Digital Versus Print Design: 6 Things to Consider | MP 36

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Digital Versus Print Design: 6 Things to Consider | MP 36

Are you wanting to expand your marketing but not sure about the design? Do you want to learn more about the ins and outs of the design world? Not sure if you should focus on print or digital design for your advertising?

In this podcast episode, I speak about digital versus print design and the 6 things to consider.

In This Podcast


  1. Changeability and the lifestyle of digital versus print
  2. Engagement
  3. Senses
  4. Space and layout
  5. Color and resolution
  6. File formats

1. Changeability and the lifestyle of digital versus print

Digital allows you to intentionally test variations before settling on a more practical design, whereas with print you kind of have one opportunity, unless your budget allows for tons of reprints which is not always practical.

Creating designs for print is more of a static process than compared to digital, which is more changeable and dynamic. With digital print, you can make changes even after going live with your design and can continuously update it, whereas, with print, you have to have everything ready from the get-go prior to release.

Time is therefore more flexible with digital, and with print, it is more fixed where you have to have everything ready before going live and distributing your printed designs.

2. Engagement

The way viewers interact with your design is dramatically different from screen to print.

If your design is digital, it is important to make sure it is navigable, instructive, and clear. Always keep in mind how your customers may experience your digital design. Most companies and online services are digital nowadays and therefore you will be competing with many other service providers. Learning the ropes to effective design strategies will allow yours to stand out from the crowd.

Viewers arrive at digital platforms with a goal in mind, therefore it is important to properly demarcate the ‘journey’ of your website to make it easy and helpful for your viewers to follow.

With digital, you have access to statistical data that can help you understand how users interact with your website. Assessing your website through its bounce-rate and a heat-map show you for how long users remain on your website, and on how many different links they click on and interact with. These tools can be used to optimize your clients’ online interaction with you and your service.

With print, however, the most engagement your design will have with viewers is outside of your control once you distribute it, therefore it is important to get the location and function right. Is your design in a place where people will see it or pass it regularly? Is it in a permanent location or spread around sporadically? With print design, engagement is based on where and how the viewer encounters the work.

3. Senses

With print, there is a vital physical aspect in the sense that it can be touched and held by customers. However digitalized the world becomes, there will always be people who prefer books to kindles, and there will be people who enjoy physical newspapers to digital ones. Print still gives the opportunity for viewers to engage beyond the visual. Here, the texture and weight of your design come into play and should be considered.

With digital, the visual sense is important. However, what is becoming more and more common is for digital advertising to utilize music and videos, which then include another sensory factor, sound. Consider making use of video in your digital design to stand out from the crowd and draw viewers in.

4. Space and layout

Print: you have to work with a finite space such as business cards and flyers. It has set dimensions wherein you place your information and graphics. Make sure that everything is legible once printed, and that it can be printed in different sizes without losing image quality or legibility.

Digital: your space requirements become more abstract and you can work with more, but take note of layout. Make sure that your images and text remain usable and readable on different screen layouts like phones and computer screens.

Top designer tip: serif font is best for printing and sans-serif font is best for digital

5. Color and resolution

For digital, there are value systems such as PPI (pixels per inch) and RGB (red, green, and blue) to determine the image quality. When creating digital designs, designers should maintain a high enough PPI so that you have clear and high-quality images but also make sure it is small enough not to slow down the loading rate of your website, otherwise you will lose a potential viewer who does not want to wait 10 minutes for the screen to load.

In printing, there is DPI (dots per inch) and CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) are the measurements. DPI is determined by the quality of the printing equipment rather than the quality of the image itself.

Not every display screen is collaborated the same, so RBG and CMYK colors are shown differently on different screens, especially when you are working with subtle colors. Make sure to test out your designs on different devices to make sure that you are happy with the outcomes.

6. File formats

File formats that work for both print and web:

  • Jpeg – default file format on most digital cameras. Jpeg files can be saved in RBG for web or CMYK for print.
  • PDF – they preserve the original content and appearance of the file, regardless of where or how it is viewed.
  • EPS – most common for saving vector graphics to preserve readability, however, they are not always readable on computers.
  • PNG – high image quality that supports transparency

For print only:

  • TIFF – high image quality and large file size. Does not suppress image quality like Jpegs


  • Gifs– supports animations
  • SVG – vector format that can be scaled up or down without losing image quality

Software specific formats:

  • PSD – photoshop specific formats
  • Ai – original adobe illustrator file

Useful Links:

Meet Sam Carvalho

Samantha Carvalho DesignSam Carvalho is a graphic designer living in Cape Town, South Africa, with over five years of experience in both design and marketing, with a special interest and experience in the start-up environment.

