"The Perks of Print"

Joshua Langman's picture

You can't die-cut a Kindle. Or can you?

Inspired by, among other things, a recent Typophile thread about e-books, I've decided to show exactly what I have against them, by demonstrating all the tools that are available to a designer of printed, but not electronic, books.

The Perks of Print is a sardonic celebration of the printed word. In this poster series, I subject e-readers and other electronics to the same processes that produce beautiful printed books, and thereby destroy them in the process.

See more at www.perksofprint.com.

As I will shortly be starting a production run of these prints, as well as a Kickstarter project to fund the creation of more of them, I'd like to hear some responses. Would you want a print? What would you pay for one? Do you have any perks of your own to suggest?

HVB's picture

Wonderful! In the full spirit of your project, I would go paperless and download a tablet app for a dollar or three that did a slide show (or Kindle 'when it's off' image or 'screen saver') of the posters.

Other possible members of the series:
. Dust Jackets
. Glossy finished paper
. Raised print

I thought about personally penciled marginalia, dogears, etc., but realized that you really CAN do some of that with some reading software.

- Herb

Theunis de Jong's picture

How about a view of a book shelf, showing nothing but anonymous Kindle and iPad spines? I like the way an average book cabinet looks, with all the different sizes and colors and bindings and whatnot.

You'd have to buy a lot of Kindles, though, to fill up even a single shelf.

bojev's picture

Do not buy more than one - then just hold down option key and duplicate in Photoshop to fill up your shelf. Are we thinking digital yet?

Frank U. Finkelstein's picture

"a sardonic celebration of the printed word"

It's an ironic celebration, not sardonic. I find it absolutely bizarre that you would use something that looks like Photoshop to lament the ways technology has supplanted ink on paper. So you really dig all of the digital tools you now have at your disposal, but resent that production has gone electronic as well as design. I think the title of your poster series should be Hypocrisy.

Frank U.

Joshua Langman's picture

Frank — it's not Photoshop, it's physical. It's a real die-cut Kindle and a real cup of tea. The type in the first poster is letterpressed by hand. The posters are printed by traditional offset methods. No digital tricks here. You can read more about the processes at the link above.

To all the other commenters — thanks for your great ideas! Keep them coming …

JamesM's picture

Mixed feelings about these. They are creative and obviously took a lot of work, but to me they don't pack the impact that I think you're trying for. Die cutting is used in only a tiny percentage of printed pieces, and I don't have any nostalgia for tea-stained maps, so while the layouts are creative they don't resonate with me. Sorry.

aluminum's picture

My wife had a glass of Iced Tea spilled on her macbook. Now her entire screen is permanently tied dyed with tea. So you can certainly tea stain your digital devices if one desires.

hrant's picture

Yes, mixed feelings here too. It's a creative idea, executed well, but it's also cloying and precious.


5star's picture

Perk #1 drop shadow is bothersome. Especially in the narrow central area and over on the left. The drama of die cut see through seems is 'stalled' or compromised and somewhat muddy. Was the die cut propped up and then shot?

Perk #2, shouldn't the tea cup and saucer and table be digitally rotated about 1 degree or so ccw? The composition wobbles. When the image is stabilized then the steam will become more dynamic.

Just sayin'.

Definitely A+ for effort!! If you can target a market I think you'd sell a print or two...


Chris G's picture

Are you using broken e-readers exclusively, or ruining perfectly serviceable ones? And why would you spend a chunk of cash on an iPhone that will potentially be ruined within seconds of going in the tea? Seems like self-indulgent wastefulness / luddism.

cloying and precious.

Arthus's picture

Quite interesting idea, but the finish...

I really like the effort and tricks put into it, but your typography looks placed randomly. It's large, blunt, there is no tension between the picture and the type which makes it interesting.

I don't want to be too negative, but your ideas could be worked out amazingly with a better finish. The Kindle composition is floating (even without the drop shadow!), sags downwards. The tea one looks like a tea commercial instead of a stand for the merits of print.

Also, you overshoot your point, you make digitally what you dislike, isn't that a contradiction? I think these ideas could be so much better in real cliches, gravures or even better, cyanotype or other vintage photography mediums (no crappy, overdone instagram filters, but go back 100 years!). The pictures are just too 'finished' which makes it hard for the type to compete with it.

I do want to see your other ideas and results though! Good Luck!

quadibloc's picture

Since cars get driven over cliffs for TV commercials, I'm not going to get too concerned about wastefulness here.

