Sustainable graphic design is the application of sustainability principles to graphic design. It considers the environmental impacts of graphic design products (such as packaging, printed materials, publications, etc.) throughout a life cycle that includes: raw material; transformation; manufacturing; transportation; use; and disposal. (Wikipedia)
Graphic design is usually seen as decorative and fleeting. Its tangible effects are often overlooked—even though it can be responsible for decimating a forest to produce junk mail by the billions. The alternative is a graphic design practice that pursues eco-friendly materials and production techniques that aim to have as little ecological footprint as possible. The design process minds the life cycle of the project, so instead of a design from the cradle to the death of a printed piece, it’s a practice that considers how will that piece end up after it fulfills its purpose. Authors William McDonough and Michael Braungart call this new paradigm a cradle to cradle approach.
Best sustainable graphic design practices include but are not limited to the following:
For Graphic Designers
As designers, we not only have the responsibility to learn about sustainable practices and incorporate them into our lives, we also have a role in educating our clients. So many designers look at the client for leadership in sustainability when we should be offering clients the option of using recycled paper, soy inks, clean printing, and so forth. Understanding the impact of design and production choices throughout the creative process is not only imperative in ensuring a more sound and sensitive end product, but in creating alliances with your own clients who are also sustainably-motivated. Trust in your power to lead joyfully and respectfully.
Sustainability is not a concept that is going away any time soon. Unless you have a good exit strategy, we are all in this together. Partering with like-minded businesses, we can work together to meet our current needs without compromising our planet’s future. Together we can find solutions that are cost-effective and that we can feel good about.