Why print anything any more?
More specifically, why print PRINT?
I am no starry-eyed dreamer. Even as a former reporter, I do not subscribe to print newspapers merely for the satisfaction of saying I do so. I read news online. I also am not in denial of the fact that to create Print, we ironically (and delightfully) use every means of digital trickery at our disposal. Moreover, I fully recognize that no matter how much we kid ourselves that anything in print is ultimately more eternal than anything else, even the permanent is impermanent. One day, after I’m gone, my children will study the artifact you’re holding and decide its fate—and after that, it’s up to the sands of time.
In this issue, Jason Tselentis talks with digital guru Peter Cho and print extraordinaire Tod Lippy about print’s place in the modern world. One of their points of consensus: Yes, times have long been changing for the medium.
But what is fit to print—what really deserves to be run through colossal machines to be inked and chopped and bound and delivered—is a notion that’s more vital than ever.
I believe that PRINT is fit to print. It is a collection of ideas. It is a catalogue of debate. It is a volume of inspiration. It is a timepiece, its flag planted in the ground of where design has been, where it is now, and where it’s going. It is meant to be held. It is meant to be smelled. It is meant to be kept. It is meant to give you paper cuts, if only to remind you that what you’re holding is real.
As any designer will attest, a magazine is not an easy thing to create. Why go on such a quixotic quest when the return is often so low? It comes down to what we believe in. What matters to us. We cannot divorce ourselves from the medium and the deep passion and love that we have for it—a magic that many of us, creators and consumers alike, still crave.
Every time a new issue of PRINT comes into the office, I greet it with something akin to holy reverence. And once a card is laid, it is played. There is no going back. There is no quick update function to fix a blurred image or an errant word. A printed product is what it is, warts and all. It is real. And that’s the way I like it.
When I try to articulate why I love print so much, I generally fail. I lapse into one cliché or another, and seek to put new words to an old feeling that so many of us have had for centuries.
It is an inexplicable thing, a ghost lingering in the moonlight. But those of us who have it, have it. And there is, in the end, no need to explain it.
This year, PRINT turns 75. The weight of that is also difficult to articulate—and honor. You will likely notice that this issue is heftier than most volumes of PRINT over the last decade. Our publisher decided to consolidate the six issues we were producing annually into four thicker issues—which has ultimately resulted in more pages for 2015 than were produced in 2014. Upon notifying our core contributors, one asked if this move was, at heart, a survival tactic. Indeed, creating fewer issues results in lower postal and production costs. We could justify the change in any number of ways, all of which I believe—it will allow for a more comprehensive look at our subject matter every issue. It will allow for a collectible volume that does not feel like a simple, disposable magazine but, hopefully, something more. It will harken back to PRINT’s roots as a quarterly publication.
But in the end, to me, it’s all about creating something that is, indeed, fit to print. If I had my insane way, every issue would be hardbound, in excess of 200 pages, featuring a cavalcade of ephemera that would fall into your lap and bombard you with design upon opening it. But we all know that we must work within the constraints of budgets, rising costs and all the other elements that define the scope of a project. If you think about it, it’s the same game that we’ve been playing since the medium’s inception. And that, perhaps, is the essence of print today: It’s the ultimate design challenge, the design challenge of our times.
Is print dead? Will PRINT make it to 80? All I know is that right now, in your hands, in mine, PRINT is alive.