When I toured the Art Institute at Streets of St. Charles, I had no idea what to expect. When I think of artists, I always envision them with paint brushes sitting by a stream drawing happy trees. Yet this particular tour showed me how wrong my preconceived notions were. I got to learn more about the students and what they are passionate about. Some of them were even jumping on board to help us with the Honduran Street Party Run, whose plans were underway during my visit.

So what are these young, fresh creatives interested in? I’m not sure if it was really a surprise to hear that very few of them are interested in print design – although the discussion did catch my attention. In fact, it made me recall a recent meeting I had attended, where a person in the group mentioned they no longer have business cards. His company believed that business cards are old school, a waste of paper. As I recalled that conversation in the context of my tour, the issue of print’s future was planted in the back of my mind.

The Art Institute focuses on skills such as WordPress development, mobile application design and videography. I noticed print design made the list but was not at the forefront of the curriculum. That made me think immediately of that poor, lonely business card. Perhaps this is the sign that print media truly is dead – there’s no longer relevance for brochures, print ads and the ever-present one-pager. Or is there?

Oddly, the opposite was true. I noticed the students chose print media to display their portfolios. I looked at a large-scale print poster designed by one of the first graduates to showcase his portfolio, and he was told the artist just landed a gig at Anheuser-Busch. While that speaks well to the quality of the program and the students attending, it also demonstrates that print is a great way to display creative work.

What I Learned

I walked out of the Art Institute without any definitive answers about the role of print media in marketing – but I learned something valuable. I learned that focusing creative energy and skills on strategy is always relevant -the tactical components have always and will always change.

And when it comes to whether or not print is dead or whether the business card is still a relevant marketing tool, I learned that it is relevant as long as it works. So before you debate the merits of print, go get creative. Quit worrying about what is popular or trendy and do what works.

Another reflection from my time at the Art Institute:

On a different note, the Art Institute also features a great video production program. Students work on developing documentaries and commercials used by real businesses, and working in cooperation with some of the top video production companies in town. They’re using the latest newsroom quality 4k cameras (many of which are actually better than many of the newsrooms I’ve visited). Seems like a great opportunity for new, budding creatives.

photo credit: via photopin (license)

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partner/marketing strategist/climber of mountains