Killing trees and getting personal.

Every time I tweet about loving print style sheets (or wishing a site even HAD print style sheets), I get the inevitable reply: “But think of the trees! Why do you need to print something in 2010?!” Well, here’s my answer.

Right now, I am sitting with Smashing Magazine’s “Persuasion Triggers in Web Design” printed in front of me. As soon as I click “publish,” I’ll be turning off my monitor (to hopefully stave off a migraine for a few blessed moments) and turning to this 3‑dimensional paper that I can touch. I will pick up my green highlighter, uncap it, and settle in to read what I have been told is a marvelous article, and I will highlight what I want to remember. I may even write notes in the margins.

I have literally hundreds of pages of printed articles — some are meticulously organized into notebooks and sub-​categories, and some are laying in piles on my dining room table waiting to hole-​punched and organized in the same way. Many are highlighted or have notes written on them. Each and every one has shaped my thinking about — and thereby how I practice — design and development and copywriting.

Could I have just read the articles online and not printed them? Certainly. I probably could have highlighted and commented them away, too.

But, as I hinted at before, I get chronic migraines. One of my triggers is sitting in front of a computer screen for 10+ hours a day, studying and tweaking the smallest pixels. But I love learning. And I don’t want to be tied to my migraine-​inducing computer screen in order to learn about web design.

On a deeper level, I am a tactile person. I like to feel the paper, I like to interact with it. I like to draw on it and immediately draw connections in my mind. I retain what I’ve read much better away from the screen when my interaction with it is physical and immediate. I feel far removed from my work on the computer. I feel deeply connected to what I actually touch.

Maybe I do kill too many trees and I’m not green enough. But I’ve learned that I need to cater to my learning style (and avoid migraines whenever possible). So, until how my brain works changes, I will continue printing articles and scribbling all over them. It’s therapeutic, and gives me a deep connection to what I’m reading.