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If you thought you could get away with one design and use it both online and for print, think again – and read this article. We’ll take a look at some crucial differences and show how what works for one, doesn’t necessarily work for the other.

Designing for different audiences

One of the first things to realise when comparing printed and online design, is that you’re addressing different audiences, who will be experiencing the media in different ways. Print design will typically appear in magazines, on brochures, on packaging or on business stationery. Online, however, you’ll be using the design for websites, social media, banner advertising or newsletters. Print and web design are consumed differently – with print, you have an actual physical product, while web design needs to stand out on an ever-changing computer screen.

To put it in a nutshell, the web is interactive and print isn’t. Usually, with a design for print, you’ll have one page to grab your audience’s attention and put the message across. However, with web design, the number of pages you use is up to you, and so you can develop ideas over a series of designs, allowing your audiences to scroll down to new sections or jump to linked pages.

Differences in technique

In preparing your layout, there are key critical differences between print and web design. Here are a few of them to bear in mind:

  • Print design areas are measured in inches or millimetres, while web space is measured in pixels.
  • A print design might be as small as a business card or as large as an advertising hoarding – while web design needs to be optimised for many different types of screens and mobile devices, and for different resolutions.
  • With print, you’re only designing one size, but for web design, screen size and quality varies.
  • With print design, you’ll need to incorporate bleed and safety areas.
  • Web design needs to take account of navigation around the site, and may incorporate video, animation and sound.
  • When it comes to colour, print usually uses CMYK, while web design is generally done using RGB.
  • For print, you’ll want to see a physical proof to check that the on-screen colours are translating accurately to the page.
  • Web designers need to have a good understanding of graphics programmes and even programming. Print designers also use graphic programmes, but need to understand which method of printing is most appropriate for which type of design.

Appreciate the differences

While the different demands of online and print designing might seem like extra work, and require different areas of expertise, understanding these crucial differences means that you’ll be able to achieve strong and impactful designs for each medium. And though some people see print as static and web design as dynamic, in fact both of them have a role to play in presenting a company’s message and branding to the world at large.

At Inside Creative, we understand exactly what works for each of the media we design in – so we can ensure that all of your collateral, be it printed or online, is designed in a way that plays best to the strength of the medium you’re using. Give a call on or contact us here to discuss your next print or web project.

Photo by Bank Phrom on Unsplash

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