DESIGN FOR PRINT & WEB

Designing for print media versus designing for the web can be a completely different experience.

Both print and web design require clear and effective layout. In both, the overall goal is the same…use elements of design (shapes, lines, colors, type, etc) to present ENGAGING content to your audience.

IN PRINT...

ON THE WEB...

10 Vital Differences You Need To Know About

DESIGNING FOR PRINT & DESIGNING FOR WEB

1. Viewing Method: How Users Approach Your Design

 

One of the biggest differences between print and web designs is how people view them. Holding something physical in your hand — a piece of paper, a folding brochure, a book — is a much different experience than viewing something on a screen. There is some crossover, such as digital magazines that are laid out in the exact same way as their printed counterparts, but generally, the physical versus digital experience is a pretty clear dividing line between print and web design. Where and how designs are viewed play a big role in the decisions designers make.

 

2. Experience: How Your Design Engages Users’ Senses

 

Closely related to the physical or digital nature of a design is how users experience it. Both print and web design share a visual quality in common — the design needs to make a good impression no matter what the final product. To this visual component, print design adds a tactile experience that might include texture, shape, or printing effects like letterpress, embossing, or screenprinting. The web design experience adds the possibility of audio/video elements and other interactive options.

 

Take books, for example. Many readers love the weight of a book in their hands, with the texture, rustle, and even the smell of the pages; those are qualities that can’t be reproduced in any digital form. E-books, however, have their own unique qualities that can’t exist in printed form: a children’s e-book might have animated illustrations, or a digital textbook might have hyperlinks to other resources. Both approaches have their own value and appeal.

 

3. Static vs. Interactive: The Design Lifecycle and How Users Connect with a Project

 

Once a design goes to the printer, it’s not going to change (barring a decision to re-design and re-print — which costs time and money; not ideal). Web design, however, can be tweaked, changed, or completely redesigned at any time. Many websites, especially those with frequently changing content — a news website, for example — will look different every day. Different pictures, different text; they’re created to change.

That means that (unlike print designers, who generally ship off a job to a printer and call it done), web designers must consider the ongoing functionality of a project. Elements like buttons, links, mouse-over effects, forms or polls, videos, and other interactive features need to work correctly. There’s no quicker way to lose a user than when something doesn’t work as expected. Web design stands apart from print design in that this interactive, dynamic quality often requires some sort of input or effort on the viewer’s part, such as clicking, typing, etc., which brings us to our next point…

4. Usability & Navigation: Making Your Designs User-Friendly

 

Since print design is contained to the physical size and shape of the surface or object, navigation is usually limited to flipping or unfolding a page. On the web, it’s not so straightforward. Users might encounter any number of different layouts and need an easy way to find the content they’re looking for. That’s where menus come in. They have become the hub of website navigation, and need to be in a location that’s easy for visitors to find.

With the recent explosion of different web-enabled devices and gadgets, there’s a growing concern about how websites display on various devices and screen sizes — which has led to a focus on responsive design, or designs that adapt to various viewing methods. Web designers must consider not only how the design looks on different devices, but also what happens (and how the design changes) when viewers scroll, zoom in and out, or take other actions. Mobile design and mobile web browsing have become huge considerations. How will readability and navigation need to change to best cater to those formats and create a good user experience?

5. Compatibility: Testing Out Your Web Designs

 

Since print design is contained to the physical size and shape of the surface or object, navigation is usually limited to flipping or unfolding a page. On the web, it’s not so straightforward. Users might encounter any number of different layouts and need an easy way to find the content they’re looking for. That’s where menus come in. They have become the hub of website navigation, and need to be in a location that’s easy for visitors to find.

With the recent explosion of different web-enabled devices and gadgets, there’s a growing concern about how websites display on various devices and screen sizes — which has led to a focus on responsive design, or designs that adapt to various viewing methods. Web designers must consider not only how the design looks on different devices, but also what happens (and how the design changes) when viewers scroll, zoom in and out, or take other actions. Mobile design and mobile web browsing have become huge considerations. How will readability and navigation need to change to best cater to those formats and create a good user experience?

6. Layout: How You Arrange Your Content

 

Both print and web design have many design elements in common: typography, images/graphics, shapes, lines, color, etc. So, many of the same best practices apply to each.  Every approach also has its own unique layout requirements. For print, all information must be presented within the constraints of the printing surface, whereas for the web, designers have almost unlimited flexibility to organize, arrange, and filter information.

 

Printed projects must meet certain standards using parameters such as margins and bleeds, while websites aim for a consistent experience between different viewing methods, such as web and mobile. Because various browsers may change a web designer’s original layout, achieving top functionality requires testing with different browsers and operating systems.

7. Size: Making Good Use of Your Design Space

 

Size and layout go hand in hand. For print design, the size of the printing surface is one of the biggest determiners of how the designer will make use of that space — what design elements will be used, the amount and size of the text, etc. Though there are standard sizes for many projects (letters, business cards, posters, photos), possibilities are virtually unlimited, as paper and other printing surfaces can be cut to any size or shape.

 

For web, “size” is more abstract. The sizes that designs are viewed at tend to be limited to a certain number of devices that are currently available — from computer monitors and laptops to tablets and smartphones, but that content should ideally scale to fit any device. That adaptability, known as responsive design, is becoming increasingly in demand as people’s web browsing habits shift in a more mobile direction.

