The Importance of Design, and the Designer, to Sustainability

While the focus of sustainability is closely linked to “energy usage” and waste, the conversation on the role of design & designers has yet to take center stage.

The recent article Design is an Avocado: The Layers of Green Design by Brian Dougherty (an excerpt from his recent book Green Graphic Design) though does a great job of introducing the role that designers can play:

1. Designer As Manipulator of Stuff

Within this conception of graphics, green design is a matter of finding and using better physical materials. Designers may research things such as recycled and tree-free papers; or try to find nontoxic inks; or devise folds and structures that result in less waste. When most designers think of green design, these are the common themes.

2. Designer As Message Maker

graphic designers also help clients strategize about how to build strong brands and craft communications that resonate with their target audiences. As such, we are message makers. The messages designers make, the brands we build, and the causes we promote can have impacts far beyond the paper we print on.

3. Designer As Agent of Change

As designers, we are trying to help clients change the way people think and/or the way they act. In this sense, designers are uniquely positioned to shift not only our own actions, but also the actions of many others who are touched by our work-including our audiences and our clients. We may be hired to change the user’s experience of a client’s brand. But in the process of doing this, we have the power to change the brand itself. We have the power to influence the substance of a product or service. Green design at this level is about being a force for positive change

For me, and I am not a designer, where I see the biggest opportunity for developing products that are more “sustainable” starts with designers, but it is also in getting designers to speak to logsitics professionals, packaing firms, and PR firms.  To create an environment where the cradle-to-cradle chain is working with each other to understand that constrations, and thus the opportunities , will result in the greatest yield.

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