Print Isn’t Dead: The Power of Print in Reshaping User Experience

Thoughtfully designed by @deliveredbypost using a mixture of amazing papers from @gfsmithpapers and printed by @ctrl_p_studio

By Don Hoyt Gorman

That new book smell – could it be your next piece of content?

So much of the media we consume these days is digital. It comes to us on our devices; we scroll, distracted by ads and other tabs. Or we actively seek it out, engaging intently with the topic we are focused on but closed to other input.

Print offers an alternative, tactile experience that encourages browsing. Standing out in a crowded market can be tricky but print can invoke real emotions from your audience.

Lean forward or lean back

In 2006, Andrew Rashbass, then the CEO of The Economist identified the growing importance of digital and the difference between consuming content in print and digital. He called it, “lean forward and lean back”. Lean forward is when you’re actively interacting with content; you’re usually there because you’re actively looking for something. Whereas lean back is a more immersive experience; you’re open to finding new things.

A digital piece of content, like this article, usually focuses on one topic and is concise. Digital content might link to multiple other elements but the message is unified by one goal. The one goal or message that has caused your audience to engage with it.

Print content can be more expansive, as this book for Fraser Yachts by Kingsbury Press demonstrates. A beautiful item by itself, it’s separated into itineraries that inspire the audience to browse rather than just outlining specifics of the yachts. Those details are included and the message is that you could experience this level of luxury only with this provider.

Of course, this high-end luxury experience has a marketing goal but it offers more along the way because the audience is receptive and open to it. Print is seen as more trustworthy by consumers than online sources. In a consumer survey 31% of respondents said they trusted print advertising compared to just 11% who trusted search engine advertising. This isn’t an everyday piece of content – it should inspire your audience beyond the usual and reward their trust.

Browsing not scrolling

We spend much of our time scrolling news sites, social media, articles, notifications and anything that is digital, clicking from one piece of content to the next. In comparison, print is linear. It is a directional guide taking you from one piece of content to the next through a natural process of browsing.

Browsing is an open and creative state of mind – we are wandering for a reason. Enabling your audience to experience content in this way allows them to encounter unexpected things. These browsing experiences allow people to learn through a curated experience they would never even have known to have asked for. It’s an unparalleled opportunity to showcase your expertise to a receptive audience.

Your audience will be interacting with a physical object that can’t be replicated online. Indeed, in a survey by Wardor 64% of participants said they enjoy the act of holding a printed book. There’s a moment of appreciation for the thing itself – the texture, weight, colour, smell, binding. And that beds into a calmer state of mind that leaves people more open to experience than a digital interaction does.

For example, this brochure for BECK is a beautifully curated piece of content that visually showcases BECK’s work without specifically answering audience questions. It displays the work that can be produced in a way that encourages the audience to browse. Along the way they may be inspired by what they see, causing them to expand or change their initial project idea.

Tangible differences

Digital experiences cannot be replicated in print and vice versa. Neither cancels out the other and both have a valid place in marketing.

However, in our increasingly digital world, print offers the opportunity to create a luxury experience that encourages your audience to explore your content at their own pace, discovering new content as they go.

Far from dead, print is thriving.