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What’s A Designer To Do?

A few sustainable solutions.


As we’ve come to recognize our usurpatory behavior, more and more talks develop about how we can save the planet from extinction. The problem at times seems so insurmountable though. It can feel like no matter what methods are implemented in our daily lives, they wouldn’t even put a dent in the problem. Recycle! Use earth friendly cleaning products! Change all the bulbs in your house to the swirly looking ones (but not until the incandescent bulb blows first)!

These may sound like really simple solutions to a ginormous problem. But the truth is, when done collectively they most definitely diminish our impact on the Earth and its resources.

As Drew said in his Sustainability Or Else post, print/graphic designers play a major role in the depletion of the planets resources. Our job is to make things look beautiful in print. And the medium we use to deliver these messages is paper. Not only does paper make up 40% of the material in landfills, the entire printing process alone is a messy, resource-intensive one. Thus, the simple nature of our business creates such a dilemma. Fortunately, there are sustainable solutions out there.

Monadnock Paper Mills, the oldest continuously operating small paper mill in the US, released an impressive instructional how-to guide for creating more sustainable print materials called “A Field Guide: Eco-Friendly, Efficient and Effective Print”. This guide does a great job of pointing out cost-effective alternatives for design decisions that support sustainability without sacrificing style and impact. There is even a full chapter dedicated to packaging, an expanded section on energy and emissions, and an overview of the environmental programs, logos, and terminology many paper mills use in their product literature today. Click here to check it out.

I also came across a review AIGA pulled together from their Design and Business Ethics series: Print Design and Environmental Responsibility. Here, the profound environmental effects of the printing process are addressed along with important decision making facts and tangible truths that will make you think twice when working in print. Click here to take a look at it.

These two guides offer some really good replacement processes that make tackling the challenge a little more digestible.

Philip Joyner

Not only can the man stare down CSS code until it writes itself in sheer terror, but he is famous around 220 E. Hall St for what we like to call his “happy dance”. Few have seen it, and those who have can’t get enough.


One thought on “What’s A Designer To Do?

  1. Joe Schaefer says:

    I’d also like to add Mohawk Fine Paper’s dedication to sustainable practices. From their site:

    “Because paper manufacturing relies heavily on water, forests, and energy, it is our responsibility to care for these precious resources. At Mohawk, environmental stewardship is a top priority for everyone, every day. We act responsibly within our own mills and we require the same level of environmental performance from our suppliers.“

    They are here online:

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