May 9, 2012
Design: Web vs Print

Last night I attended my first Skillshare class: an Editorial Design workshop led by Laura Miner. While we never got to the workshop portion, I still found it incredibly valuable.
The first step to becoming a designer is recognizing what you like and dislike about existing design. Laura had us page through some popular magazines, identify their use of the common elements of editorial design (header, deck, images, captions, etc), and share how we felt they both accomplished their purpose and made us feel.
Fellow student Zach Klein asked a poignant question about the differences between web and print and how they were influencing each other today. Laura noted that a lot of web design was borrowing from print, and print was beginning to reject the elements that the web has adopted.
I found this fascinating, having never designed for print before. I decided to put myself through an exercise when I got home: take one hour (timeboxed mostly for my own sanity) and try to translate something I had communicated over the web into something fit for print.
I selected my latest tywhitelifeupdate (a note I send a few times a year to some of my favorite people, updating them on the nonsense of my life). Traditionally, I send these out via email. They’re littered with links to other content, for those who are interested in learning more on any given subject, but don’t have any visual styling whatsoever. I decided to try to make a print-ready version using the exact same content. The result is above.
I made a lot of mistakes that I would have corrected had I not been timeboxed (frankly, the design sucks, pretty badly). Most notably, I would have spread the content out over more than two pages — the sheer quantity of text made it very difficult to do anything interesting with the photos.
But the experience got me thinking more about the differences between web and print, and what valuable hooks that print has established could be better leveraged online.
Print media has loads of points of entry into articles, many ways to capture your attention if you flip a magazine open to a random page (as most newsstand readers will). Web articles rarely do — they’re increasingly reliant on headlines alone to capture your attention. This, to me, is a tragedy, and one that I hope will be rectified as we move towards a post-PC (/”mobile”) world. That said, there’s little equivalent in a digital world to flipping to a random page.
So much of the focus of written content on the web to-date has been around publishing often and monetizing views. I’m hopeful that as “advertising” becomes more content-aware (see Wordnik as a great example — tap a word in an article to get more info and/or purchase info), the focus of content creation can come back to quality over quantity. When quality comes back into play, so too can scalable content-specific design that makes that content more engaging.

Design: Web vs Print

Last night I attended my first Skillshare class: an Editorial Design workshop led by Laura Miner. While we never got to the workshop portion, I still found it incredibly valuable.

The first step to becoming a designer is recognizing what you like and dislike about existing design. Laura had us page through some popular magazines, identify their use of the common elements of editorial design (header, deck, images, captions, etc), and share how we felt they both accomplished their purpose and made us feel.

Fellow student Zach Klein asked a poignant question about the differences between web and print and how they were influencing each other today. Laura noted that a lot of web design was borrowing from print, and print was beginning to reject the elements that the web has adopted.

I found this fascinating, having never designed for print before. I decided to put myself through an exercise when I got home: take one hour (timeboxed mostly for my own sanity) and try to translate something I had communicated over the web into something fit for print.

I selected my latest tywhitelifeupdate (a note I send a few times a year to some of my favorite people, updating them on the nonsense of my life). Traditionally, I send these out via email. They’re littered with links to other content, for those who are interested in learning more on any given subject, but don’t have any visual styling whatsoever. I decided to try to make a print-ready version using the exact same content.┬áThe result is above.

I made a lot of mistakes that I would have corrected had I not been timeboxed (frankly, the design sucks, pretty badly). Most notably, I would have spread the content out over more than two pages — the sheer quantity of text made it very difficult to do anything interesting with the photos.

But the experience got me thinking more about the differences between web and print, and what valuable hooks that print has established could be better leveraged online.

Print media has loads of points of entry into articles, many ways to capture your attention if you flip a magazine open to a random page (as most newsstand readers will). Web articles rarely do — they’re increasingly reliant on headlines alone to capture your attention. This, to me, is a tragedy, and one that I hope will be rectified as we move towards a post-PC (/”mobile”) world. That said, there’s little equivalent in a digital world to flipping to a random page.

So much of the focus of written content on the web to-date has been around publishing often and monetizing views. I’m hopeful that as “advertising” becomes more content-aware (see Wordnik as a great example — tap a word in an article to get more info and/or purchase info), the focus of content creation can come back to quality over quantity. When quality comes back into play, so too can scalable content-specific design that makes that content more engaging.


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