What Designers Are Thinking When it Comes to Print

GD USA released it's 49th Annual Print Survey this month, and while I can't say I'm surprised by the findings, I'm always interested to see what designers think about the state of print. And for the record, can we all please refrain from repeating the "print is not dead" mantra - enough already. We all know it's not the case and saying it just makes us sound like we have an inferiority complex.

According to the survey designers still value print (I told you it's not shocking news).  Print is a classic: tactile, permanent and personal.  It just works. The survey also points out that print remains a critical component of design, with 86% of respondents designing for print and 74% of their time (on average) is spent working in it.  The one thing I was kind of taken back by was the fact that almost 25% of respondents said that the work they do in print has INCREASED over the past year.  Here's the breakout:
PRINT. . . . . . . . . . . . .    96%
ONLINE . . . . . . . . . . .    72%
POP/PACKAGE   . . . . .   62%
TV/FILM . . . . . . . . . . .   23%
Despite the fact that for many their roles have changed, designers still have control of the project. Nearly 90% say they spec paper (yay!) and buy printing as part of their job, and 75% of them are the primary decision maker when it comes to print. (sidebar, if you are not specifiying paper when you print, you really need to start now - ask your merchant for help with this). Despite the attraction of all things new, traditional print formats remain the "bread and butter" of the design field. Brochures and collateral take the lion's share of projects, followed by promotion, direct mail, and identity - see the complete list here.

While print may not be the headliner it once was, there's no denying it's role as the Paul Giamatti of graphic communications. This makes print a strategic player in a multi-channel marketing world and often means print is used to enhance and compliment integrated campaigns rather than lead them. 

Another point to note, printers and their relationships with designers are still very critical in determining where and to whom the job is awarded - while price is a consideration, it alone is not the determining factor.

Also ever important is technology - designers are looking to take advantage of all that's available, from VDP to PURLs, 72% say they are incorporating these components into selected projects. So it should come as no surprise that designers are buying more digital printing than ever before - with 80% saying they have increased the amount of digital print buying they've done in the past year - and suppliers take note, they want paper options when it comes to this format. (yet another reason to get to know your paper merchant. Hey, these jobs are short run so better to know up front if that pearl linen sheet is available before you show the client).

You can read the complete survey and its findings, in the July issue of GD USA.  For more info on how to work with a paper merchant to specify the right paper every time, click here.


  1. i totally agree with this survey.. nice work

  2. While we may be partial being on the supply side of the industry, it's always great to see what the drivers behind the demand for print think.

  3. This is old news, having been a strong support of Print, I have used the GDUSA study for the past decade to prove the point, that designers, in fact the creative and marketing industry has had a strong though fluctuating love for all that is print. The problem is not the stats, the problem is for an industry that “communicates” as its professional benchmark, “print”, the data that supports the designer/print link has in most cases be poorly presented.

    GDUSA and it’s publisher Gordon Kaye have and continue to provide strong support and the logic to the integration of the creative and print vertical and yet outside of our immediate sphere of influence how much have you heard of the link, not much!

    Look to what SAPPI has done with the introduction of Standard 5, a true not a fantasy journey into the depth that has been added to print and how a designer or in that matter nearly anyone in the segment can adapt to the future of print. The Print Council (printinthemix.com) offers a most exciting series “Print Delivers”, which in my opinion should be seen by anyone in the creative zone of impact. Even the aged United States Post Office offers, “Deliver” a wonderful magazine that provides a steady stream of valid print and non-print information. The Printing Industries of America (printing.org) offers a website that is loaded with supportive information as do many others.

    Need more, look to the very recent stats offered by a variety of industries that indicate that print, yes print is the best method or preferred method to garner new business.

    Print has never been a headliner; it has always been and will continue to be the very strong and talented supporting actor in the marketing movie of commerce, engagement, sales and measurement. A role which does need to win the best supporting actor award, no a role that just needs to be seen as it really is, an integral part of a complex process, that provides measured valued added benefits, to a vast variety of cast members.

    Prints problem in part is the term itself, it is limiting. Print competes against e-commerce, f-commerce, m-commerce and more, print should be known as “prnt commerce”, a profit producing and supportive tool in nearly any sales process.

    Not the solution but certainly the first step to find the answer.