The Persistence of Paper

Recently in a shopping area we needed to find a specific shop. We reached for one of the paper maps provided in a holder attached to a large graphic map on a stone plinth and inspected it to find the stores we needed. It was a case of paper being expedient and helpful, especially as we put the map in a pocket and carried it away. What made it ideal was that the design of the map was well thought out. The fonts were a good size and the scale of the map made it easy to identify a path to the stores we wanted. One critique is that it was printed on a paper stock that did not stand up to the stiff breeze that day. In an ideal world we would have loved that map on a slightly stiffer stock.

In a museum in Amsterdam with Print Media Centr's Intergallactic Ambassador Deborah Corn,  we were trying to find our way to Rembrandt's NightWatch and then on to Vincent van Gogh. The usually wonderful signage in the museum and the excellent museum app just couldn't get oriented correctly, and then we pulled the paper map out and found our way there! We found the paper map easy to navigate, and it didn't drain our phone batteries!

What came out of these two experiences was some musings on when paper provides the best communication medium. Paper is persistent. It doesn't run out of battery life! Paper-based communication isn't constrained to the size of a phone screen or a tablet. It can still be portable, but using good design and the power of the fold, it can meet the needs of map makers as well as marketers.

When I attend a conference, I see the value in apps to direct me, but I still look for the paper agenda to refer to while navigating the conference halls. When I'm at a trade show, it is most often the paper show map that I rely on to find vendors I want to speak with and demonstrations to see. Even at a restaurant, I prefer the paper menu to backlit displays mounted to a table top.

It is the persistence of paper that I like.

We continue to ask, Is Print Dead? We ask because there are segments of our communication world where it appears to be waning, but for these applications, I still prefer paper!