So You Want to Be a Print Designer?
Print design is a varied category of commercial art. Graphic designers in the industry of print design find themselves working on magazine layouts, book covers and layouts, catalogs, greeting cards, packaging, textile prints, and more. It’s a long, fantastic list of artwork and design meant to be recreated in a tangible, printed form.
I interviewed an assortment of designers within the print design industry to get an insight into their work, experiences, and goals as a designer. Consider this your guide to the role of a working print designer.
What Is Print Design?
Anything that is designed with printed media in mind is under the print design umbrella. After poring over my questionnaires and going through my own experiences, here’s a general list of what constitutes print design and what you as a current or future print designer may encounter within a project:
- Magazine and Newspaper Layout: Readability is key in printed material. Designers may find themselves laying out magazine pages, newspapers, and other media aimed at the reading populace. Much of this work these days also has a digital component, but the general ideas remain the same: present editorial and assorted copy within the boundaries of the medium in a readable and aesthetically pleasing manner.
- Book Design: From cover to cover, designers have shaped the look and feel of a reader’s experience since long before the days of illuminated manuscripts. Whether you’re the one creating the cover design, giving readers their first look into the book’s contents, or laying out the author’s words within the book itself, designers contribute to books in fantastic ways.
- Catalogs and Print Ads: Every business needs marketing materials. The limits found within printed marketing materials provide an interesting challenge for designers. As with the categories above, designers have to work within specific print boundaries, making sure all images and content are legible, aesthetically pleasing, and print correctly. No one wants the nightmare of ordering 1,000 copies of a catalog with typos, misaligned images, or on the wrong paper stock.
- Greeting Cards: You’ll find aisles and aisles of cards for every occasion and then some thanks to the designers employed by greeting card companies the world over. Whether they’re designing from scratch with their own illustrations or photos, or using content from elsewhere in their team, combining imagery with witty or heartfelt sayings is a learned skill that needs to sell the card to the consumer within seconds of that card being looked over and read.
- Packaging Design: Everything that you see on store shelves has been designed by a graphic designer or a team of designers. When designing for packaging, artists lay out product information and artwork using templates that have either been created by product designers in-house or come from another source (stock, industry standard designs housed with manufacturers, etc.). Innovation within packaging design can sell a product without a consumer knowing much about it or the brand. A product’s package is like the cover of a book: it hooks the consumer into it if no other marketing has done so previously.
- Textile Design and Apparel Prints: This category covers anything from fabric to T-shirts to shoes: any printed media we wear or use for decoration that’s meant to be recreated onto fabric in some way. Designers have to keep track of the product’s limits, ranging from design templates to printing process to resolution. It’s within these boundaries that artists can create fantastic work for textiles.
- And More… Posters, fliers, postcards, products, and anything that is printed into a tangible object or even published digitally falls under the umbrella of print design and is tasked to graphic designers working in the industry. Understanding a product’s dimensions, printing process, and other limits is among the skill set learned and used on a daily basis by the designer.