March 11, 2015

From Digital to Print: 5 Design Lessons

Published: 11 March 2015 

As a designer there’s usually that one thing you’re really good at and have a burning passion for. Your specialty could be digital, branding, magazines, web or print to name a few. Specialising is important, but sometimes it’s good to get out of your comfort zone and try the other areas as well – get new creative impulses happening and keep on learning! Here at Matter Solutions, we recently took a step in the direction of offering print design collateral for our clients. As digital people, we noticed significant differences between these two major channels.

1. Time Allocation

When you’re used to working on a type of design, you roughly know how much time it will take and what’s included in this time. You probably also have a good process in place to make sure you’re spending the time in an efficient way. A possible pitfall you might encounter when moving from digital design to print design is that time is spent on different tasks.

The biggest difference, though, is that you have to make sure everything looks good when printed on paper. That doesn’t just mean displaying your document on the screen in 100% and evaluating whether it looks good or not. When you’re designing on a screen, it’s hard to see if certain details — like font size, line height, opacity and other elements — look good until you print it out and see it on the medium and in the context it’s being designed for. This needs to be done at certain increments, and you would need to allocate time to include this in your process.

2. A World of Typefaces

When designing for web, you’re constrained to choosing websafe typefaces from services like Google Fonts and Typekit. These services have great collections of typefaces available for your use, but you can find yourself in that awful situation where you’ve found a great typeface that fits your brand perfectly only to realise it’s not available for web use. You know the feeling. When you’re working on print collateral, you are not constrained to this limitation, and there is a world of possibilities out there for you! With that in mind, you should remember that some typefaces work better for digital than print and vice versa – you might have to build a new repertoire of your favourites specific for print.

3. Aligning with Brand

When creating collateral for your brand for two different channels like digital and print, there are different types of elements that need to be designed – these might have small variations in style to fit the medium and target audience. The important thing to remember is that, even if you’re designing different items with some variation within the same style, you still need to stay on brand and follow the brand guidelines (if any have been set).

4. The Extra Details

One essential factor to consider within digital design is the interactions between the users and the medium – what happens when you hold your mouse over this section, or when you click that? There’s a whole range of possibilities of visual feedback from user interactions, and these days there are less technological limits stopping you.

Obviously, print design doesn’t support this. Does that mean you can’t use any exciting effects or add that little extra to your design work? Of course not! It’s all about the paper and what you can do with it. Say you’re creating a business card, and you don’t want it to look like any other plain one – choose a thick matte paper and add a colour along the edge. Not your thing? What about printing it on thin wood, or using letterpressing? There’s a whole range of possibilities, you just need to know how to make it happen.

5. No Turning Back

Once you have sent a design off to be printed, there is no chance of turning back and making changes. It’s not like digital design where text and other elements are often dynamic and can be updated upon request at any stage. Because of this, it’s extra important to emphasise quality assurance of your work – make sure you have that final look through it all to make sure every small detail is aligned and sized correctly. If you’re going to be a perfectionist, now is your time to shine.

As you can see, transitioning from digital to print design can be challenging, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing. Once you get into it, your process starts flowing more smoothly and you might even discover that you really like working with print! Take the challenge and widen your horizon.

Ben Maden

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