Receipts to shopping lists – Why is there such a stigma surrounding print?

Receipts to shopping lists - Why is there such a stigma surrounding print?

The ongoing division between print and digital leaves a sour taste in a designers’ mouth. The discussion that print is dead finds this particular designer challenging everything about the inevitable shift to a digital world. But why is there such a stigma regarding print?

One of the biggest myths surrounding print is the sustainability of paper. If you’ve ever printed a document with a large pagination the phrase “I’ve just printed a tree” might come to mind. But this is far from true. For starters, no matter how big your document – a couple of pages or a hundred – a tree in the grand scheme of things does not produce just one ream of 500 sheets of paper. If it did, then the sustainability of paper and print should be up for discussion. But it’s not.

So why is there such a stigma surrounding print?

There is enough research readily available to determine paper a resource that does little harm to the world we live in from an ecological standpoint. Yet the stigma still exists.

Perhaps it is unawareness, or lack of understanding, as to what print stands for. We live in a world where technology is deeply rooted into the core of our day-to-day lives. When was the last time you disconnected to pick up a piece of paper? Our reliance on digital technology is deeper rooted than prints decline in the publishing industry. It extends to writing shopping lists on our mobile phones instead of a simple piece of paper. Shops now ask for your email address to send your receipt to your inbox rather than print a small piece of paper. The irony is, it takes longer to correctly type your email address and further details than it does to print a couple of centimetres of paper that makes up a receipt.

Our reliance on digital technology is deeper rooted than prints decline in the publishing industry.

These are basic uses of paper that have been around for decades. They are not inadequate or outdated. They are as functional as ever and just as practical, if not more so, than a digital reproduction.

Admittedly if the self-serve machine at Tesco asks if I would like a receipt, I decline. Not because I’m concerned about the amount of paper used – it’s so thin in weight the thought does not even enter my mind. It is more about cluttering up my pocket or wallet with something that will never be looked at. Especially when the receipt says you successfully paid for your milk and no other items.

Receipts and shopping lists are just the beginning in a recent shift to an extended paperless existence. Gone are paper bills that would come with much fear when received in the mail. And so too has drawing and colouring on paper to entertain children.

Gone are paper bills that would come with much fear when received in the mail.

Technology seems to have everything covered. But this still does not explain why there is such a stigma surrounding print.

When it works, technology is great. That is undeniable. The division between print and digital however is beyond the point where the two can work harmoniously together to build cohesive brands and products. It is either one or the other; a messy divorce where mum and dad are pulling you from both ends to choose where to live.

Where is the happy medium in between? The current population is saturated with a generation of technologists but the traditionalists, whom grew up on paper and print, far outweigh the new wave generation. While the traditionalists have embraced the convenience of technology they have great love for print. Technology cannot emulate the romanticism of print. It has tried with ebooks and online magazines, but it cannot compete with the feeling of physicality and the way it stimulates the brain. The traditionalists have grown up with print, the stigma does not stem from here.

It is either one or the other; a messy divorce where mum and dad are pulling you from both ends to choose where to live.

So while the question of why there is such a stigma surrounding print has not been answered, where the stigma comes from has eradicated a large percentage of the population. To take this further we need to look at the generational gap and how that impacts the technological divide. Further studies should, in theory, show the link between age and technology. This will confirm where the stigma surrounding print comes from and lead us in a direction to determine how best to change the perception of print in the digital age.

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Caitlin is obsessed with all things design. When she's not busy working on magazines and newspapers, she's juggling freelancing on the side and a masters degree. You'll likely find her in the gym or cooking up a storm in the kitchen when she manages to step away from the computer.