Following the Future of Web Design Conference in London earlier this year, I came away feeling quite baffled by the words of Italian web designer, Chiara Aliotta, who boldly claimed that ‘the future of web is print’.
Unconvinced that digital design was heading in the direction of anything even remotely print-related, I wondered whether this was just a bold statement made for the sake of it.
Despite this, I soon noticed websites that were instantly reminiscent of print design. Beautifully designed and painstakingly crafted, they are set apart from their rigidly structured counterparts by means of fluid aesthetics and graceful flowing pages.
The accidental-on-purpose overlap of different elements, the disjointed alignment, the use of serif fonts are all key elements of print-inspired design – not to mention the lavish indulgence in negative space.
Of course, not every site can afford a full print-inspired design. When considering both the practicality and functionality of this style, it doesn’t quite work for more complex sites that are primarily designed and built to make the user’s journey as quick and easy as possible. In this scenario the design is required to sit in a rigid template across each page, in which the content has to fit.
This is generally best practice for companies where speed and cost-efficiency are a priority. There is also the obvious question of whether a high-end print style is on brand or not. Good looking though it may be, a Vogue-esque print-inspired website isn’t going to fly on a price comparison site.
Fashion sites however, which have a heavy focus on photography like chpt3.com (above), are able to take advantage of a relaxed print approach thanks to their luxurious branding, simple content, and an audience with the time to sit and browse the site at their leisure.
Brands such as these are able to create their designs around the content rather than vice versa, therefore demanding a unique layout for each page.
There are also many print publications that need to translate their look across digital platforms. A good example of this is interviewmagazine.com (above), which firmly establishes the magazine’s online presence without forfeiting any of their print-originated branding. However, they could still take their design one step further by giving the site a more engaging, full page layout as seen on linesconference.com (below).
Whilst I don’t agree that the future of web as a whole lies in print, I will say that we can take inspiration from print trends when thinking about certain types of digital design. When used appropriately, and for the right brands, a print-style design can really give a site that unique edge and free-flowing feel that isn’t always brought into consideration when designing.
As with all good lessons, the message that ‘the future of web is print’ stayed firmly with me and will certainly inspire the way I approach design work on future projects. Kudos, Chiara.