The Evolution of Printing

As a direct mail marketing company, we found it fascinating to revisit the printing methods of the past and explore how printing has shaped our greater society.

Living with the advanced technology that makes 3D printing possible today can sometimes shade us from the power that the evolution of printing has had on our society. Some even consider the invention of the printing press as one of the most influential inventions in human history. The ability to print has facilitated our societies ability to increase literacy, spread news, communicate scientific discoveries, and print paper currency amongst other things. But, how did we get to where we are today?

Woodblock printing is believed to be the oldest method of printing which originated in China. This style of printing is done by carving a relief pattern into a piece of wood to create a stamp that can be used to print again and again. This ability to print, though time consuming, was an introduction into the possibilities and positive effects that printing could have on society.

With the benefits of stamp printing came the aspiration for a quicker form of printing. Johannes Gutenberg is credited with developing the European movable type printing technology around 1440 with the invention of the printing press. The invention was revolutionary, as within the next decade the European age of printing had begun. The printing press lead to the mass production of flyers and pamphlets, and is believed to have been the direct cause of the Renaissance Era and the Protestant Reformation.

The printing press was the long-time method of printing, but as to be expected, printers we anxious for a simpler method that could be scaled faster and easier. In 1796, the lithography method of printing was invented. This method allows materials to be printed on a smooth surface using chemical processes. Offset lithography is still used today for books, magazines, and posters. Soon color printing (chromolithography) was introduced and printing was possible for artists.

Xerographic photocopying was invented in the 1960’s, allowing printed materials to easily be copied and distributed. Laser printing, which was introduced in the late 1960’s, was also a huge milestone in the printing history because laser printers can print in very high volumes.

Though printing has come a long way since the concept originated, it is still advancing today. Three-dimensional printing is today’s most advanced method of printing, but scientists and inventors surely have their eye on the next step in the trajectory of printing.

At Welcomemat Services we have even found ways to combine printed materials with other technological advances to digitally track our mailers. By printing unique QR codes onto each direct mailer marketing piece, we can keep track of every piece of mail that goes out, whether it is a successful touchpoint, and match you with the demographics of your local business’ perfect match customer. And now the real question is, how will this ancient form of communication be advanced next?