Taking stock

30 September 2010

This is an old post, so may include broken links and/or out-of-date information

Paper. There's a lot I could say about it.

I could go into detail about the way a particular paper stock feels, its grain and how it holds ink, or voice my concerns over how much paper (and other stuff for that matter) is wasted every day and the impact of this on our environment.

You'll be pleased to hear I won't do either to any great extent but the fact is, when it comes to paper, 'reduce, reuse, recycle' has become mainstream. How many of the emails in your work Inbox end with the missive "Don't print this email unless you have to"?

Here in the office, we only print when we need to, reuse paper when we can and, of course, have a recycling bin. It's acceptable, sensible and it just seems 'right'.

Having said that, I wouldn't want to work in a completely paperless office.

Not solely because I design for print but because I simply love the stuff; for me there ain't much better than going through the post and finding you've been sent a beautifully printed … something or other. Little things, eh?

In many cases, printed materials are still a great – at times the best – way of communicating with selected people. And there's my point; selected people.

Folks don't want to be bombarded with stuff that they're going to put straight into the recycling – print just isn't the best way of communicating a general message to lots of people. There's something else which does that much better.

The internet's open to all (theoretically), so has loads of benefits in terms of reach, expanding audiences and, not least, accessibility; but receiving a high quality, beautifully crafted, tactile object is so much more personal, more human, more emotional, and it can leave a hugely positive impression when well-matched to the person receiving it.

Besides this, one of print's supposed flaws I see as one of its strengths – it can't be instantly altered. What's good about this? It has permanence, longevity, certainty; this can lend printed materials a huge degree of credibility compared with online communications which can be amended at the click of a button. (I'm talking good quality print here, not churn-it-out junk mail sort of stuff.) Print is often maligned as wasteful, but I think the trick is simply to be sure to choose the right tool for the job.

So; my hopes for the future of print? Increasing use of recycled paper stocks; shorter print runs of higher quality things; and pieces that are designed carefully, to be 'keepable' rather than bin-bound.

In essence; sustainable, lasting quality over general, throw-away bulk. Hmmm; let's see …

The photos are of print samples from, respectively, Typoretum and The Mandate Press.

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