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Paper and print: when does print work best, and when does digital do it better?


By The Drum Team, Editorial

July 24, 2012 | 6 min read

The Drum recently caught up with specialists from every part of the print process, from designers and publishers to printers and paper merchants, to talk tactile experiences, print v digital, and what the future holds for the industry.

Here we delve into the print v digital debate, asking when print works best and when digital does it better.What does print offer over digital?
  • Kerr Vernon, creative director, KVGD: You might be able interact with pixels on some level but you can't physically feel them. With print you can feel it, smell it, own it. It's a legacy to the brief and what you were asked to do or create. Pixels and the digital realm to me is just so transient. Most digital designers I know would love to be producing great print materials and I think that speaks volumes.
  • Mark Diggins, senior designer, Kent Lyons: In our book Pulp–Paper Phil Evans of dn&co says “Paper is simple, immediate, portable, flexible, functional and doesn’t need batteries. It also does a pretty good job of wrapping your chips.” I have always enjoyed this summary. It also ages beautifully, is collectable and desirable in a way nothing digital can be – you bond with paper, possibly because of growing up in an age where books were treated with reverential respect. It will be really interesting to see how designers in a few generations time feel about paper and print having grown up in a world of email, touch-screens and Kindles... it’s quite exciting to think I will still be designing through this period.
  • Gary Wheat, business development director, USP Creative: In my opinion print offers a tangible, tactile end product that can create a brand memory if undertaken with creative skill and finished well.
In what areas is paper and print best, and when does digital do it better?
  • Jane Hudson, managing director, Forever Creative: Nothing can beat a creative brochure or direct mail piece for creating that wow factor. Paper and print also comes into its own when communicating detailed information or for use at events and exhibitions. However digital marketing wins hands down when it comes to providing feedback and an immediate response. The key as always is to select the right medium to communicate the message in the most effective way possible.
  • Gary Wheat, business development director, USP Creative: I believe in marketing ourselves as an agency, printed communications are more memorable than digital communications. The targeted printed communication that hits the right notes with the audience creates a memorable experience in the readers mind. This often forms the basis for us to introduce USP Creative to prospective clients so it needs to make a great impression that reflects the quality of our service. However if we required instant news to be put out into the ether digital will do it quicker.
In what ways can print and digital work together?
  • Graham Congreve, director, Evolutionprint: Unlimited – as long as part of a supporting strategy to drive both on-line and off-line sales. E.g. POS, sales promotion, events, information, high value marketing collateral.
  • David Allsopp, director, ASAP Digital: Not only does a mix of communication mediums enhance brands, they can effectively work together to create a marketing solution, which adds real value by engaging customers with measurable results. An example of this is using variable data printed pieces that are specifically targeted and personalised to engage a customer, combined with digital solutions for example a corresponding personalised web page that enables further interaction. This kind of communication has proven results to increase response rates and improve customer retention giving a far better return on investment than static printed or passive digital communications alone.
  • Jane Hudson, managing director, Forever Creative: Print and digital can work brilliantly together and it is often when they are pulling in the same direction that the most effective campaigns are created. Some of our best results this year have been from using traditional marketing techniques such as press advertising, billboards and direct mail to direct consumers to microsites and websites where a more targeted interaction can begin.
  • Gary Wheat, business development director, USP Creative: They are both an integral part for any brand-building.
Is designing for print more difficult than designing for web?
  • Kerr Vernon, creative director, KVGD: It's not more difficult, it's just a different discipline. To paraphrase Louise Armstrong, there's two kinds of design – good and bad. I think there's considerably more pressure in getting it right when it comes to print. I'm working on a big document just now and the print run is 20,000 copies. If there's typos or the choice of stock isn't right then heads are going to roll. With the web it's a quick, easy painless fix to correct any mistakes.
  • Justin Hobson, marketing director, Fenner Paper: In my opinion, there is good and bad in both print and digital design. I don’t think it’s any harder or more difficult. Either relies on experience and the ability to turn a creative idea into a practical, feasible reality, within budget.
  • Jane Hudson, managing director, Forever Creative: As with all things designing for print is easy when you know how. I certainly don’t think it is any more difficult than designing for web. However it is more expensive if you make a mistake so it is often difficult for designers to get the backing to try out innovative new techniques. This is where the support of a good print rep is crucial as they can offer invaluable advice and guidance.
  • Mark Diggins, senior designer, Kent Lyons: I would say they both require a similar level of consideration. To be successful, both need to take account of the users experience and interaction with the design. As far as basic form is concerned – you need to be aware of the pixels available to you – and how your imagery and type are going to be effected by that... there is no such thing as half a pixel. Increasingly clients want their site to work across several media: web, mobile and tablet... this requires a lot of consideration in design and build. In the same way, you can increase the economics or diversity of a print job by understanding the size of your press and the artwork you can lay-up on a plate.

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Kerr Vernon

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Forever Creative

We are a design and marketing agency based just outside Manchester with extensive experience in Branding, Advertising, Digital, Print, Direct Marketing, Exhibitions...

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USP Creative

USP is a creative consultancy run by business minded creatives for creatively minded businesses.


For over 25 years we have built brands that power...

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Evolution Print

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