Virtual is great. Online information – visual, audio, artistic, technical, and design for learning, networking or pleasure – it’s all wonderful. But sometimes you just really want to sit down (away from a screen) and just physically HOLD something and look at it. You know what I mean?
Here’s an interesting read by Glyn Moody from the Guardian pointing out the “rise of the analogue as the acme of digital cool”. Moody features two on-demand (2D) printing companies that are the “interface between digital and analogue worlds” that create what people want from the web into physical tactile and most importantly, useful things.
First up is Moo.com’s minicards. Not boring old business cards. These fun customized cards are for social online networkers who may actually and physically meet other people (say, on the street or at a party). It’s a simple idea – nothing new or innovative, but it serves a real purpose in the real world – there has to be a better way of exchanging personal info with someone you meet other than scribbling your number/email/blog on the back of a napkin or receipt. Moo cards use the web and your online info – from your photos on flickr or your avatars to anything else you want on your card – your email address, your blog site and prints it out on nice stylish mini cards.
The second is well-established independent publishing marketplace Lulu.com. Again, here’s a great example of taking digital content and transforming it into the physical – physically printed and bound books that you can buy and hold.
What both these companies do, along with a growing number of others, is printing on-demand personalized/user-generated virtual ideas, designs and information. And we’re seeing it grow with the demand for more customized and personal things – like t-shirts and other items. It goes to show that while digital and virtual are definitely the means, we’re very much still rooted in the physical world.