The Haptic Brain - - - or the value of print


West Coast Paper (@PaperChoice) hosted a luncheon event featuring SAPPI paper (@ideasthatmatter) expert Daniel Dejan (@danielatSappi). His topic is haptics, which is the study of how the things we TOUCH shape the way we feel. He gave out a book titled A Communicator's Guide to the Neuro Science of Touch. This should be a Bible for ANY graphic designer who has the potential to produce print projects as well as the need to convince clients of the value of printing their annual report rather than only posting it online. I've kind of summarized some of what the book says. You can get it for yourself by clicking on the brain at the left. 

The research Mr. Dejan quoted was mostly done by Dr. David Eagleman, a renowned neuroscientist who has explored how the things we touch impact us. He says that more than half the brain is devoted to processing sensory experience, much of what is focused on touch. Us print people (you know who you are) have always had a reverence for the touch of paper and have valued print, for many reasons: 1) It's permanent; 2) It shows a level of craftsmanship not always seen in online postings 3) It has been through a long series of checks and balances before it made it to print, assuring a higher degree of quality; 4) It smells good and feels good to hold and to turn over. In other words, it appeals to our haptic senses. (who even knew what that meant????) Mr. Dejan cited something called the endowment effect, which means if we own something, if we hold it in our hands, touching something, gives us a sense of ownership and we therefore value it more. Ain't that the truth?

Our sense of touch is the main way we send and receive information—we learn to interpret letterforms and can thus read. The type of media we use to deliver the message helps shape the brain. Tactile media by which our ancient ancestors first communicated on, like stone tablets and later papyrus (YES! Saw all this cool old stuff at the British Museum and the British Library!) started an incredible evolution for how our brains are organized. And once paper became light enough to travel (YES! Saw the Gutenburg Bible at the British Library!) our communications efforts were exponentially increased.

How does this affect us today???? Study after study has proven that if you read something printed in ink on paper you are much more likely to retain it and to understand it than if you read it digitally. The more senses you stimulate the more your brain remembers and more brain activity is stimulated when we read ink on paper. It utilizes our working memory differently and increases knowledge and makes us remember things longer. When we read something on paper, we attach great value to it than if we read it online. 

And so I give you three reasons why ink on paper is way better than digital:

  1. It makes content more intuitive to navigate. 
  2. It makes it easier for our brain to mentally map the information
  3. It drains fewer of our cognitive resources which makes retention easier

As a print designer, you know I am a 100% believer in the value of paper. And did I mention my father was a printer? I grew up with the smell of freshly-printed paper and still love it.