thoughts by Mike Frost
Print education / educating print
During a conversation I had at recent visit to our printers, I got thinking about the myths, reality and the opportunity that lies between the two when considering a life in print. The results of which ultimately left me with a classic case of the what ifs…
“There’s just no interest in print anymore, it used to be the go to industry for school leavers looking for apprenticeships but that’s dropped off. It’s become incredibly hard to find young people with a passion for print”
– Robert Martin, Epic Print
In many ways this statement didn’t surprise me; print is one of those hot topics that you often hear broad sweeping statements about – PRINT IS DEAD! Another big glossy magazine goes online only! All the paper mills are closing down!
It’s also an industry that’s largely taken for granted – most people have experience using a desktop printer at home, work or school and (to some extent understandably) there is an assumption that the print industry is just an upscaled version of the small grey boxes that churn out 60 pages a minute. Press button, select quantity, wait….
Simple, automated, bland and entirely inaccurate.
HOT OFF THE PRESS: PRINT IS DEAD!
In reality print is a lively and vibrant industry – full of craftmanship, problem solving and creativity. But when you consider the above, it is without wonder that school leavers aren’t queuing at the door of their local printers to start an exciting career.
I’ve always been fascinated by print, growing up I loved supermarkets for the shear volumes of print on display, in fact I still do. I can lose hours of my life studying products in the aisles like paintings in a gallery, the careful management of ink, creative use of material, structure and substrate, the painstaking bringing to life of the whims of us designers.
When a design goes into production, it leaves the design studio as a digital file, travels through the ether and miraculously appears days later in physical form.
Inspiring the next generation of print makers
It was the obsession with the tactile beauty of print, ferociously fighting for my attention which led me to pursue my career in design, but what struck me when talking to Rob is that we scarcely considered print as a way of curing that itch – and I couldn’t help but question why?
Like most designers – I love print. As a studio we champion it, fighting for the right production to finesse and allow ideas to shine. Any opportunity to spec a fluro Pantone, metallic foil or spot UV and we’re all over it! During University it was the print based modules that truly captivated my imagination; after a brief induction to the print facilities I managed to convince my house mates into turning our student bathroom into a DIY screen printing studio ( of which I apologise to the landlord). Such is the drive to put ink onto paper.
So again, why doesn’t it occur to young, aspiring designers that print may be a prosperous and inspiring career path?
The world of printing and putting ink onto substrates is as important to a brands reputation as the brands representation online, or in its advertising. Poor quality or production values means a beautiful design can be left lack lustre and invisible to the passers by. The magic happens when great design studios work with great print technicians to push the boundaries.
A time to dispell the myths
For me it is vital that we start to forge the links between higher education courses with the world of commercial printing.
Whether this is to create pathways for career progression; or simply to educate budding designers on design for print production, the mystical world of pagination and technical swag, the onus falls on education to champion this 500 year old art form.
We need to dispel the myths which tarnish the industry as being passé or antiquated; educating about the creativity that lives within the heart of this industry and establish hands on programmes that allow students an opportunity to learn more about working within contemporary printing practices; be that a module as part of a degree course, workshops, printers open days, internships or apprenticeships.
The world of print surrounds us yet for most it is taken for granted at best and at worst completely ignored. It feels like now is the time to shine a spotlight on these unsung heroes of the design industry and create clear bonds that allow the print industry to grow and thrive.