Ep 34: Print Design vs Digital Design

As designers, we often have to be able to design for multiple mediums, different mediums come with different requirements and restrictions that a good designer needs to keep in mind. Designing for print versus designing for digital can be quite challenging, so designers need to be able to adapt and learn how to work with either medium. The end result is the same, creating a design that communicates effectively while also being visually compelling. In print design, there are a lot of factors that come into play that aren’t present in digital design.

One big consideration is what the end result will be printed on, whether it’s on a standard sheet of paper, a hanging vinyl sign, or a gigantic billboard, there’s so much to think about. Designers need to keep in mind the physical dimensions of whatever they’re printing on and need to adjust accordingly. A design made for a billboard will have drastically different hierarchy and layout requirements than a design made for a brochure for example. Text and images may need to be bigger or smaller, and intricate details may need to be simplified. Designers need to ensure that the design is legible at the final print size, whether it’s big or small.

Another thing to consider is Color. Digital designs live on screens and use the RGB color mode, whereas print design uses the CMYK color mode. Digital designs use RGB because generally speaking, those are the colors that make up a digital screen. Monitors and screens combine red, green, and blue pixels to display colors, in print design colors are made using a combination of pigments, cyan, magenta, yellow, and black, or key. In today’s digital world, beginner designers often don’t know the difference between the two color modes. When they create a design on their computers using RGB and decide to print in CMYK, they’re often confused and disappointed that the printed colors don’t match what’s on the screen.

This is why it’s important to realize the difference between the two and use the appropriate one when designing. Despite the differences between print and digital design, the core principles remain the same, a designer needs to use all their skills regardless of the medium, this includes a working knowledge of typography, layout, color theory, and hierarchy to name a few.

Print and digital design often go hand in hand as well, a promotional campaign for let’s say a movie, will often utilize a mix of print and digital designs. Movie posters need to be designed both for digital distribution and print distribution, and posters need to be featured on billboards, and wall signs on social media.

Assets will need to be resized and readjusted depending on where the design’s gonna be used. Designers need to be able to use their skills and translate what’s on one medium onto another while keeping the core layout intact. Ultimately, designing for print versus digital is just another thing that a good designer needs to know, though they have their unique obstacles and challenges, a designer’s job stays the same, and it’s to communicate a message effectively regardless of the medium.