m one of those purists who need the tactile to bond with my material. The cracking of the spine, the turning of the page, immerse me in the world of the book. And, yes, I also prefer my Beethoven with a little needle pop.
Yet, books are in danger of going to the iTunes venue. There are interactive book apps for adults, complete with theme music, art, etc. This is interesting, but frankly of no use to me. I prefer my own imagination to someone else’s. That’s the experience of reading—it is your own, subjective, and very personal. I like to keep it that way.
With the exit of printed garbage, books can live and breathe a life of their own. They can be treasured for the gems they are, the food they offer for our minds. There is a place for both mediums, paper and plastic, but as a society we need to understand the uses of each product and identify where it is better to get paper or plastic.
So, when asking paper or plastic, think a little before you make something, or buy something.