In 2019, it is a common refrain that print is dead, whether that be printed books or publications, like magazines and newspapers. However, this is not entirely true, as these mediums remain popular among many readers, both young and old.
Following this belief, a group of RMIT School of Communication & Design students has produced a book called Print is not Dead under the direction of Steffi Neukirchen, who lectured at RMIT Vietnam in 2016 and 2017.
“Personally, I like books a lot. They nourish our senses in a very specific way like no other technology can,” said Ms Neukirchen, who is a German graphic and interactive designer.
It is true that many print magazines and newspapers are struggling, while digital reading devices have replaced books in many houses and smartphones lure millions to their screens. Nonetheless, Ms Neukirchen wanted to prove the title of the book, that print is not dead.
She worked to make sure the students, members of a generation which grew up with easy access to digital technology, connected to the project. The first step was allowing them to choose their own topic, something they were passionate about.
“I motivated the students to alter their concepts with digital technology, so it was on one hand celebrating a traditional medium for what it is and for what it can communicate, and at the same time motivate the students to think ahead,” she explained.
One student, for example, incorporated augmented reality (AR) into her project.
“Her book was about Native American stories and mythical creatures from the stories, and you could take her book cover off and spread it out, and it showed a map of the territory and you could use an AR app to see the creatures,” Ms Neukirchen said.
The students fully embraced the project and its themes.
“What the students really liked was to be in touch with the medium, with books, to look at books, to see specific examples,” the former RMIT lecturer said. “We went to the library and they could read, touch and carry around books and really get into the medium.”
RMIT Vice President Academic and Head of the School Communication & Design, Professor Rick Bennett, concurred: “It went massively well, the students were really engaged by it and produced some beautiful outcomes which were exhibited in the library for a number of months.”
He added that Print is not Dead comes at a crucial time for print and other analogue forms of communication in academia.
“Nowadays in design and digital media, there are frequent arguments about whether you should teach things like analogue photography anymore, and how to develop photographic film. Sound recording and everything else has gone digital, so how far do we actually still teach traditional methods when everyone else has stopped doing this?” Professor Bennett said.
“I think it’s very clear that print isn’t dead, and long may it live, and I think there will be a happy medium of screen readers and physical page readers well into the future.”
Story: Michael Tatarski