PREFACE: Before beginning this article, let me say all of the green rhetoric these days is strikingly reminiscent of the same movement that occurred in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In fact, so much has just been regurgitated with fresh graphics and a new look. Those of us in the design business back then were all acutely aware of recycled papers, natural inks, and renewable energy concerns. The "carbon footprint" buzz phrase didn't appear until Al Gore invented it, but we were all conscience of the affects of mechanization on the earth's resources. Having said that, there's a lot of capitalization and profiteering on the green movement, so I urge you all to take particular care in picking which stars you decide to hitch your wagon to. Many are simply in it for the money, popularity or search engine rankings. Fred
Green Graphic Design is Good Graphic Design
by Brian Dougherty
GREEN GRAPHIC DESIGN is, first and foremost, about using the power of design to shift the status quo toward sustainable solutions. The past century has witnessed a profound change in the role of graphic designers from a physical craft toward intellectual problem solving -- from the factory floor to the cubicles of middle management. In recent years, a handful of design consultancies such as Stone Yamashita Partners* and Bruce Mau Design* have pointed the way to a future where graphic designers help define long-term corporate strategies and command a place among corporate executives. Many of us still set type and work with printers on production issues, but the range of our industry has increased dramatically and will probably continue to increase.
Likewise, the influence of graphic design is increasing. As partners with printers, graphic designers influence the flow of enormous quantities of materials and energy. With marketing managers, we influence public opinion and educate customers. With business leaders, we influence the brand value of organizations and help to determine their success or failure.
The power of graphic designers has undoubtedly increased. And with this newfound power comes new responsibility. We have to ask, Are we having a positive influence, or a negative influence? Is our work making life better for people and for future generations? Or, are we helping to fray the social fabric that holds us together and the ecological systems upon which we all depend? Whether our job relates to production, layout, message hierarchy, or brand strategy, all of us can embrace a greener, more responsible model for graphic design. We stand between business and its audience. Just think of the good we could do -- if only we choose to use our power!
Green design is a higher order of "good" design. Most of the aesthetic and functional principles that have guided our traditional conception of "good design" still apply. In fact, our work needs to be "good" in order to be green. But green design adds a new set of standards to the old "good design" that encompasses ecological and social "goodness."
As graphic designers, we develop an innate compulsion to fix bad kerning and to clarify muddled messages. That's a big part of "learning to be a designer." It doesn't matter whether it's a major corporate identity system or a toddler's birthday invitation with an audience more likely to eat the design than read it. Most of us are in this field because we enjoy solving visual problems. Over time, we develop an internal compass that guides us and helps us make design decisions.
Yet when it comes to the environmental and social aspects of communications, many designers feel that they need special permission from some higher authority to do the right thing. Suddenly, designers start saying things like "My boss hasn't asked me to do it" and "They're not paying me to be a do-gooder." But it is everyone's job to do good work.
If we redefine "good design" to encompass green thinking, then it is automatically part of our job. We don't need permission to do good any more than we need permission to obsess about kerning.
The above passage is from Green Graphic Design by Brian Dougherty, a partner at Celery Design Collaborative and a recognized leader in green design. A founding member of the board of advisors for the AIGA Center for Sustainable Design, he lives and works in Berkeley, California.
A look at the state of Green Design
Now, let's take a cruise and see what is going on around the world in terms of green design. If you have comments, suggestions, or would like to contribute your own discoveries about green design, please let me know so DTG can continue this column on into the future.
Reevaluating What We Make: A Call for Eco Modernism.
In this Re-nourish dot com article we learn about Yvette Perullo's MA Project at the New England School of Art and Design at Suffolk University, where she collected junk mail to make a forceful statement:
collected direct mail for four months with her family to produce a 6'2", 106-pound installation for her graduate thesis exhibition. This was done to help the everyday citizen visualize how much direct mail the average American household receives in one year. (February 18, 2009)
Wasteful approach to Graphic Design
Also in the Re-nourish article this statement makes powerful truth about junk mail and its impact on today's society:
This wasteful approach to graphic design seems highly illogical and paradoxically logical at the same time. Yes, we do need a strong economy, but we also need smart and sustainable businesses decisions. Why create things that no one wants/use just to throw away, while natural wildlife habits vanish, air and water pollution increase, and landfills overflow from the manufacturing and disposal of the wood-fiber paper needed for direct mail? Does the survival of the USPS outweigh those negative impacts? I argue that it does not. The current model of mail in the USA is old thinking. It should be modernized to be sustainable with contemporary concerns. One idea would to put mail on a reward base system. Lower postage should be implemented for print collateral printed on sustainable materials combined with a reclamation program where mail could be collected and sold back by the USPS to manufacturers for new mail or other products (similar to that proposed by ReProduct.net. Or of course the USPS could truly embrace digital communication and design a whole new method of sending/receiving mail and advertising.