It goes unnoticed.
Diagrams, serial numbers, legal disclaimers. Bank statements, barcodes and indexes. We flip through pages, cast our eyes over the familiar black print, but they are all so commonplace, so normal. We don’t really give them any consideration at all, let alone marvel at their ubiquity. They do so much, yet we notice so little. We take monochrome printing utterly for granted because it is, and always has been, a given. So, let’s take a moment to think about all those places where black and white print sits quietly, but powerfully, in our world…
We find it where we learn
This is rather obvious if you think solely of textbooks and school reading books. But what about test papers? Handouts? And educators’ notes? Consider how many young people carry a single colour printed diary to record instructions, important dates and homework. And how many plain black and white printed signs there are on walls and doors throughout the building. Schools are becoming more and more digitised, but their offices still deal with a lot of paperwork and the average school backpack continues to be full of printed resources. But while we’re comfortably book-adjacent, it’s important to say that despite everything, printed books are still proven to be effective. A recent OECD study across 30 countries found that teenagers who reported reading paper books scored considerably higher on a reading test than their non-reading peers.
It's there in a legal capacity
Legal proceedings and paperwork go hand in hand, don’t they? In almost every courtroom drama, there they are – stacked high as a neat visual indicator of the time consuming and complex nature of a case. That said, real life isn’t so different, while digitisation and submitting court bundles electronically is increasingly commonplace, there is still a huge amount of print in legal processes. Weirdly, security plays a role in this, as some information is considered too sensitive to digitise! Similarly, there are still some forms of legal documentation that require a physical signature. When you think about it, how extraordinary is it that more or less every aspect of our lives as citizens has some kind of printed black and white document attached to it? And consider, for a moment, the number of printed documents sitting in archives that are attached to legal precedents, historical legislation, treaties and agreements. The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, for example, was proclaimed in 2000 and at around 14,000 words is one of the longest legal documents in Europe.