Print has one obvious perk: physical books have value on the second-hand market; today's DRM technology doesn't offer the equivalent.

And e-books have the advantage that you can fit a library in a pocket.

People can make their own choices based on their rational self-interest; I'm not fond of the emotional manipulation techniques used in advertising wherever they are used, but their use in opposition to previous use by conventional commercial interests at least has the virtue of provoking thought and comment.

So my response is guarded but positive.

Theunis de Jong's picture

Also, you overshoot your point, you make digitally what you dislike, isn't that a contradiction? I think these ideas could be so much better in real cliches, gravures or even better, cyanotype or other vintage photography mediums (...)

"What now, reproduction? I say go back 500 years and paint them one at a time, then deliver by horse carriage to your clients!"

There is a practical lowest bottom to the techniques used. I, for one, applaud the idea of physically abusing e-readers, rather than relying on Photoshop to add the effects. That's the entire point, or so I think.

On the typography itself: maybe you could try this. Make "The perks of print" a lot smaller, and set the 'poster title' in italics?

Theunis de Jong's picture

Here is another perk: swat a fly :-D


Luma Vine's picture

Is that really die cut? Or computer driven laser cut?

Joshua Langman's picture

It's cut with a computer-driven water jet from a vector file. For obvious reasons, a real die cut wasn't very feasible. If you're interested in all the technical details, there are write-ups of the process at www.perksofprint.com.

And to everyone else: I really do appreciate all the thoughtful comments and criticism. I will respond more fully when I have a little more time than I do at the moment.

aluminum's picture

And no matter what we say here, go for it. Do the kickstarter. That's what it's for--to see if there's an audience for it.

Frank U. Finkelstein's picture

"Frank — it's not Photoshop, it's physical."

Please accept my apology JL. The work seemed just like so much that I've seen where Photoshop is used to electronically mimic printing textures and techniques, and I didn't check the link you provided. However, I still find it ironic even knowing your process was physical rather than digital. But to each his or her own. I imagine that one day when teleportation becomes a reality, people will reminisce about how much nicer it was to wait in airports and ride airplanes.


Joshua Langman's picture

All right, let me address some of the comments.

Firstly, yes, this is a project with a high degree of irony, and that's completely intentional. It is also a project with a sense of humor, and I hope that comes across, though it may be clearer in some of the zanier posters I have planned.

5star — thanks for your critique. You're right about the second image needing rotation, and you're not the first to provide feedback about the lack of clarity in the first.

The question of finish, as touched on by Arthus, is one that I've been debating from the start, and I'm not sure if I've made the right decision. This question has a lot to do with whether I see myself as making fine art prints or more commercial posters, and who the potential audience is — something I'm still working through. Certainly, the fact that the posters have a blatant point of view and a corresponding caption really put them more in the realm of pop art or even propaganda, which I don't necessarily mind, though I hope the absurdity of the whole endeavor softens the bluntness a little. I've thought about shooting some more lyrical photos just focused on the qualities of the electronic devices as objects, preferably on film. This is probably worth pursuing, and would lead to a series of images with a similar theme but very different tone.

More thoughts are always welcome.

JamesM's picture

> who the potential audience is

Yeah, that's something I was going to mention and forgot. The die cutting one seems to be aimed more at graphic professionals (I suspect that many people in the general public don't even know what the term means), but the tea-stained one seems aimed at a different audience.

Arthus's picture

As for the point above by James: The audience varies for your first two posters, but I'm sure that the gaps will be filled while you continue the project, so that's not a big issue I think.

I think an issue is still the quality difference. Your pictures are really crisp, shiny, studio shots. You need to come with something to offset this since the type falls flat.

Go for the overkill (a waste of the good pictures), or underplay it. I think having a recurring layout theme instead of creating different ones for each poster will help. In the end, I suspect most people will buy the poster for the image and concept anyway. Perhaps have a small white tag in one of the corners with the title and 'perk', maybe even something logotype-ish.

This will tie all posters together in the end, and at the same time make it a bit of a campaign for the merits of print, which is also what you want to achieve.

My previous comment about the techniques is probably still valid, but I think your current approach will be the better solution the more posters you make, since then the classic techniques don't become quirky any more but boring due to repetition.

Joshua Langman's picture

The first two posters are available for purchase:


More to come soon — updates at perksofprint.com.


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