Reading, Writing and the Multi-Sensory Experience

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Reading, Writing and the Multi-Sensory Experience

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New blog post by @sappiNA @danielatsappi explores reading on paper vs. reading on a screen
Wednesday, October 15, 2014 - 8:00am


While it may seem obvious that we have different connections to printed and digital communication, there’s also quite a bit of scientific research that supports this perception and explains the actual difference between reading content printed on paper versus reading content on a monitor--a computer, tablet, phablet, or a smartphone. This research is providing new and unique observations that, I believe, reveal powerful insight about human beings and how we absorb knowledge.

As a humanist, I find this topic fascinating and enjoy occasionally sharing some of my own thoughts about the subject matter. My goal is not to denigrate tablets, smartphones or online communication in any way. There are far too many benefits and advantages we enjoy as a result of the digital revolution. Rather, I wish to share knowledge that will help folks effectively design and implement communication activities by considering all media options and opportunities--based on research and science. In fact, on this site you can access great research on how much more effective print and electronic media can be when used together!

Reading ink on paper is a multi-sensory experience. Scientific research demonstrates that the more senses that are simultaneously stimulated during the reading process, the higher the emotional connection with the content. This results in a higher internal value being assigned to the content and a longer mnemonic retention of the material. What does that mean? The more that our senses are stimulated and engaged while reading—through vision, through touch, through sound, the more we absorb and remember the message.

A true print junky (and you know who you are), will open a printed communication piece, push their nose into it, smell the ink and the paper and almost hear the printing presses running. As they hold the piece and see the words, they also feel the hand of the paper—the stiffness, bulk, surface, and finish. This immediately generates subliminal impressions through their fingertips. The turning of a page generates sound—and the sense of hearing is engaged. Remember how early e-readers tried to replicate the ‘whooshing’ sound to connect users back to the experience of turning a physical page?

Recently, I received an intriguing piece of direct mail from a specialty printer, touting one of their new services that can add taste to paper (enclosed in a mini glassine envelope). The sample was embedded with flavor provided by a specialty scent and flavoring manufacturer. It actually was delicious! I can only assume that a piece produced with this process would certainly achieve its marketing goal—as I definitely paid attention to the sample with all five of my senses.

The Specialty Graphic Imaging Association recently stated that that marketing materials using special finishing effects have been shown to increase sales by 18 percent. So, stimulating as many senses as possible has distinct advantages, especially if you want to differentiate your brand from the competition. And who doesn't want to do that?

In Sappi’s special publication, Print &, market research shows that advances in both paper and printing technology have allowed marketers to achieve effects that were not possible a decade ago. On the right paper, print can evoke nearly any texture through various coatings and varnishes, different inks, and special techniques. The Standard 5, Special Effects is a stunning visual example of what can be achieved by modern printing presses. Who among us doesn't wish to communicate more effectively with our audience and have that communication be remembered and, even more importantly, acted upon?

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Keywords: Media & Communications | Sappi | Sappi NA | paper | print | reading | sappi north america | writing