SmashingMagazine recently featured an article on award-winning print designs and reopened the age-old discussion of print versus web design. Of course, any designer knows that design is design whatever the format but transitioning between these two seemingly similar media is not as simple as it would seem.
Both print and web design are of course concerned with readability, hierarchy of information and other essential elements common to most kinds of design (even beyond print and web). SmashingMagazine also adds that grid-based design and a liberal use of white space are parallel trends in both contemporary print and web design.
There, however, most of the similarities end. Print and web design differ in terms of navigation, fixed versus fluid layouts, response time, resolution, canvas size, multimedia, interactivity and many other ways. The essential differences can be summarized as follows:
- Print design is based on letting the eyes walk over the information, selectively looking at information objects and using spatial juxtaposition to make page elements enhance and explain each other.
- Web design functions by letting the hands move the information (by scrolling or clicking); information relationships are expressed temporally as part of an interaction and user movement.
Of course the differences don’t end there and also extend to issues of resolution, applicable image file types, fonts and so on – with the computer reading experience being highly varied as compared to the exceedingly controlled experience of reading a fixed-format, equally sized and homogenized printed product. Does this mean web design is more difficult to control? Perhaps, but viewed the other way around it takes the focus off of the ‘finished product’ aspect of print design and provides more freedom and positive variability in a well-wrought, flexible and adaptable web design.