A Curmudgeon's Delight!!! Making predictions for the New Year. One prediction at a time.

This is the year (2014) most people give up on print. Not everyone. There will be magazines for a while longer and printing on product packages but I'm pretty sure that the days of spending money to print a nice, four color brochure to hand out to clients (who will look at it once and then toss it in the recycling bin) are largely behind us. Yeah, I know that you love print and I love print but the smart companies are already in the habit of sparse printing. Just try getting a nice, multi-page 9 by 12 inch five or six color product brochure from Apple. Probably not going to happen. Come to think of it, the last time I went out to buy a car no one at the Honda dealer was rushing to put slick car brochures in my hands either. My graphic designer wife says they still print brochures for medical product companies but really, that's just because professional medical practices don't subject themselves to endless e-mail and the purchases they make can require time in committees to approve.

When my plumber came by to show me some new faucets for the kitchen, he wiped his hands off, grabbed an iPad and scrolled through the choices from Kohler and the other makers.  It seemed natural enough to me. Consider the last time you bought a pricey camera. I'm going to bet that the real manual came on a disk. The manual for my Galaxy NX came....from the web. None in the box. No more print. Print isn't vanishing everywhere. It will leave the middle of the market first. The rich will still be courted with nice print pieces because it's codified as part of the dance. And the poor will still get printed information because a web infrastructure is still cost prohibitive for more people than we think, along with the barriers to the sort of mainstream acculturation that seems to let us (the educated middle class) know almost by telepathy where the good information lives.

When I say "Print" I mean brochures, magazines, direct mail and point of purchase materials. You'll of course understand that I am a commercial photographer. I am not necessarily saying that from this point on no photographer will print their own work, have a show of prints or print a portfolio. But think about it. We've been trained all of our lives to accept and understand the printed piece. How will the mass psychology of the marketplace shift when we make the collective decision to let so many pieces of print go away?

The advertising won't vanish. It will go where it's been  heading for the last fifteen or twenty years. It's all heading relentlessly toward screens. We've done a masterful job weaning the newer generations off print entirely. We react with screens in a different way. There is an implicit understand that the images contained on screens are ephemeral, fleeting. The images will ultimately become short fuse consumables instead of physical artifacts. And maybe for industrial prosperity and efficiency that is a good thing. Disappointing to the generations whose primary interaction was with prints and the printed page but probably inevitable.

Fortunately, even for the curmudgeons, the screens get better with every generation and that gives them less to bitch about. Funny to think about the future of gallery shows... Instead of walking around in a room full of prints perhaps we'll be ushered to chairs and we'll watch images float by our eyes on giant screens---with all the resolution and color we've wanted---one image after the other. Cycling around again and again.  Perhaps there will be multiple viewing stations where little groups of gallery goers can congregate and they'll be able to set the speed at which they are able to consume the proxy of the art.  Probably cheaper than framing and mounting.

At any rate I hope they don't do away with the wine and a nice buffet at the art openings. That would be too much!


David Liang said...

I'm a little sad to agree with you that print is done. I still have a rather massive and personal comic book collection in my closet somewhere. I still have the urge to read a comic since a few of my friends still do, but they do so on iPads with subscriptions. When I conjure up an image of me reading a new comic it's of me holding a printed one. Thus I've yet to read a comic in almost 10 years.
On the other side I couldn't be more anxious for print advertising to go. I go to my mail box daily and find myself and others in the condo, instantly filling a large garbage bin full of ads we don't care for. Each time I do this I feel a little guilt and a little anger, for having been given something that's of no use, and being the one to throw it away as if I'm the waster. When I want something from ikea I go to their website, on any number of devices. Putting a 4 page ad in my hand does nothing for me.
I may never read a new comic in the old way again, but I'd rather have that than waste more paper needlessly.

ODL Designs said...

Hey Kirk,
Good prediction, but I dont think print is going to disappear quite so fast for a number of reasons which I wont go into here... It will drift away I would image more when our personal smart devices have a bit more of a connection so we could walk around trade shows tapping our device on something and downloading product info.

I know many feel with QR codes we are nearly there, but NFC tech is probably more like it, faster easier etc. You dont need WiFi and could just download the info with a simple tap.

Until then lots of companies will need items on paper, it will slowly, year after year become a smaller piece of the market.

All that aside, you know what sounded really depressing for me... The idea of going to a gallery, being seated and a screen sat in front of me... *shiver* why go out at all... I can do that at home!

Have you seen Wall-E could be a prophesy :D

Merry Xmas

steveH said...

Being a techinical writer in a previous life, I got to see the beginnings of this trend a good 15 years ago or so as our documentation suites transitioned from a roughly 4-foot shelf of paper docs to digital documents distributed on CD-ROM to a slip of paper somewhere in the product (workstations and servers of all sorts) packaging pointing the user to a website address.

Well, mostly. Regulatory fine print and lawyer repellent still had to be packed with the products in the box on paper. So maybe the ones who figured that the paperless office would arrive shortly after the paperless bathroom will turn out to be right in the end.

Jimmy Reina said...

I just visited two exhibits at The DeYoung Museum (San Francisco), and both had screen components that were more than just slide shows.
Many of David Hockney's Ipad sketches were projected on individual wall screens, some portraying the drawing in "real time", as it was being created.
In that exhibit, and the adjacent one featuring "Art of Bulgari".
there were also large electronic folios, which lit up the display on each page as you turned it.

Anonymous said...

Doubt print is going anywhere soon. Mass market stuff will in to screen, but niche carefully constructed print is undergoing a renaissance.

Check out Stack magazine subscriptions. It's amazing!

Anonymous said...

To those who say paper/prints are dead, check out this video http://vimeo.com/62470169
Hope there is a resurgence in appreciation of fine art photo prints.

cholst said...

Another item in support of your thesis: Sea Kayaker Magazine, the premiere North American news magazine for sea kayakers for nearly 30 years, announced last month that it is ceasing print. It will be succeeded by a free, online publication called Open Water.

There has been no word yet on the economics of the decision, but in addition to other currents affecting print media, interest in all kinds of outdoor activities and organizations has been declining among young people.