She has been working with Practice of the Practice since 2016 and has helped over 70 therapist entrepreneurs take their practices to the next level by enhancing their visual branding. She loves working with a variety of clients on design-intensive tasks and is always up for a challenge!

Follow Sam on Instagram to see some of her work. To work with Sam, head on over to

Thanks For Listening!

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Podcast Transcription

Marketing a Practice podcast is part of the Practice of the Practice Podcast Network; a network of podcasts seeking to help you market and grow your business and yourself. To hear other podcasts like Beta Male Revolution, Empowered and Unapologetic, Imperfect Thriving, or Faith in Practice, go to

Welcome to the Marketing a Practice podcast with me, Sam Carvalho, where you will discover everything you need to know about marketing and branding your business. To find out more about how I can help you brand your business, visit And if you’d like to see some examples of my design work, be sure to follow me on Instagram @samanthacarvalhodesign.

Hi! Thanks so much for joining the Marketing a Practice podcast today. You can probably hear in the background, it is a cold and rainy afternoon here in Cape Town, South Africa, and I’m sure most of you listening to this will be in summer or going into autumn your side. But yeah, super cold and rainy here today. So, apologies for that noise in the background, although I often think that having some rain noise in the background is actually quite nice and comforting, so I hope it is for you, too. Thanks again for joining me today. Today I thought we would go over the difference between digital design versus print design. So, as most of you know, over the last few years, there’s been a general shift towards more digital design and a focus on digital marketing as opposed to print marketing. But print marketing does still have its place and, particularly when it comes to private practice, I’m very aware that most of you do, or some of you do still make use of print marketing, whether it be flyers or actually attending networking events and handing out business cards, it might actually still be a strong referral for you or something that brings in a lot of clients. So, I thought I would spend some time kind of discussing the differences between digital and print, and where they still have a place, and things that you need to keep in mind if you are going to go about digital design or print design.

So, first and foremost, we’re going to discuss the changeability and life cycle of digital design versus print design. So, designing for print is a static process compared to designing for the web. So, with print design, your budget restrictions usually make it expensive to print off a fresh batch with every minor tweak, so you want to make sure, from the get-go, that you’ve landed on a final design and you are absolutely happy with the way everything looks, and that you’ve run it past everybody that needs to have an opinion on it, and that it’s ready for print. When designing for web, however, changes can be previewed and tested at every turn, so it’s a lot more dynamic. And while you want to launch a perfect product for web as well, you do have the opportunity to make changes even after it goes live and, as a result, web or digital design is a lot more fast-paced than print because of that very reason that you can almost go live without everything being absolutely perfect or without having added everything that you want to add, in the interest of time, you can go live and you can always come back and add those things afterwards. So, this allows for you to intentionally test variations before finally settling on a more practical design, whereas with print, you kind of only have one opportunity unless your budget allows for tons of reprints, which is not really practical. So, that’s kind of the difference when it comes to the changeability aspect or the life cycle of digital versus print.

The second point is engagement. So, the way viewers interact with your design is dramatically different from screen to print. For digital mediums, you want to ensure that your design is navigable, intuitive, and clear. You should also always keep in mind that you’re probably competing with any number of things for your viewer’s attention. So, having said earlier that there’s been a general shift to digital design, naturally, that’s what most companies have done and so, on platforms like Facebook, or Instagram, or even just the internet or, you know, Google, you’re competing with thousands of other businesses that also want to catch the viewer’s attention. And so, that’s something to keep in mind when it comes to digital design, is to really make sure that your design stands out from everybody else’s, and you kind of want to get into the mind of the viewer, what is going to make them stop and look at yours when they’re kind of scrolling through so many different options. Users also arrive in a digital space with a particular informative goal in mind. So, keeping in mind, I mean, even if you have to think of you as a user, when you go onto the internet, or even if you’re on social media, you’re usually doing it with a purpose in mind. So therefore, your work should function to facilitate their goal in browsing so that they don’t bounce around that space right after landing there. So, that’s what’s nice about the digital world, is that there’s actual data that can show you how effective your design is. And what we spoke about just now is people bouncing from your website, if it’s not something that they’re actually looking for, that’s called your ‘bounce rate’, and that’s something that you can actually look at and you can see how long people are spending on your website, how they’re engaging with your design, and if your bounce rate is high, which means that people are bouncing soon after landing on your page, then you know that there’s a problem and then you can look at how to fix it. You can even go so far as heat maps, for example, you can see what people are clicking on on your page, how they’re interacting with your page, and what you then need to focus on in terms of improving the design or improving kind of the journey of your website. So, that statistical element is what’s nice about digital design, and it can then work alongside the creative design process. In printed mediums, however, the environmental conditions of how a viewer will happen across your work depend a lot on the location and function. So, some questions you’ll ask yourself is, is the design something that they can hold in their hands? Or is it seen in passing? Or will it be used for permanent decoration? The question of engagement in printed design is based mostly around how and where the viewer will encounter the work. So, that’s kind of the difference when it comes to how users are going to engage with your designs, depending on whether they are digital or print.