8. Resolution, Part 1: Overview & DPI (Ensuring Your Design Look it's very Best)

 

It’s important to understand the basics of resolution for both print and web, since resolution determines image quality — how good photos and graphics look in your final design. That being said, bear with me; we’re about to get a little technical here.

 

You’ll often hear resolution referred to using two terms: DPI (dots per inch) or PPI (pixels per inch). Many people mistakenly use these interchangeably, but they’re really two different things (Even software developers that should know better — Adobe included — have labeled these incorrectly at times).

 

DPI comes into play in the actual printing process — it’s the density of the dots of ink printed on an inch of printing surface.

 

Equipment that is set to print at a higher DPI will produce a higher quality image reproduction. But, unlike PPI, DPI has nothing to do with the size of a print. It does have to do with the capabilities of the printing equipment being used — something most designers have no control over. Furthermore, DPI is irrelevant for web design, since it specifically involves how ink is printed on a surface. Just be aware than many people mistakenly use “DPI” as a blanket term to refer to resolution in any design context.

 

9. Resolution, Part 2: PPI (Ensuring Your Design Look it's very Best)

 

PPI involves the number of pixels (the square building blocks of a digital image) displayed in an inch of screen space.

 

The more pixels per inch, the higher quality an image will be — clearer, sharper. Pixelation (blurriness, distortion, loss of quality) occurs when the PPI is not sufficient for printing or when when a digital image is displayed online at a size larger than its original pixel dimensions.

 

Screens on devices we use today have pre-determined resolutions. For web work, the general standard for acceptable quality images is 72 PPI, though that may be changing, as more devices are being produced with high-resolution displays. Sebastien Gabriel, a designer for Google Chrome, clarifies:

 

“Windows computers have a default PPI of 96. Mac uses 72, although this value hasn’t been accurate since the 80’s. Regular, non-retina desktops (mac included) will have a PPI of 72 minimum up to around 120 maximum. Designing with a PPI between 72 and 120 ensures your work is going to be roughly the same size ratio everywhere.”

 

Preparing a digital image (measured in pixels) for printing (measured in inches, centimeters, or other units) is where the confusion often sets in. If pixels represent screen space, how does that translate to how the design will render on paper? An official U.S. government resource advising museums on how to best conserve photographs and other resources suggests that PPI and print size have an inverse relationship. That is, a higher PPI value (more pixels per inch) condenses or reduces the physical size of a print, but increases its quality. This means that, depending on the characteristics of a specific project, designers need to set a file’s PPI to produce the right combination of size and quality:

 

    “The acceptable amount of PPI needed for a quality print is dependent on the size of the print. Larger prints are generally seen from farther away than small prints, so a lower number of PPI will generally look acceptable visually….

 

Without magnification, the human eye can’t differentiate detail in a print greater than 300 PPI. Depending on the printer, the general standard today requires 300 PPI for a quality print.”

 

You may often hear printmakers and even designers express the need for a file saved at 300 DPI. They really mean 300 PPI.

 

 

10. File Types: How to Choose the Right Format for Your Design

 

Designers have a multitude of file types to choose from. But which ones are right for which situations? Are some more suitable for web than for print, and vice-versa? Although all those acronyms can get confusing, it helps to understand that every file format falls into two basic categories: raster or vector. Raster images are composed of pixels — digital photos are a common example — and their quality varies depending on their resolution (which we just discussed above). Distortion can happen easily if a raster image is enlarged beyond what its resolution (measured in pixels per inch) allows for. Vector images, on the other hand, are not limited by pixels. Without getting too technical, vectors refer to graphics that are defined by mathematical equations, allowing them to be scaled to any size without loss of quality.

 

Here’s a quick rundown of some common file types, their characteristics, and what types of projects you can use them for:

 

Both Print & Web:

 

    JPG (or JPEG): Most people will be familiar with this one, the default file format on many digital cameras. JPGs must be saved with an appropriate resolution and in the correct color space (CMYK for print and RGB for web; more on that in the next section).

    PDF: widely used; preserves the original content and appearance of a file regardless of where or how it is viewed

    EPS: most common for saving vector graphics to preserve their scalability; not always readable on PCs

    PNG: high image quality; supports transparency/opacity

 

Print Only:

 

    TIFF: high image quality and large file size (compressing image does not reduce quality, unlike with JPGs); compatible with both Macs and PCs; commonly used for final handover to a printer

 

Web Only:

 

    GIF: supports graphics featuring animation and/or transparency effects; color capabilities not as good as JPGs (256 colors or less, so not appropriate for photos); ideal for simple graphics on the web, since low file size doesn’t negatively impact page loading speeds

    SVG: vector format that can be scaled up or down to any size without loss of quality

 

Software-specific:

 

    PSD: an editable (raster-based) file created in Photoshop

    AI: an editable (vector-based) file created in Adobe Illustrator

 

Canva: PNG or JPG

 

With an abundance of options out there, Canva makes the selection simple for print and web projects.

 

If your design is for the web, always select “as an image”, or if it’s for print select “PDF”.

 

 

 

 

 

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