Monday, 20 April 2015

Graphic design – is it green?

I'm at uni again. It's absolutely excellent. The thing about uni is that it makes you think, you take time out to ponder bigger questions than "matt or gloss?". Of course there's more to graphic design than that, but I started to wonder about whether graphic design was just adding to the wasting our planet's finite resources by creating a brand and personality for a product or company, fuelling desire for that product and in turn, increasing waste of resources. Maybe you didn't want that jam, but you loved the packaging and so you bought it. And what about things like the iPhone with minute changes to product which just add obsolete stuff to the junk pile way too soon. 
Within many design professions there is change happening. Think upcycling – eBay and Gumtree have made it cool to reuse and recycle products. Items that would have gone to the tip are now sold second and even third-hand or made into something completely new. The building industry and the architecture profession also have sustainable approaches/products that the general public are aware of.
But what about graphic design? I did quite a bit of research for my uni assignment on this topic and sadly, there isn't much evidence of graphic designers understanding the end-of-life for the packaging, brochure or direct marketing piece etc. These are pretty transient pieces which require new thinking.
Kunara on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland is doing a great job (see image). This is thoughtful graphic design: Kunara is a huge organic supermarket which only offers paper bags. The paper bags for  holding things like rice and nuts are transparent (because the tannins and lignins have been removed) so you can see your product and 100% compostable. The bag, firstly, is necessary, secondly, has come from sustainable sources and thirdly, can go into your compost. Finally, the bag tells us this story so that we, as consumers, are being educated along the way. Love it.

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