Book of Print

I recently wrote a small book on my love of print as part of a university brief.

Why

Over the last year or two I have developed a greater interest in the workings and the productions of the print industry. It has led me to acquire a small collection of printed material raging from small independent zines to nationally wide distributed newspapers. Each new addition adds to the wealth of inspiration I have at my disposal.

It is becoming ever increasingly easy to pick up a digital copy of a periodical online so it begs the question, why spend the money to have them in their physical form? Each piece of my collection brings delight my senses. The vibrant colours of the photos, the texture of the paper stock, the smell of the ink hot off the press and the way it feels heavy in my hands.

This book talks about my love for print and if you don’t already share my passion I hope I can inspire you to re-appreciate a ‘dying’ medium. If I want to succeed in this task I will need to have created a book that is in itself everything I love about print. It will need to embrace prints physicality, be confident in form and material, exploit the advantages of print and be built to last. In turn this will make my book feel whole and solid in your hands, smell like a print room, be appreciated by even the most digitally inclined and remind people that the printed book can be just as powerful as digital media.

I hope this book can be a piece of art in itself, something that will last the test of time, and be treasured by you, its reader like any other possession. Most importantly though, if transferred to a screen based device, my book will lose its meaning and purpose that I created it to have.

How

So how am I going to make this a reality? In this next chapter I will outline the unique characteristics of print that help it stand out from its crowded digital counterparts.

wood type blocks from uni

Size

You control the size and resolution that your audience views your content. Interesting formats can be square, landscape or circular, the list goes on.

Stock

Different paper textures and finishes can add character to each page. Smooth or rough, glossy or matt, textures can reflect content and juxtaposition can create suspense and surprise for the reader.

Weight

The thickness of paper can create different moods and serve different purposes. Thick card can be used to cover magazines. Wafer thin sheets can create levels of opacity to merge content between pages.

Duplexing & triplexing

When you combine more than one sheet of stock together, duplexing allows a varying edge colour and the ability to add extra effect with die cut.

Emboss

When paper is pushed in or out of the sheet it creates a relief image adding a tangible element that goes beyond the 2D nature of traditional print.

Foiling

Adding an extra level of colour, foiling gives your work a shine and prestige not achievable in ink.

Die cut

Using steel cutting shapes to create bespoke forms can create interesting shapes for items such as business cards or book covers.

These techniques make each page precious and different. they add something tactile that begs to be picked up and experienced.

Creatives

Through his explorations of language Sam Winston creates sculpture, drawings and books that question our understanding of words, both as a carrier of messages and information itself.

Sam’s work cannot even begin to be feasibly transferred to a digital format. He focuses on using words in exciting new ways to help you try and approach them differently. In the English language we have one word for snow, meaning we see snow as one single object. However, eskimo’s have 25 words for snow, meaning they see twenty five different objects. Does this mean that we see less and they more? This is just one of the examples that Sam uses to show how powerful language can be.

Looking at objects and situations for long enough, Sam starts to see them differently and tries to show this new angle in an original and captivating way.

The Church of London is a creative agency that work on a wide range of projects for clients around the world. They also publish two magazines, Huck and Little White Lies, that “embody their passion for creating something of their own, and in doing so connect with other like-minded individuals.”

A few of my favourite publication

The two magazines are very carefully put together with curated content that is deliberate and of a high quality. Its for this reason that both magazines enjoy a small community based following that helps to maintain the magazines individual content. Both magazines aren’t purely design focused but are produced in such a way that appeals to the creative inclined. Its this shared ethos in design, film and sport that led me to keep going back to these publications and to take further interest in what TCOLondon produce.

Time out

Sometimes I get sick of staring at a screen all day. My eyes tire and my head starts to ache. I look forward to detaching myself from the never ending feed that is my twitter account and a day of constantly checking and replying to emails. For a couple of hours a day I can unplug and relax, take time out and get lost in a good book or soak up some inspiration from a great design publication. Recently I have started to read print articles from start to finish giving print my undivided attention. Unlike when I read on a screen or mobile device, that is used to multitask, I tend to flick back and forth from application to application always leaving things halfway through. Print however, serves me with a beginning, middle and end and its this focused time with print that I love. The experience of turning each page over with great intrigue as to whats to come. Layouts that please my eye for white space and invite me to explore the pages content. The feeling of holding something, a physical entity that can keep me company on a journey and at the same time transport me to a different place.

The methods and transport of print means it tends to be a wonderfully slow medium. In our modern world full of instantaneous everything its a welcome break to wait for once with eager anticipation.

Its not just in print where I enjoy the analogue over digital. I would never have learnt how the shutter speed and aperture settings affected the outcome of my photos had it not been for my first 35mm camera. Actually seeing the physical components moving and changing as I turned dials enabled my mind to understand them. I enjoy the time it takes to know whether a shot come out how I saw it through the view finder, whether there was enough light that evening at the beach and if the double exposure was composed successfully. Its this lengthy process of trial and error that keeps me going back to film. Each one of my exposures is precious and symbolises my learning process as well as capturing a moment I want to remember or a feeling I want to remind myself of on a rainy day.

My interest in print has led me to start reading more and growing my knowledge on areas that can improve my design practice; broader design trends. To be a successful modern creative we have to start becoming part printer, part photographer, part coder, part editor and part illustrator. We should be aware of economic, cultural and technological shifts and emerging trends. Keeping abreast of these will in turn lead us to better design decisions.

The future

This chapter examines the roll of print in an ever increasing digital world. I have lifted these words from an article written by Craig Mod titled ‘Books in the age of the iPad’

As the publishing industry wobbles and Kindle sales jump, book romanticists cry themselves to sleep. But really, what are we shedding tears over?

For too long, the act of printing something in and of itself has been placed on too high a pedestal. The true value of an object lies in what it says, not its mere existence. And in the case of a book, that value is intrinsically connected with content. Formless Content can be reflowed into different formats and not lose any intrinsic meaning. It’s content divorced from layout. Content with form - Definite Content - is the opposite of Formless Content. Most texts composed alongside images fall under this umbrella. It may be reflow-able, but depending on how it’s reflowed, inherent meaning and quality of the text may shift.

In the context of the book as an object, the key difference between Formless and Definite Content is the interaction between the content and the page. Formless Content doesn’t see the page or its boundaries. Whereas Definite Content is not only aware of the page, but embraces it. It edits, shifts and resizes itself to fit the page. Of the books we do print, they need to be books where the object is embraced as a canvas by designer, publisher and writer. This is the only way these books as physical objects will carry any meaning moving forward.

Well considered Definite Content therefore should be the driving force of the print industry as the amount of Formless Content being printed decreases.
Craig Mod - Books in the Digital Age, 2010


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