Graphic Design and the Anthropocene: An Argument for More Sustainable Design Thinking–and Thus a More Sustainable World

Boylston, Scott. “Graphic Design and the Anthropocene: An Argument for More Sustainable Design Thinking–and Thus a More Sustainable World.” Print (New York) 71.3 (2017): 80. Web.

This short but impactful article talks about how the world has entered a new epoch with an emphasis on limited world resources and ecological necessity. Graphic designers control the image and brand of this new epoch and therefore have an unbelievable amount of power in how things change in the future.

Scott Boylston is an art director and entrepreneur in social and ecological design. He has founded several companies with focuses in sustainability and repurposing material. He has two published books which include Designing Sustainable Packaging, and Creative Solutions for Unusual Projects.

Sustainable Packaging

Sustainable Packaging. Bristol, England: Pumpkin TV, 2010. Web.

This video explained the processes and the thought behind sustainable packaging design. In order to reach higher levels of sustainability in the food packaging industry consumers need to start changing their preconceived notions of how things should be packaged. Looking at the processes behind the potential change gives graphic designers a better context in which to design with sustainability in mind.

Towards a More Sustainable Graphic Design Philosophy

Graham, Lisa M. “Towards a More Sustainable Graphic Design Philosophy.” The International Journal of the Arts in Society: Annual Review 6.5 (2012): 169-76. Web.

Lisa Graham describes sustainable philosophy and how it can be applied to graphic design practices and ways of thinking. Graphic design is behind compared to other design fields when it comes to sustainable philosophy and implementation of guidelines and certifications. Graphic designers need to look at the issue of sustainability holistically instead of applying small bandaids here and there to solve the issue.

Lisa Graham is an accomplished graphic designer and professor at the University of Texas at Arlington. Her publications include Sustainability Research by Designers, Basics of Design: Layout and Typography for Beginners, and Principle of Interactive Design. She has also published many papers, presentations, and articles on various topics primarily relating to graphic design. 

Sustainable Graphic Design Tools, Systems, and Strategies for Innovative Print Design

Jedlicka, Wendy, Andre, Paul, McNamara, Amelia, and ProQuest. Sustainable Graphic Design Tools, Systems, and Strategies for Innovative Print Design. Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, 2010. Web.

Chapter 5: Materials and Processes goes into great detail in the history and background of many materials we use as graphic designers. Paper is a huge contributor to CO2 and methane emissions globally. Graphic designers rely on paper for all sorts of print media and because of that can push to make more sustainable choices in working with print. Ink and printing process is largely dependent on the designer and therefore we can make a change.

Wendy Jedlicka’s primary focus is in sustainable packaging design. Jedlicka is an adjunct faculty member at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. Jedilicka has also contributed to the writing of Sustainable Graphic Design, Applied Sustainability, as well as Packaging Sustainability. She is also the president of Jedlicka Design which is a packaging design firm that specializes in sustainable design.

Environmental and Social Design

Naturally for me I think I lean more towards the environmental side of things when it comes to graphic design. I think this is mostly due to my mom emphasizing the importance of being ecologically aware when it comes to pollution and climate change when I was a child. I still greatly consider important social aspects in my design but I think environmental issues are something that I’m a bit more passionate towards. Last Wednesday’s lecture made me think more about material usage and research to practice sustainable design. Previously as a graphic designer I hadn’t given much thought to physical material usage since most of my work is done digitally but I think I will try to prioritize and be more aware of stuff like what brand of paper I am buying as well as other things along those lines. I decided to write my research paper about creating a sustainable work environment in regards to design because I wanted to develop a better understanding of the background and usage of materials globally so that I could make more informed decisions when working with physical materials for design related projects.

I think everyone in my generation has a responsibility to be the change they want to see. There are some issues that are largely systemic that can’t be helped in some cases but at least at a micro level I think people should do there best within reason. It isn’t too difficult to make personal changes such as supporting more ecologically friendly companies. You could also recycle more and make other smaller changes that wouldn’t change your quality of life. In terms of graphic design I think it is kind of similar. The lack of ecological concern is primarily a systemic issue. Because of this I wouldn’t expect everyone to push towards a more ecologically friendly design process, but for the people who have the option to I think they should always take it if they can afford to without losing their own well being. Of course everyone has their own subjective opinion of what well being may be for themselves. I think the most important thing overall is that designers are aware of the gravity of their choices when it comes to ecological impact.

Bio mimicry is a very interesting topic when it comes to designing functional products such as architecture, apparel, and so on. The example of the building in Nairobi, Kenya probably stood out the most to me in the Wednesday lecture. I imagine you could also use the idea of bio mimicry in visual design as well to potentially create more satisfying or efficient visual solutions.

Design and Politics

I think design in politics is very important because it can rally a group of people behind a specific design that has with it, an idea or concept that drives into the hearts of people. As a designer/artist myself I feel empowered by this but, also kind of worried at the same time. Design can be interpreted in many ways based on context, just like art. I’m worried that in the future a design could be interpreted in an unforeseen way by some amount of people, which could lead to confusion and distrust. The more eyes that will be on a design, the more responsibility placed on the designer and anyone involved. In general I think design will help lower the barrier of entry for political discourse, and the sharing of ideas.

One piece of political design that I find particularly interesting is the Polish solidarity logo. The logo was developed from stencil graffiti in the Gdansk shipyards. The movement that the word mark represented was born from unfair working conditions from a failing economy in Poland. The movement started out in Gdansk but soon grew to the entire nation and beyond. The solidarity logo is incredibly simplistic and informal yet, it holds immense meaning and social importance within the context of the movement and where it originated from. The logo is also extremely malleable in implementation. You could recreate it yourself to put on signs for protest as well as combine imagery with it to enhance the meaning or give new meaning. The red that is used in the logo is very powerful and demands attention. The logo’s worldwide recognition speaks to the design’s effectiveness.

I haven’t really paid too much attention to recent examples of political design. From what I’ve seen, more recent political design has been pretty bland for the most part. To be fair I haven’t engaged with much political design recently so there might be some less mainstream stuff that is really cool that just doesn’t get as much traction. Specifically when looking at recent design in US presidential races I think the idea to have the MAGA hat was pretty interesting. It kind of hearkens back to that oversimplified nature that the solidarity logo shares. The solidarity logo and MAGA hat have opposite messages in a way but they still both use the same conceptual foundation to their designs.