3 Reasons Print Design Isn’t Dead


Every year, more marketers and designers perpetuate the idea that the print industry is dying. The truth is more complex. Yes, some areas of the print industry are shrinking. But due to a surge in small businesses and startups, there are in fact more individuals seeking print design and printing services than ever before.  And while larger commercial print design opportunities such as newspaper advertising have dried up over the years, there are still many opportunities in the print design space for small agencies and individual freelancers. The same cannot be said for large advertising firms, who have had to shift much of their focus to web and digital-based advertising and marketing. Here are three key reasons why print design won’t be dying any time soon.

Out of Home Advertising

Out of home advertising such as billboards and signage are still very much in demand from the same clientele that has always needed them. This form of advertising is not going to disappear anytime soon, although the nature of it has changed. The process for out of home advertisement now includes a digital component as well as print, such as LED billboards. However, the tools associated with this type of design remain the same. Designers in this field are still using Adobe InDesign and Adobe Photoshop, much in the same way they would have five or ten years ago. In metro areas, bus wraps, subway posters, and one sheets are still viable forms of advertisement for major retailers and entertainment brands. And these industries are by no stretch of the imagination in decline.

Small Businesses, Startups, Entrepreneurs, and Moonlighting

The entrepreneurial spirit is a live and well today. More and more people are dissatisfied with the status quo and are seeking opportunities to make additional money for themselves, or to quit a job that they are unhappy with. As a result, they seek out designers to assist them in building and developing their brand, and that usually begins with a logo design and a business card, as well as other print marketing collateral.

In this regard, print is absolutely not dead. Print is very much an essential part of small business today. The ability to present someone with a business card brochure or flyer has a value that can’t be duplicated with a website. Today’s marketing and branding is about creating great experiences for customers, and print is definitely an experience. Print is tactile, it engages your sense of touch in a way that a website never could. In a subtle way, it even engages your sense of smell. Putting printed material in someone’s hands gives you an opportunity to have a more engaging conversation in real time, an opportunity that would be missed if they simply went to your website. The impression of a physical object that they are experiencing with the majority of their senses in the real world is going to be more memorable and stimulating than most digital experiences. Furthermore, consider that print is no longer just a static form of media. It can be “gateway” media, driving traffic to your website, or engagement to your mobile applications, or bring awareness of your social media presence.

Print Cost Money—and Money is Investment

This final point may seem contradictory, but consider the idea that money equals commitment. When you’re perceived to be committed, you have more legitimacy and leverage in a situation. This is why once you’ve given someone an elevator pitch, they often ask for your business card. Even in this digital age, someone is more likely to ask for your business card than your web address. This is because even today, with all our digital devices, we still value the timeless idea that a professional always has a business card on them. Conversely, many of us have conditioned ourselves to ignore digital ads as just so much noise.

Even today, we still look up and admire the advertisements on billboards. We still stop in the lobby of the theater and look at the posters. Flyers are still the go-to form of advertisement when you want to bring awareness of a local event or a party. Some of this has to do with the simple fact that because a printed piece is a physical, tangible commodity, we value it more then the abstract and intangible advertising in the digital space. We might delete as many as 100 emails in a single day (or even a single hour without) ever looking at them. But if you were to get 100 pieces of physical mail in your mailbox today, the odds are that you would open many of them.

Yes, Print is Alive and Well

So to all the naysayers preparing to dance on the grave of the print industry, you should be aware that the casket is empty. Print is alive and well. Print is thriving and will likely continue to do so as we expand into a more digital age, and digital devices become more affordable and accessible to the masses. As we see a growing surge in entrepreneurs and those starting side businesses, we will see the print industry scale in a way that never has before.

I suspect that even large retail and entertainment brands will ultimately seek out small design studios and individual freelancers to offset some of their cost of working with large agencies, as more of these solo designers are getting experience delivering high-quality print assets while working with smaller brands and start-ups. As a result, large brands could even increase the amount of print work they do, because they’re paying less in overhead for creative cost. So if you don’t think you can survive as a print designer, you may want to take a moment to study where that market is shifting, and where you need to be.

Roberto Blake is a graphic designer helping entrepreneurs and small businesses improve their branding and presentations. He also teaches graphic design and Adobe tutorials through his YouTube channel and community. See robertoblake.com for more details.
  • Zach says:

    Point of sale advertising is another big point. Walmart tried to scale back pos advertising materials a few years back and it blew up in their faces. Retail advertising is dependent on printed pos materials because only they can be cost effectively produced to be complete, relevant, accurate, timely, and accessible while still not being cost prohibitive to replace as needed. LED displays and permanent pos displays go back to the downfall of mass produced POS materials: they have to be kept vague, without anything to improve their relevance or add a call to action because they cost too much to update or replace.

  • One of the clearest and best articles I have read on this hoary old debate. The digital and print media need to realize that they are complimentary visual and marketing media that need each other and can feed each other good work. I have often listened to this sounding off about the death of print media, it is overstated or a flawed perception of one group of pundits working in ignorance of the other. You are correct Roberto, there is a flowering of new business activity going on at grass roots level and further up the scale, now and getting stronger. The small and large business still need physical print in their hand and on the walls as you elegantly described. Sure we need websites and emarketing too. A number of years ago some of the large supermarket stores cut back noticeably on press advertising, their product leaflets and pos print. What happened next is really wonderful for those of us in the design and print media. Along came two German “discount supermarket” operators, Aldi and Lidl. At first the shoppers stayed loyal to the big stores to what they new and trusted. I watched as year by year Aldi and Lidl transformed the public perception of their stores with bright well designed posters visible at walk by distance and – this is the big one there own regular Newsletter/ magazine showcasing their excellent products and Lifestyle. The big traditional stores woke up and started producing print advertising again and a version of the newsletter. That is a lot of money they are spending on print and marketing – is it working? Judge for yourself, in the last month Aldi has overtaken Waitrose as the Uk’s sixth largest supermarket chain.
    Best regards,

    • That is a tremendous story!Thank you for sharing it. Yes we still engage with and are attracted by print media. It is an investment in exposure and brand development. Yes it isn’t as easily measured and tracked as digital, and I have been very vocal about that, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t without enormous value when done correctly and with an understanding of your audience/customers.

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