Print & its Entourage

Features of print imprinting on society’s features

An ancient scribe painting

Writing was the main medium of communication prior to print. It was considered a form of art especially by scribes whose profession was essentially to write or duplicate books and documents by hand.

We believe that the term ‘art’ involves individual perception and interpretation and can therefore be seen differently by different people. Through this, we can agree that writing was individualistic in a way that the scribes were in control of how the books and documents they wrote were presented. However, they were bound by their own styles and perception of this individualistic art form.

When print came about, it gave birth to an endless possibility of creative ideas. We now have many different options as to how exactly we want to format our texts. These variables include the type, size, style and colour of font, the paragraph alignment of a document and even the exact point of spaces in between lines. With this freedom that print gave, people started to notice the efficiency of standardization.

People could now share their style of writing as compared to when the scribes were bound to their own individual styles. When we look at it from the aspect of work processes, documents could be standardized in a way that they could be processed faster by workers in the same industries and fields. We can see this in many examples such as the format of addresses that are written on letters and even the placing of stamps on the right hand side of an envelope.

Education was also one of the key aspects of our lives that probably evolved through standardization. Which is why now, we have different stages to education that are all standardized such as tertiary, undergraduate and post-graduate education. People from all over the world use these very same ‘industry standards’ to gauge the level of competency of a person.

Standardization also led on to provide formality and uniformity. An easy example would be the way we dress today. Society has shaped us in such a way that we have a different set of attires for different events.

Yes, we know this is the most un-fashionable example ever. Shame on you for judging, tsktsk.

We wear formal suits to work, and when it’s time to let our hair down at a beach party, we’re in comfortable wear. The events that we attend, sets the tone for our look just as how this very same phenomena was first done in print with fonts. There are the work-appropriate serious looking fonts and there were the gimmicky more fun looking fonts that could be used for other purposes.

People also started to format text in certain templates, which were specific to that type of document. The most obvious of which would be in legal documents where there are paragraphs and sub-paragraphs, clauses and such, which were specific to the law industry.

Formality and uniformity of print brought us to formats of different kinds of documents we have today.

When print happened, its key features were mimicked by society because of its significance and what it meant for the human race.

There is a reason why we have names to refer to certain periods of time – an event took place. An event so epic it shapes and moulds the values and roles of the population at that time. It changes mindsets. It transforms lives. It completely shifts existing paradigms and hence, hails the end of the previous age and the beginning of a new era. That’s why we have romantic names to mark their places in history.

We’re currently in the Era of Over-Sharing.

Reproduction is one of the features of print that affected societal features the most. Before print, only the rich can afford to be educated, cultured and to share ideas. The poor had no such choices. As a result, no one can escape their financial class. If you were born poor, you will always be poor. There was no way to move up in the world – not for the lack of hard work, but the lack of affordable education.

And that’s one of the things reproduction has made possible: education for everyone. Ideas and stories were no longer closed to the financially elite and that, opened up possibilities for the poor. If you were smart, educated and worked hard – a comfortable life is not impossible. Everyone has a fair shot at making something of himself. Social castes that were once ironclad can be broken. A poor boy need not grow up to be a poor man.

It has also revamped and created a whole new world of advertising. Before, people have to rely on verbal methods to raise the exposure of their products. Their range was limited and inefficient. With cost efficiency and easy reproduction of materials, advertising to the masses is now not only achievable; it’s efficient and easy to boot. This introduced a whole new industry, with lots of new roles, values, standards and most importantly jobs.

Where would we be now without advertising? What would the world of fashion, beauty and luxury cars be without the power of screaming or whispering your product’s branding into the ear of every relevant consumer through the use of ads?

2) Trace the effects of legacies of print on technology we use today.

a) Typeface and Fonts

It all started with scribes who took writing books and documents by hand to record down stories or happenings about an event as their profession to give you the endless variety of typefaces you can find on your “word” font bar today.  As it was handwritten, different scribes had different art and styles of writing, just like you and me, our handwriting can never look identical. We had scribes from Egypt, Rome, Greece and other parts of the world with different ways of writing and expressing an alphabet. The amount of unexplored art of writing then has actually provided us with the wide range of fonts that is just a click away today.

When the print revolution took over, the founder, Johan Gutenberg actually designed the first typeface for his movable type press. Books were all hand lettered with the same style of the Gothic black letter and the type was standardized across all printing materials at that point of time. As time passes by and more printing shops surfaced, printers began to explore other lettering styles to use as models for their typefaces. More thought was put into creating typeface and this gave rise to the art of typographic design.

Font today is frequently related together with the term typeface although they had clearly understood different meanings before the era of digital typography and the introduction of desktop publishing. In today’s modern world where technology is on our fingertips, softwares for typefaces and fonts are created to enhance the art of type design allowing type designers also known as font designers or developers to continuously provide us with the endless database of fonts that we have today.

b) The use of logos, jargons and slangs

Scribing is the most rudimental way of recording what we hear into a physical form that can be interpreted in different ways. Technological advancement in print has given new voices to the words we design. For instance, the logos, jargons and slangs we use today are in fact the very product of the change in printing culture. This new found liberty of creating a new language within a language has effectively given words a new type of intelligence.

SingTel logos and Coca Cola logos are examples of words that are redesigned to draw direct references to consumerism and commercialization.  It shows that words become more than just words; they have developed a unique voice, pre-eminence and shape.

Words became a language within a language because of print

Words later became more than just words it evolved into shapes within spaces.

The spawn of Internet jargons and slangs is brought on by the realignment of words to create new meaning.  Short forms such as “thks, ur, pls “are invented as a result of convenience and these forms have developed into a cultural language we see nowadays in the Internet. It reflects on how the movable type of print has given us the authority to play with words to create a new language.

c) Photocopying and Duplicating

The ability to duplicate words and walls of text came from the legacies of print. Before the invention of print, everything was handwritten. There was no exact copy of any document ever produce. However, through the genius of Johannes Gutenberg, copies of any document that was created by the combination of movable type and ink in press can be reproduced like the original.

Gutenberg printing press replica

This led to the invention of the photocopier by Chester Charlson. He took the idea from print about producing many copies of documents to just taking any original document and make copies from it.

The creation of print also inspired the creation of CD burners software that we have today. The idea of printing many documents cheaply got transferred over to the music industry.  Creation of vinyl records were costly and impractical due to the sheer size of the object, and using the idea of cost effectiveness from print, we started to move on from vinyl records to a compact disc.  This finally led to companies being able to mass-produce any music album at a relatively cheaper cost compare to the vinyl records.

From Vinyls to CDs

d) Music Mixing

Any DJ’s idea of song mixing can be traced back down to effects of print. When movable type was created, the idea of moving around the different alphabets to form new words also came along, which led to new languages being created.

The concept of movable type might just have inspired the knowledge of music editing, mixing and remixing.

This knowledge of mixing and matching and creation led to music producers and DJ-s’ idea of creating new music from the existing ones in the world right now.  From that, the software for music mixing and remixing was introduced.  The sole purpose of the music mixer software is to allow the music producers and DJ-s to mix different music up and form new beats for the world to enjoy.


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