Using Design for Good

Everything has been tinged a little green these days, including design. There is plenty of information about it how to do it, plenty of books written about why, and plenty of talks and discussions by people who are practicing it. Clients are now demanding it, paper companies have created more sustainable product lines in response to it, and some design firms are specialising in it. In the past, greener design was seen as an expensive extra, but these days there are examples where it can make good economic sense. There are also options at all levels of the design process where more sustainable choices can be made.

Practivism 2008

Last year I attended GDCBC’s first Practivism event where three speakers discussed their experiences with practical activism in relation to green design within their design practice. It was an enlightening and encouraging evening. I came away with a new way of looking at design and a commitment to making better design choices. I was especially impressed by Brian Dougherty of Celery Design and the studio’s concept of designing backwards. I immediately read his (and celery design’s) book Green Graphic Design cover to cover and put what I read into practice on the first project at hand – the MOV Studio design. It was an enlightening ride through a forest of supposedly sustainable options. I don’t think I would have been able to make proper sense of things without the book as a guide. I found that while there are a lot of new sustainable options when it comes to printing substrates, not all are what they seem. Recycled vinyl is still vinyl. Its final resting place is still the landfill – for a very, very long time. And for some materials there are no, as of yet, good solutions. As designers we have to be savvy when it comes to labeling. Design isn’t just about graphic design any more – design is the whole process. Including the part we don’t think we’re part of – the beginning and end of the materials we are utilising.

Practivism 2009

This brings me to the whole point of this post. Practivism is back for a second year. This time the focus is on social sustainability. Environmental sustainability has been a buzzword for some time. I’m pretty sure, when asked, most people could tell you what it is and give an example of a environmentally sustainable initiative. But what about social sustainability? And what is our role as designers in that?

The speaker line-up is impressive: Andréa Pellegrino (Worldstudio), Nathan Shedroff (Design is the Problem), and Kara Pecknol (IDEO Human Centered Design Toolkit) and the location this year is the Museum of Vancouver, a fitting place to begin a discussion about what design’s role in social change can and has been.

Join the discussion on November 19, 2009.  The itinerary is as follows:

Cash bar/ snacks/ MOV exhibit tours: 5:30pm – 7:00pm
Speakers/ Dialogue: 7:00-9:00pm
Reception: 9:00-10:30pm

Full event, speaker and ticketing details on the Practivism website.