PRINT. It’s the word I’ve mentioned thousands of times since I started thinking of graphic design as a possible profession. Being a print designer means you appreciate technology and the wonders software can do to help you accomplish those beautiful designs that will later be printed on some cool-looking paper, with cool-looking colors and textures. And sure, you also like websites and you marvel about all the animation and the things they can do- who doesn’t have a website these days, anyway? But what does print design have that web design doesn’t? A product that is tangible, something you can even smell (for those of you weirdos who like me, love the smell of paper and ink).
Sadly, the need for printed material has decreased exponentially with the digitization of books, magazines, newspapers, etc. There will always be something to print but I’ve started to feel a certain detachment, as I’m sure it’s happened to a lot of people. Books, for example. I love seeing beautiful book cover designs and the feel of flipping its pages, but a couple of years ago I decided to get a Kindle and I have to say, it’s the most comfortable way of reading. This soon-to-be paperless world in which we’re living makes me wonder; is the future really going to be like in the movies where people interact with digital devices and air-floating media only? Well, fear not because there’s something fresh out there that guarantees tactile experience at a new level: 3D printing.
What is 3D printing? Simply put, it’s the creation of a three dimensional object using a computer and a printer, without the manufacturing process. Very expensive, industrial-level 3D printers have been around for years for industries such as aerospace and automotive but only until recently, the world has started to hear about smaller printers that fit on your desk. This is mind-blowing to me. Imagine being able to print yourself let’s say, a pair of flip flops if the ones you own suddenly bust and you don’t feel like going to the store. Not that my lame example of printing the cheapest object I could think of would revolutionize the world or anything, but just imagine the possibilities. It will also be a while until we can actually think of something we need and print it right there on the spot but who’s to say it won’t happen?
Those of us who are designers usually seek perfection in all we do and although there’s charm in the organic nature of handmade objects, nothing beats the precision of a computer graphic or rendering that you can later print. Not everybody knows about it yet, but these small 3D printers that magically materialize objects layer by layer in front of your eyes are already being used for many things. These little machines can create anything from small toys, to dresses and fashion accessories, to more useful objects like prosthetics. So I dare say, just like with any other new technologies, it’s all a matter of time before we have desktop 3D printers in our houses. Personally, I can’t wait to use one!