The third thing to consider is sensors. So, naturally, printed mediums will give you the opportunity to engage viewers on a physical level, and that’s kind of why I feel like print has still stuck around because, for a lot of people, it’s almost similar to the argument of reading an actual book versus using a Kindle. For a lot of people, they don’t want to replace the experience of holding a physical book or smelling a physical book or being able to actually turn the page, whereas other people don’t mind forgoing all of that for the ease of a Kindle. So, printed mediums still give you that opportunity to engage on a physical level. Beyond just the imagery of what you design, you also need to consider the physical aspects of the printing process. So, if you’re wanting people to kind of experience that physical aspect of design, then you would go for print. If the design is meant to be handled, the texture and weight of the paper, or other type of materials, should be considered. Techniques such as embossed lettering and design is another way to evoke both visual complexity and the sense of touch. With digital design, however – although our thumbs do a lot of work scrolling – design does not have the capability of engaging our sense of touch. So, visuals are by far the most important element for digital spaces. However, lately and kind of the more we grow in the digital space, there are opportunities to use video and music, which kind of act to appeal to more than just the viewers visual fancy. So, these interactive elements can help simulate an immersive experience with your design, and that’s why we’ve seen such an increase in video, because that’s kind of the next step when it comes to digital design, and it really has been proven to be successful in increasing that sense of engagement with your user. So, if you haven’t yet, really consider making use of just even just an introductory video on your website, or some form of video on social media, whether it’s going live on Instagram or Facebook, it can really help to take that engagement to the next level.

So, the fourth consideration, or difference between digital and print design, is when it comes to space and layout. So, printed mediums consist of a finite amount of space in which to bring your design to life. So, business cards, for example, will have a set dimension in which you can play around with a design, or a flyer will usually be A4-size, or things like that, and you’re really limited to what you can do with that space. And the issue of sizing should also be considered to ensure that everything is legible once printed. So, heading back to a business card, for example, you want to make sure that you don’t include too much information because it needs to be legible. Or things like tags or packaging, we need to make sure that all the information that is included in that tag can still be legible and can still be read easily. Designing for web, however, is typically free from these spatial constraints. So, while the concept of scale and sizing does still exist in digital design, it is far more abstract than in print. Factors that need to be considered in the digital space are to do with screen sizes and browsers. So, although you’re given a lot more freedom when it comes to digital design, you still need to bear in mind the different screen sizes that people are going to be viewing your design on. These differ hugely and can result in your design or digital flow appearing very differently to how you first envisioned it. And this is where responsive design comes in, so it’s up to the designer to test the design across a variety of operating systems in order to ensure universal attractiveness and functionality of their design. And this is really something to keep in mind when creating anything digital, specifically things like Facebook cover photos, for example. I know a lot of you will kind of take a do-it-yourself approach with that, which is fine, you can use things like They’ve got free premade templates for all sorts of things, but they’re great for things like Facebook cover photos. But you really want to make sure once you’ve designed it and once you’ve uploaded it to your Facebook profile, to then see how it looks on mobile because, a lot of times, mobile will cut off a certain portion of the design, and if you’ve included text there, then that’s going to get cut off. So, you really want to make sure that your text consists within the space that’s going to still appear correctly on mobile. And the same goes for web design, I mean, that’s obviously something that your web developers will be very aware of, but if there’s any sort of digital design that you’re attempting to do yourself, really make sure that you test it on mobile, on different screen sizes, and on different browsers, just to make sure that it appears the way that you originally set out to. And just a little tip when it comes to web design, traditionally serif fonts are best for print and sans serif fonts are best for web. So, if you’re not sure what I’m talking about when it comes to serif and sans serif, be sure to check out my episode on typography, but in a nutshell, serif fonts are your basic… Sorry, I’m getting confused myself, here. Serif fonts are your more kind of traditional fonts that you typically see in newspapers, if you think of, like, newspaper headings, they’re the ones that have the little caps at the end of the T’s, or the end of all the kind of horizontal and vertical lines, you’ll have little cap and then sans serif is without that, so it’s the more kind of modern contemporary fonts that you see on a lot of websites. And so, that’s actually something, it’s a nice tip to keep in mind that serif fonts are best for print and sans serif fonts are best for web.

