Digital Display Revolution

May 25, 2010

Pencil vs Camera

As a web designer, I’ve always looked at the print design medium in a much different light. A big part of this is due to the drastic difference between image resolution density of 300 DPI printed material versus the low digital ranges we have today hovering in the low 100’s. Ironically, it is current technology that primarily holds the digital world back in this regard, but now comes news of new devices being released in the near future that should shift the entire spectrum. Most notable, the rumored iPhone 4G is planned to have well over 300 PPI at a 960 x 640 screen resolution and devices by Sony and Motorola are already close to that mark.

What that means for designers and consumers

Honestly, not much — at first. Current designs will still look like they do on higher resolution devices. The drastic jump of PPI (almost double of most current popular devices) will still have to be incorporated within new designs and their respective software, so expect it to take quite a bit of time before changes are implemented. The shift of these new devices will also take a few years to grab the large market of everyday users; the iPhone being the first mainstream device to hit the market if rumors are true. This may not convince designers and developers to re-work their projects until the use of these devices reach the masses, specifically for desktop displays as well.

This is still exciting news though — imagine looking at a screen up-close and not being able to see the individual pixels just as looking at a printed piece up-close shouldn’t show their individual printed dots. I’d say the anticipation of a digital screen looking more natural than a printed piece side-by-side is something to really look forward to. With that said though, it also draws great potential to change how an entire industry has been working and operating for decades, which is both exciting and daunting at the same time.

1 comment


I agree that the growth of resolution in the displays of some of these new devices is exiting. But, I would like to point out that the resolution in print is actually more like 1200dpi. 300dpi is a common standard used to print parts of a printed product, like light or mixed hues of color, photographs, etc. But stuff printed in one color (like text and typographic devices, which are often printed using only black ink) has a very high resolution of 1200dpi. This means that in print a designer can design for example, very delicate lines (e.g. 0,25pt) and other subtle details, which may look a lot less elegant or may even send a different message in lower resolution situations. If you take Edward Tutfte’s Sparklines for example you have much larger but at the same time very compact canvas to work with in print and a more accurate message displayed quickly. no resizing or additional clicking to see a graphic clearly. I realize this is slightly beside the point and focus of this post, but just thought it an interesting thing to consider.