At times it seems in the design community that printed paper not only doomed, but it is actually something of the past. But is it really so, or does it just seem that there is more web designers than print designers?
The technical mysteries of print design
I understand the disenchantment with print. Print is not as easy as online. Don't get me wrong, to do good UX design and the technical details behind web standards etc. are as complicated as in print design, but getting started and getting something out to people is relatively easy.
If you want to get something on paper you have to embrace a big effort. You have to design your work with a professional tool like Illustrator, Indesign (or Xpress), export it in PDF for print in 4C and get it to the print shop. You have to know about color management if you want to get good results, image quality, paper and many many other factors. WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) is only in part true.
If you are not the kind of guy (or girl) who loves/needs getting a physical product in your hands at the end of your work you might want to pursue print design - but if not, you might be happy by looking at a design on a monitor.
Webdesign is easy
What does it take to publish a site? An online web design degree? Certain artistic capabilities? Turns out the answer is nothing, if you go on platforms like Wordpress.com or Squarespace. Not even professional software. If you want something more personal or "fancy" you have another option. The easiest way to get a site with an original design online is Adobe Flash. The experienced web developer might shook his head, but for the average designer it is actually true. Flash has a bad reputation but I know many designers who like the freedom of just designing something in Illustrator and importing it in Flash and transforming it on a timeline. It's dirty, it's fast, it's commodity design. Believe me, there is a market for this. And as a sidenote, there are things you cannot do without Flash
Design is easy
Another factor in my opinion why there seems to be much more web designers than print designers are the developer/designers. These designers often do not have a design school background, they come from computer science classes. They studied the web technologies and build websites. Designing the website is part of building it, so they often do it themselves. The result might be not as elaborated as a fancy Flash site, but it maybe is HTML5 and webstandards compliant.
Online beats print design 3:1
Finally I want to add all the UX Designers who focus on one work field and excel. They are also doing web design and therefore add up to the other web designers.
Print is not dead
Online and mobile is the "new black" and even the smallest business in the most remote place wants a website. Big companies like swisscom have now a corporate design which works best online (spinning logo).
Still not all the customers are online and not all print design is flat on paper - think about all the packaging and the local "deals" through leaflets and brochures. A inlet advertisement in the local newspaper has a far better reach for a local store than a website. Catalogs and price lists are not dead as well. Many B2B clients of mine wanted to switch to online catalogs to cut costs, but could not because the customers they had simple didn't have a computer in their workshop or preferred a book.
But while printed paper is not going away soon, the graphic designers who design this printed products seem to be invisible. The students coming from vocational schools and colleges are all "multimedia designers", where print is just a part of the mix. If I ask these young designers in what they are interested they will talk about the web and at most about logos (for the website). Print is not on their mind. The only exception is typography - but this is another story.
There seems to be more web designers than print designers. The easy access to the tools and the low cost of delivery make it easy to publish a site. While it has never been so easy to do print design (and have the design printed the right way) it is still not easy getting started. In the end it's no surprise that an aspiring designer tries first the online route.
Foto by Ruben Bos