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How do you eat a “Green” elephant?

Becoming a "green" designer.

image courtesy of stock.xchng

This old adage seems fitting right now as it pertains to my attempt to fill my head with information and inspiration on becoming a “green” designer. It’s not just the feeling of helplessness I got when I thought “what can one designer do?” But it’s close. As I read more and interact with the numerous communities out there catering to designers with a social conscience I’m feeling more empowered as a member of a profession that has a real chance at affecting change.

However, the deeper I delve into this subculture the more overwhelmed I feel as my brain screams “there’s too much to read and think about…where do I start?” I’ve frantically been adding links to our “sustainable resources” category on this blog but frankly each site is so dense with useful information that I haven’t been able to fully go through most of them.

In an effort to eat this baby one bite at a time I wanted to share something I read in the February 2008 issue of print magazine. The article “warm regards” by Rick Poynor dealt with design-thinkers who’ve taken up the charge for environmental responsibility at the same time issuing a challenge to the rest of us, “how will we help?”.

He sited some good examples of initiatives like Design can Change, the AIGA Center for Sustainable Design, World Changing, We Are What We Do and Design 21. All of which provide a wealth of information, actionable ideas as well as environments to share and innovate more ideas. The challenge came through the understanding that as designers we are essentially behavior modifiers. At least that’s what we seek to do. But with the advertising-saturated environment we live in today, how do we successfully brand climate-friendly activity? In light of the discussion surrounding Michael Wolff’s recent lambasting of the design profession for it’s lack of ingenuity and ability to effect change, this question seems quite relevant.

There are two directions given in the article each with its own merit.

1) Chocolate-covered– basically what persists today. Goes down smoother. Takes the approach that people respond better to emotional appeals that cater to their sense of pride. As one of the sources of the article mentions, “it’s still taboo to suggest that we consume less.”

2) Robitussin – Tastes awful but it works. Forget the PC language of trying to ease people into small lifestyle changes, they need to be shocked out of their comfort zones because radical change is what’s needed. It’s worked for smoking.

Whichever tactic you think is more effective, the Design 21’s Heated Issue competition has some great examples of what designers from around the world came up with as possible awareness campaigns.

Andrew Davies

Drew's degrees in Illustration, 2D animation and Broadcast Design, and his volleyball skillz mean he can get your design done and play well with others at the same time. He’s the Creative Director at Paragon and will call you out if you start hanging out with shady-looking fonts and messing around with whacked-out color palettes.