How did the internet change graphic design?
The internet has made a massive difference in the graphic design industry. The marketing landscape has changed a lot, leading to a change in consumer behaviour. And all of this has meant that designers have had to adapt and change to not only keep up with trends but to take into account advancing technology and things like social media.
Looking back at the early to mid-eighties, online communities and digital marketing were unheard of. We were still living in a world where print advertising was king, and consumers relied on newspapers and magazines to learn about products and services.
Even into the nineties and the early noughties, graphic designers were still developing the majority of their skills in print media, such as brochures, flyers, posters, and traditional advertising – though we were starting to see an obvious shift with businesses starting to pick up on banner ads as the internet as a whole began to be more accessible and widely used. And that is where the biggest changes started to happen.
The print advertising age
In the old days, we used to get things printed to send out in the post or design a brochure or ad, aiming to make a better impression than other designers doing the same for their clients. Businesses would then follow up, usually by telephone, to build a rapport and sell something. It was methodical, extremely well-targeted, and awfully slow and expensive.
Back then, a lot of people were used to having a daily paper through their door, as well as print magazine subscriptions, many of which came with little flyers tucked into the covers selling all sorts of goodies. You still see them sometimes, but nowadays, most people, particularly the younger generations, have forgone print media and get their information mainly on the web.
There is, however, an interesting overlap…
The new print age (yes, there is one!)
People nowadays are so much savvier when it comes to how they buy. We no longer trust traditional advertising – most people would rather not be sold to in that sense. With all of the information available online, it’s a lot easier to research products and services, and most of us will do at least some research online before we decide on our purchases.
That shows in modern print design. If you see flyers, brochures and advertisements that are produced these days, in most cases, they’re not trying to sell you something. Instead, they will direct you to some online source to research or learn more about the company or the product. It’s less about selling and more about sharing information.
The world now, like it or not, is online. So businesses invest a lot of time and money in getting their print material to guide people to their websites and online spaces – where they can build relationships and communities that will eventually buy from them. Online is where sales happen – not so much advertising in print.
Modern graphic design
Businesses need a strong online presence to succeed, with websites being the most essential tool for building sales. Social media outlets like Facebook and Instagram are vital for growing audiences and guiding people to those websites.
From a graphic design point of view, not only have the tools we use advanced massively, but many graphic designers now have chosen to focus more on on-screen design, like websites and online/social ads. Many graphic designers now sell themselves as ‘web designers’ and specialise only in that area.
It’s no longer about designing to sell. Nowadays, it’s all digital – website design, social media posts etc. And the main focus is now much more statistics. We measure the success of a design by how many likes it has, how many people have viewed it, and how many times it’s been shared.
We no longer have tangible items to admire; instead, we focus on creating images that will achieve a clicked button as a way of admiration.
That’s where our efforts must be. Our designs must be able to ‘stop the scroll’ and encourage people to follow the path from a graphic to a website to a sales cart. And that’s a whole different skill.
Has the internet killed print design?
I don’t believe that’s the case at all. The internet has changed print design, but print is still a big part of most businesses' marketing strategy – it’s just that it’s moved away from the ‘Sell! Sell! Sell!’, and instead needs to nurture and guide the audience to build relationships online through social media graphics and quality web design.
Although many designers now put much of their effort into digital design, I think those who can adapt to both print and digital are perhaps well-placed to future-proof the industry. Businesses will always require a mixture of both, so if we can offer that, we can be that ‘go-to’ for many different types of business.
What are your thoughts on this? Do you design predominantly for digital? I’d love to hear your views.