The implications of a ‘paperless world’.

A relentless shift from printed media to respective digital counterparts has got people talking about a ‘paperless world’. Is this a good thing for design? Or are we going to lose all that beautiful printed media?

Forest

The Environment.

According to this article there’s a very fine line between reading the printed page and receiving information on a screen when talking about what’s best for the environment. There’s a lot to consider; manufacturing techniques, transportation, recycling and disposal are some of the biggest issues but to sum it up; if your already a heavy computer user it’s best to also use your digital devices for reading magazines, newspapers and to consume information in that way, if you’re not a heavy user it’s best to stick to books and lurking around your local abandoned library.

But technology is being developed much more quickly than the paper industry. If in the last twenty years we’ve been able to not only invent new ways information is consumed but match the existing methods in terms of environmental impact while bettering them  in terms of speed, popularity and reach then surely digital information will soon evolve in such a way that it has less of an environmental impact. Perhaps we are heading toward a ‘paperless world’…

Varnish

Print finish.

Like many designers I love print finishes for their ability to add value to a printed product. Print finish techniques would be sorely missed in the design community if we did live in a completely ‘paperless world’. You certainly can’t gold emboss, letterpress or matte finish a touch screen…

But does a ‘paperless world’ need to be such an extreme scenario? Could we not simply reserve paper as a luxury and have it’s rarity add even more value to the tactile medium we love? This luxury theory could be applied to many new green technologies, the automotive industry for example; electric cars are becoming more and more popular much to the dismay of motoring enthusiasts, however the atributes ‘petrol heads’ value are those of a luxury nature, a roaring exhaust and the power one feels when in control of a large engine don’t ease congestion or even get you to work any quicker than an electric car would. If these benefits were reserved for exclusively pleasurable and luxurious occasions we would live in a much nicer, healthier, more colourful world.

It may take time for these principles to set in but when they do the decrease in demand for paper would reduce mass production and drive up costs to the consumer. This would have two effects on the creative world. Firstly businesses will be less likely to invest in things like beautifully print finished stationery. However this decrease in popularity will only exaggerate the value that these print finish attributes add to printed mediums and the printed mediums themselves will become a valuable attribute in their own right. Design will evolve naturally as it alway has, but for those of us who like to look ahead, perhaps it’s time to start focussing our work on more technologically based outputs. Video, web, animation, interactive solutions and interfaces…

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