Zambezi diary — print is not dead; here's why


Bill was 93 when he died. He lived a remarkable life of excitement and adventure; ten days of which were recorded in a hand-written diary about his canoe trip on the Zambezi River in June 1952.

That diary was found in a beaten, old and dusty trunk of his belongings by his daughter Victoria. She typed it up, including all of his original mistakes, and emailed it as a Word document to her son, Adam.

Adam is a friend of the agency and forwarded it to ALSO. We went around Adam, back to Victoria and asked permission to design and publish a small print run, with illustrations and original images of the trip for Bill's descendants and friends. The process was wonderful.

When we were done, we called Adam and his cousin Sam, another of Bill's grandchildren, to meet for a drink in Central London. We revealed the diaries to them and they had no idea what we'd been up to. It was unquestionably our proudest moment in two years of trading.

Seeing their reactions, their speechlessness, how they were moved (OK they didn't actually move too much) when they realised they were holding something they could flick through, smell, re-read, re-live and remember their grandfather; it just stunned us. We were able to help a family keep a memory alive in a new way, in a way that you can't really do in a regular ol' blog post. Like this blog post, for example. 

The internet is full of articles that support the efficacy and memory retention of a printed reading experience compared to a digital one. This isn't one of those. This is about how it feels to read a well-designed story.

Print is, and always has been, a powerful way of involving the senses. It has texture, sound, smell and a defined document size. It outranks any reading experience you'll have online. Sure, the calibre of some writing is better than others, but in terms of how pleasurable it is to read well-designed printed vs. digital material, for us, print wins every time. It's tangible.

At ALSO we see every project as an opportunity to surprise and delight the viewer, user, passer-by, whoever. A lot of our projects lately have been digital projects, but we're trained print designers. Of course, we get excited about app and website design, but not in the same way as if we were working on a poster, album artwork or even tickets for, [insert cool band here]. Fine, insert Doolittle by Pixies there. 

Just showed some age. Here comes some leg.

We'd love to work more in print again. For us, it genuinely excites us, meaning clients get our best work. For clients, we have years of experience so you're in good hands, and again, you'll get our best work. If you've got a print project coming up, please get in touch.

Bill was a dear friend to all of us involved in this project. He is greatly missed, but now his memory lives on in another way.

Also, we're reminded of the huge value print can deliver if done well. 

Bill might be gone, but print is not dead.

See this project.

Al Walker