Sailing into the fifth consideration or difference between digital and print design is color and resolution. So, another difference when designing for web versus print is the various value systems for color and resolution. And again, I’ve touched on this in previous episodes where I’ve dealt specifically with color, but for digital design, PPI, which stands for pixels per inch, and RGB, which stands for red, green, and blue, determine the image quality, whereas in printing, DPI, which stands for dots per inch, and CMYK, which stands for cyan, magenta, yellow, and black, are the measurements. So, in creating designs for web, designers need to maintain the balance between using a high enough PPI so that images are clear and high quality, but also small enough that image files are not so big that they slow down the page load speed. So, remember when it comes to digital design, user experience is really important, and so it’s not just the look, it’s the functionality as well. And so, if you have really great imagery but it takes five minutes for the homepage of your website to load, then you’ve already lost your user. So, that’s what they mean when it when they talk about the image size, it’s as important as the actual design or quality of the image. DPI, on the other hand, which, again, is dots per inch and is to do with printing, is determined by the quality and settings of the printing equipment rather than any file settings on the actual image itself. And then when it comes to RGB versus CMYK, it’s important to remember that not every display screen is collaborated the same. This can be very infuriating for designers, but RGB colors are not always perceived consistently from device to device. So, this is something to keep in mind if your digital design includes subtle color differences, because the way it looks on your screen is not necessarily the way it’s going to look on somebody else’s screen. And the same can be said for CMYK. External elements, like the quality of the printing inks or the base color of the print material, can influence the vibrancy of the design. So, these are just things to keep in mind. If you’re a perfectionist, just know from the get-go that your design is not always going to appear exactly as you had intended it. And that’s always why, when it comes to print designs, for example, it’s good to kind of do a test run to see how the colors come out once they’ve actually been printed, before you go ahead and print hundreds or thousands and you’re not actually happy with the end color.

So, the last thing to consider when it comes to digital versus print is file formats, and this is also something that I’ve discussed in a previous episode, but I’m just going to breeze through it quickly. So, when it comes to file formats that work for both print and web, you’ve got JPEG, which most people will be familiar with. This is the default file format on most digital cameras, and JPEGs can be saved with an appropriate resolution in the correct color space, so either CMYK for print or RGB for web. PDFs are widely used, and they preserve the original content and appearance of the file, regardless of where or how it is viewed. EPS is the most common for saving vector graphics to preserve their scalability. These are not always readable on computers, however. And then PNG, which is high image quality and it supports transparency or opacity. So, you can have no background; it’s good for logos and things like that. So, those are file formats that are good for both print and web. But when it comes to file formats that are only good for print, you’ve got your TIFF. This is a high image quality and large file size. Compressing image does not reduce quality, unlike with JPEGs, and it’s compatible with both Macs and computers, and commonly used for final handover to a printer. Web-only file formats include GIFs, so these support graphics featuring animation and/or transparency effects, and SVG, which is a vector format that can be scaled up or down to any size without loss of quality. And then, software-specific file formats are either your PSD which is your open or your original Photoshop file, or your AI, which is your original Adobe Illustrator file. So, just make sure when you’re working with a designer that, when they send you the final file format of design that you receive the correct ones, depending on whether it is for print or for digital.

So, that’s it for today guys, I hope that this has been useful. Just some things to consider when it comes to deciding whether you’re going to do a digital design or a print design. Again, if you need any help with any of those, feel free to reach out to me, and I’ll see you in the next episode.

Thanks for listening to the Marketing a Practice podcast. If you need help with branding your business, whether it be a new logo, rebrand, or you simply want to have a print flyer designed, head on over to And if you’d like to see some examples of my design work, be sure to follow me on Instagram @samanthacarvalhodesign. Finally, please subscribe, rate, and review this podcast on iTunes if you like what you’ve heard. Talk to you soon.

This podcast is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is given with the understanding that neither the host, the publisher, or the guests are rendering legal, accounting, clinical, or any other professional information. If you want a professional, you should find one.