The Personal Disquiet of

Mark Boulton

Yes, we know the web is not print

– January 2nd, 2007 –

I’ve just been directed to a article on About.com stating that Web Design is not Print Design. Just to forewarn you, this may turn into a little rant, but I’m hoping there will be some interesting points raised.

The article starts off well with the standfirst; ‘Learn to relax your design requirements’. One of the hardest things for designers who straddle the two media to do is to relinquish control. This should not be misunderstood or scoffed at (as it so often is by web designers). Print designers are taught to solve visual problems based on a wealth of history of the practice. A lot of that problem solving is accomplished in a media where there are established conventions and parameters; from the methods of production to delivery of the content.

It’s a top-down process. The designer designs for the audience and has control over their solution. This is the way they are trained and it is a tough job to relinquish it.

Some of us have made the transition but are still very much learning. Others (and I’m talking about high profile designers here) have simply given up on the web until it has ‘grown up’. It’s a damn shame, but when the division between the two facets continues to grow, articles like this only serve as rubbing salt in the wound.

So, what, on New Years Day, got me so wound up?

There are a few things all wrapped up in this statement:

As you’re a designer, you’ll need to work with customers. You will be doing them and yourself a disservice if you don’t explain the difference between print and the Web. Especially if you bring your portfolio as print outs. This is a common problem, where the customer expects the printout to represent exactly what the page will look like… but remember that the Web is not print, and bringing a print out is not a strong representation of your Web site design skills.

I think this is just plain rubbish. If a client thinks the website will be exactly as the printouts, then that is your failing as a designer by not conducting the presentation correctly. This is often the result of misunderstanding, not the result of paper. I find presenting on paper, especially early on in the process, as a very conducive method for client engagement. They can engage with paper, scribble all over or tear up and throw in the bin. You cannot do that with a screen. Paper is more immediate and less precious.

So, I guess there are a couple of things which are happening within graphic design. Web design has been for a long time now separating itself from its print based brother. Now I know there are fundamental differences in the medium of delivery and, in many cases, the nature of the design. However, I believe this is a bad thing. If you have a background in print design, don’t forget it. If you don’t, I think you should do some reading.

You could totally disagree of course, or you may be bored to tears with the whole thing, but the old ‘print verses web design’ argument never fails to spark an interesting discussion.

Filed in: design.

Further reading