Print vs Digital or Everything That's Old is New

Here’s a history lesson. Yes, and it's about me. Then you’ll learn all about how print is useful in the digital world.

That's me. Circa 1972, wearing Seafarers - the real kind - with buttons. And my first car, a '63 VW safari top. 

That's me. Circa 1972, wearing Seafarers - the real kind - with buttons. And my first car, a '63 VW safari top. 

I started my ‘career’ in advertising as a paste-up artist. Even more exciting than that, I was creating technical manuals at the in-house department of a high-tech company. When high-tech was called electronics. The company also had one of the largest in-house print shops on the West coast. It was also the ‘70’s and I wore Seafarers (by the way, they’re coming back, say hello to high-waist jeans).

Lesson: Don’t throw out those jeans. Put them in the attic for 40 years.

So that job gave me a background on production. From writing, designing, illustrating; to shooting, stripping and plating film; and on to printing and bindery. Great boot camp for a newbie.

All of that is relevant today. All that stuff we actually did on a board is now done on your little ol’ Mac – but you know that.  So all those tools in your workspace relate right back to the good old days. Cut and paste.

Lesson: If you don’t understand the process from start-to-finish, you’ll have no idea that what you do or don’t do affects the next person (or three steps from now) until they complain. Then you get do to whatever you did – over again. Understand process.

So, I caught this piece in the Denver Business Journal that print is making a Big Comeback. It’s a friendly, albeit fluffy read. But it makes the point that direct mail is relevant and it ties in with digital. The writer’s connection to digital is a stretch, but I’ll make a more direct connection. Read on.

In my glorious past, I transitioned from paste-up on a board to using a Mac, the internet was invented, and I witnessed the change to where driving eyeballs to a website was the New Goal; and even got to see the first iteration of watching real-time as a user navigated a site. Then that became illegal and it evolved to Big Data – which seems to have some sketchy components.

Anyway, we had this odd transitional period – from getting junk mail to your home and telling them about cool stuff, to sending people to your website so they could experience it – we had to tell them you had a website. This is the digital connection.

You didn’t know that the world didn’t automatically GO TO THE INTERWEBS?

No they didn’t. This was pre-dot-com.

So whether business or consumer, we did a lot of direct mail – ink on paper delivered to you via USPS – and then directed the eager public to websites to tell them all about awesome stuff to buy. And we started tracking them. Early Big Data.

On to digital. Faster. Cheaper. Prolific.

These days my email in-box is full of all kinds of stuff I don’t read. As of this morning, I have 198 unread emails in my TRASH. I received two items via direct mail – the print kind – today. Two-for-one buffet at my local casino, and 20% off at Bed Bath and Beyond. Easy.

Get it? I know what those two pieces said. I haven’t a clue what’s on those emails.

Lesson: We’re on digital overload. For me personally, I look through my mail. Even the stuff addressed to resident. There isn’t that much, really. And I don’t have to click, scroll and read. Thank you.

Maybe it’s time to try out print. I personally love print. If you’re a designer, and you understand print – paper, ink, foil, die cutting, folding, bindery – and finally hold that finished product in your hands, you understand. Tactile. Thoughtful.

Even a postcard can be (and should be) done well.

Quit filling up everyone’s email with crap. Getting something wonderful in the mail is so rare these days. And did you ever think that going to direct mail you would be cutting through the clutter?

Now go forth and design something for print.

Final lesson: Be sure to follow USPS guidelines. Never assume anything when dealing with a quasi-governmental agency.