Green Design: Pruning Your Graphic Design Strategy
May 1, 2014
•General, Graphic & Comm. Design
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Green design begins with the end in mind. When working on environmentally friendly projects, designers should work backwards, starting from the design's final resting place. And as much as designers would like to think their works will live on forever, those final resting places are inevitably landfills, recycling plants or incinerators. With this in mind, material choices should be guided by whether they can be recycled or are biodegradable. Here are some factors to keep in mind as you work on your green design project.
Many Traditional Dyes and Coatings Are Toxic
The inks, dyes and coatings prevalent in most traditional packaging can be toxic once they begin to decompose. Even if a traditional dye is nontoxic, it can become toxic when it is incinerated or decomposes. Additionally, composted materials made with noncompostable inks leave remnants of the laminate in the compost, which must be picked out. Do your research, and ask your supplier for all the details of the composition of your materials.
Eliminating Toxic Inks and Coatings
Thankfully, there are environmental inks and coatings such as soy ink. You should also ask yourself if your project needs a coating at all. Eliminating coatings and dyes that contaminate toxic base materials is a major part of creating recyclable designs. Paper must be de-inked before it is recycled, especially if it is not made with eco-friendly ink. Creating designs without toxic coatings and inks makes recycling materials easier.
A better green design option is to create designs that are reusable. Netflix, for example, mails its DVDs in envelopes designed to be used twice: one time to receive the DVD and a second time to send it back. FedEx also makes use of an eco-friendly returnable envelope. Customers mail their monthly payment in the same envelope in which they received their bill. Tension, an eco-envelope company, offers reusable envelopes to the public.
Using recycled materials to create a project has become second nature for many designers. For example, Celery — an eco-friendly design agency — designed a "green journal" made from recycled silicone rubber sheets. Silicone rubber sheets are nonstick, and traditional inks don't adhere to it, so Celery die cut text into the silicone. The interior of the journal was then designed so that pages can be added or removed, making it a long-lasting, functional journal. Another example of Celery's innovative approach to green design was creating an annual report with pages that could be subsequently used as postcards.
The Job of the Designer
Obviously, what happens to a project once it leaves the studio isn't in the designer's hands. But designers can influence whether a design is recycled or reused just by using green design techniques. Creating products that are reusable promotes reuse. And creating designs that decompose without releasing toxic chemicals is simply smart design.
Photo credit: Flickr