Speed and efficiency. They’re the products of the Digital Age, along with convenience, innovation and much more. But progress usually comes with trade-offs and can result in nostalgia. Yes, there are some among us who often seek a personal touch.
Archaic yet irreplaceable
Toronto’s Sonic Boom is Canada’s largest independent record store. Among the shelves covered in vinyl, you can find shoppers ranging from teenagers discovering records for the first time to baby boomers reassembling the vinyl collections they once jilted for CDs.
"Ten years ago, only 10% of my inventory was new releases," owner Jeffrey Barber said. "Today, it’s 70% new vinyl with many artists releasing both vinyl and digital albums in the same package."
A new generation of digital turntables has made vinyl accessible to everyone. While Barber says that vinyl provides a better listener experience, the advantage of many entry-level turntables over mp3s is negligible.
"What’s driving those customers is the experience of buying and owning records," he says. "It’s very much the album artwork and the liner notes. It’s the sequencing of tracks, which is a huge part of artistic choice, and even the space between songs to create dramatic tension that’s missing in streaming. Unlike an mp3 heard on earbuds, vinyl is something that you take to someone’s house and share."
"The vinyl soundtrack for Star Wars: The Force Awakens features a 3D hologram of a spaceship hovering two inches above the record," Barber said. "It’s pretty mind-blowing."
Celebrating the handmade craft
Independent American cartoonist Noah Van Sciver says he gets anxious when fellow artists switch to digital tools.
"I worry that there will be one less person who buys Strathmore Bristol board or Micron pens,” he said. "Lower demand might mean that my art supplies will be harder to find."
The creator of the critically acclaimed Blammo anthology and recent graphic novels St. Cole and Fante Bukowski doesn’t draw on computers.
"I look at some of the early CGI special effects in movies from the 1990s and I never want my work to look dated like that," Van Sciver said. "I can pick up a comic from the 1980s and, as long as it’s well-written, it stands the test of time."
He works with ink on paper, but uses Adobe Photoshop to augment the scanned drawings with a digital layer of background colours.
"It’s all about celebrating and emphasizing the hand-created work, and helping it to stand out by boosting the vibrancy of the colour when it’s printed," Van Sciver said. "My original artwork is my legacy. I don’t want to be the guy who arrives at his own retrospective with a thumb drive full of digital files."
The power of synergy
"Digital communication can effectively deliver a certain type of result, but receiving an ink-on-paper letter in the mail provides a deeper relationship with the same material," says Daniel Dejan, the print creative manager at Sappi North America. He believes that digital experiences will never replace tactile experiences, but the two can successfully enhance each other.
Canada Post’s INCITE has found the balance between digital and physical by bringing traditional paper to life. The latest issue of the magazine has added a new dimension to its pages that can be accessed using the free Shazam app. Readers are now using their smartphones to trigger YouTube videos and discover engaging case studies in the magazine.