Computers are so easy. Everything one needs to create a design is efficiently stored on a digital hard drive in a compact device that you can use while lounging in a cushy chair. Why would a designer ever use anything else to design? Well, perhaps computers are not the all encompassing devices they are hyped up to be. Maybe there are things they can’t do.

1. Digital can’t emulate it all


rich701 (via Flickr)

While digital mediums become increasingly effective at emulating analog looks such as vintage fading, stamping and watercolor there are some things it will never be able to emulate well. Take for example cursive typography. In digital cursive type faces the connecting points for cursive characters all need to be in the same place for the font to work.

This is often unnatural and stiff looking, especially compared to hand written cursive! Furthermore, in a digital cursive font there is no variation in reoccurring letterforms, which quite frankly is a conceptual failure in regard to hand emulation.

The slight variation in hand written letterforms is a big part of what gives cursive it’s organic and naturally flowing feel. Not to mention it’s charm and personality!

2. Handmade design hasn’t become any less amazing

Rand Close Up

close up of design work by Paul Rand

It’s easy to forget that many of the all time great designers didn’t use computers at all. In fact Paul Rand, perhaps the most famous graphic designer of all time, was a firm believer in using one’s own hands. In the close up above, note all the happy accidents in the cut shapes and the feelings that are invoked by the hand lettering.

Additionally in a digital workspace, a designer is mainly expressing through the mind. Conversely, in an analog work space a designer is able to express with both the mind and body. This can be quite liberating!

3. Hand quality is timeless

oddwood by Bedow fix

Oddwood Logo: Bedow

People think that hand made designs might look dated but it’s simply not true. In this 2013 logo design, Bedow created a hand drawn tree that feels friendly, modest and down to earth while retaining a modern appearance.

It’s true that some hand made designs look dated, but many computer designs look dated as well. Whether a design looks new or old is not necessarily a byproduct of the medium.

4. You can’t always find what you need in the public domain


Public domain imagery is a terrific digital resource. It can be thought of as a design grab bag and sometimes when it feels like the resources needed to begin a design job are lacking, the public domain is a great place to start.

With that said, it is limited in many ways. The image above was the best option from a public domain search for “watercolor herbs”. While this example is a wonderful painting, the herbs are not isolated or usable as a design element. This is where that old dusty set of watercolors comes in handy.

There’s nothing stopping a designer from put on some music, painting some herbs, and sliding them into the scanner. Don’t have a scanner?

5. Scanners are cheap


CanoScan 9000F MKII

Getting hand made designs into the computer may seem like a hassle, but the truth is scanners are incredibly cheap today. At the high end of the market (for graphic design use) are scanners like the Canon CanoScan 9000F MKII. It is more than powerful enough to handle any creative needs and still only retails for $179.99.

In other words, scanners in the under $100 price range can still get the job done. Still too much? I saw an older Canon scanner recently at the salvation army for $15 that was still worth it’s weight.


There are clearly many reasons to use analog mediums today, and it’s unfortunate that it’s not seen more often. Hopefully this article will inspire the incorporation of analog mediums into a regular workflow.

Cover: Luisfi via (Wikimedia Commons)