Print is Dead

Rock’n’Roll has been dying a death since the 1970s. Today, it seems the idea of a whole community being dead has turned into somewhat of a brand. In the first of a series of articles where we ask those from supposedly dying communities to declare it’s as fresh freshed as ever, Liverpool illustrator Scott Duffey brings Print back to life…



Supposedly print is dead. As is rock, punk, art, journalism, the novel, 3D TVs, well done toast, chivalry plus many more. In fact take something you enjoy and most likely someone somewhere has claimed it’s dying. Regardless of weather some of these may be true or not, print is something I feel is certainly still alive.

In some areas print is struggling, that’s undeniable. For example daily national newspapers in the UK are seeing a massive decrease in sales year on year. To be more exact, the total number of national newspapers sold in the UK fell from an average of 7.6m a day to just over 7m between March 2014 and March 2015, a decline of 7.6%. This perhaps has a little to do with the way we now receive and consume our news but still to many this is proof enough that print is dying out.

Move on to another print based dying breed – the novel. For years book lovers have been proclaiming the inevitable death of the printed book whilst up against its digital counterpart the eBook. But as of last year, another story is being told. The Publishers Association study has revealed that sales of print books are rising, while digital sales are down for the first time since the invention of the e-reader.

So those were two interesting comparisons of what springs to mind in the “Print is dead” claim, but turn the page and the reality is printing does not start and finish with newspapers and books. In the broader spectrum print has a wide reach which is very much thriving.

Head back to the beginning of this piece and you will notice that rock is another fatality that has apparently left us. Rock is frequently being announced as dead, like print, yet the truth is anyone who’s tapped into contemporary culture knows there are still plenty of interesting, innovative bands around right now. You don’t even need to dig deep to see the proof as rock bands frequent the charts weekly.

Even though these musicians’ work is readily available online, a lot of times free for people to listen to, we are seeing the biggest increase in vinyl sales in over 25 years. At a time when their music is being given out freely, live gigs and merch is where a lot of musicians make their money. At a lot of gigs perched next to the vinyl on the merch table is a nicely designed gig poster. Usually screen printed and limited edition, these have become somewhat of a collectors item and a great memento of a memorable evening of live music.

These gig posters are so much of a niche that there are fairs and exhibitions to celebrate the beauty of the printed rock poster. Like vinyl sales some may call this out as a flash in the pan but regardless it proves something. People still need and love the tangible.

Like for musicians using SoundCloud and other music sharing platforms, there is a host of art sharing sites and social networks that cater well for the visual, here artists can expose their work to the world, get noticed, gain instant feedback and pick up fans that will potentially buy their work in the form of prints.

For some fans it’s not enough to own an MP3 or video file with a digital image of the cover art. They want more. Whether that’s a reimagined poster of their favourite film, a touring bands gig poster, or an illustration that looks like your dog, people want to be able to hang their favourite artist’s work on their walls or give them as gifts.

Just like music there are so many different visual styles and ways these artists and designers are producing their prints. This has only opened the eyes of artists and buyers to see past digital printing which to many will be all they would have known. There is a revival to seek and learn traditional print methods within this community.

As well as selling online, artists up and down the UK head out to tons of craft, print and art fairs every month to sell their work in person. In April the Northwest’s cup does runneth over with such fairs. We have Print Stuff in York, Liverpool Print Fair, Manchester Print Fair and Leeds has the Northern Craft Fair. Here you can meet the artists in person and be a part of a movement by picking up something that has a story you will proud to own. Print is not dead. Now go buy some. EJ


Scott Duffey is a Designer, Illustrator & Janitor at Toucan Tango – www.toucan-tango.com
You can keep up to date with Scott’s work and Liverpool Print Fair on his instagram:  @scott_duffey