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How Facebook Uses Screen Printing

(August 2012) posted on Mon Aug 06, 2012

The Facebook Analog Research Laboratory is a screen-printing studio.


By Andy MacDougall

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Facebook is about as far as it gets from screen printing, unless you count press operators and screenmakers checking their updates every five minutes in the middle of a job. Digital vs. screen printing is one thing, but Facebook—that’s a whole other media dimension from print.

Last year, an ad appeared from Facebook headquarters. It showed a person washing out a screen in a print studio. This piqued my interest, and through some friends, I was able to get in contact with Ben Barry, a designer at Facebook, who built and heads up their Analog Research Lab, buried deep in the bowels of the company that has literally changed our world and the way we communicate.

The Facebook Analog Research Laboratory is a screen-printing studio and workshop at Facebook. The primary goal and use of the space is to create and develop projects for internal culture at the company. The main collaborators in the lab (Ben, Everett Katigbak, and Tim Belonax) all studied design and are employed as designers. They also just happen to be printers who have a love for making things. The lab started organically as a way for them to put this creative energy back into the company they’re so passionate about. I asked Ben to explain how the screen-printing and Internet-based social media, two completely different worlds, somehow come together.

“I think it’s a mistake to see them as two separate worlds,” Ben says. “Especially two at odds with one another. Both are about communicating information and connecting people to ideas and each other. These are basic human needs regardless of medium. To me, both Internet and print have a role to play in the future. It’s important to recognize when it’s appropriate to use each media. The Internet is obviously superior at information distribution, especially when it’s temporal in nature. Because it’s less efficient and more labor intensive, printing should be thought of less as a mechanism for information distribution, and more as a way to elevate certain ideas or content in their importance. Producing high-quality printed material in a day and age when it isn’t the most efficient way to communicate is a signal of how much someone cares about an idea.”


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