Design principles may be timeless and applicable across the board, there are some differences when it comes to designing for digital (your screens) vs print design (banners, flyers, etc.). Here is a list of some of these differences:

1 – Changeability and Lifecycle

Design for print may be a much more static process then designing for digital. With print, it may be prohibitively expensive to print test batches to check on the final outcome.

However, with digital, it may be easier to make tweaks or changes and preview the look before a final release. Changes can even be made once a project has gone live.

2 – Engagement

The way design is interacted with, dramatically differs from digital to print. On the world wide web, you may be competing with a lot for a viewers attention.

When it comes to print, conditions of how a user will come across your work is dependent on how and where the viewer will encounter the work. Is it something they can hold or just something they can look at while passing by?

3 – Senses

Print allows viewers to engage with content on a physical level. Things that could be considered are the weight of the paper or canvas that will be used.

Even though we may do a lot of scrolling or clicking, digital design may not be able to engage our sense of touch. Interactive components of digital design may make the experience more immersive.

Video and sound could be used with both mediums to enhance the experience.

4 – Space and Layout

In print you may a finite amount of space to work with, ie. A5, A4 etc… Best practices of composition may be used. Alternatively, and intentionally disorderly composition may just be as effective depending on the project. Legibility and text sizing are key issues when involved in prjects for print.

Browser and screen sizes do differ hugely and there is no guarantee that the design will look and feel the same from device to device or platform to platform. Designers often need to be familiar with responsive design and be prepared to do testing across platforms for functionality as well as design appeal.

5 – Colour and Resolution

Designing for print and the web is most concretely different in that they use varied value systems for colour and resolution.

For digital design, PPI and RGB determine image quality. When it come to print, DPI and CMYK are the measurements.

PPI(pixels per inch) are the teeny tiny blocks that compose an image. If viewed or displayed at higher or larger dimensions than its own PPI, it will appear blurry (pixelated). The larger the image, the larger the file size and the longer it take to load. Striking a blance between a high enough PPI and file size are key factors for digital design.

While PPI refers directly to size, DPI (dots per inch) refers to the density of pigment spacing in a printed image. i.e. how tightly ink dots are concentrated or pakced on an image.

When it comes to colours, RGB (red, green,blue) are the 3 colours of light which a digital screen project in various combinations. 6 digit codes known as hex codes define the spectrum of every possible permutation of the above 3 colours.

Hex colours may be consitent from HTML or CSS, not every screen is calibrated the same way and therefore colours may not be perceived consistently across different devices.

For print. CMYK (cyan, magenta, yelow, key(black) ), which are the different shades of pigment used by printers. Percentages of these pigments combine to form other colours. Quality of print inks as well as print material can influence the vibrancy of design.

So in a nutshell, digital and print have different rules. Some designers prefer one of either or sometimes both and we should keep it in mind that sometimes, things are not as simple as we may think…




– Adapted from Source