Graphic design vs global warming

Ways of evolving the graphic design practice.

Isaac Newton, the great physicist, developed an idea that stated: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction — Newton’s Third Law

Applying this law to human activity in the last 150 years, it is no surprise that humanity is facing the grand challenges foreseen for the next century.

Graphic designers are well placed to influence change (be it a minute), to the ways and means in which people interact with the Earth and it’s living systems. Graphic designers are in the business of solving problems:

  • they are trained problem solvers (obvious yet true)
  • they understand all problems have a range of solutions
  • they understand that the best place to start solving a problem is to understand the problem and factors that contribute to the situation
  • they understand that one needs to comprehend where ones efforts will be best served and make an individual difference in his collective space
  • they understand that to find answers is about the doing, rather than talking

The information regarding global warming is daunting, and can make each of us feel powerless to effect any change. Perhaps, the best place to start solving the problem is by understanding the situation, and factors that contribute to the solution. Then as individuals develop and action sustainable changes to one’s day-to-day life. Some call this process — think globally, act locally.

To make your start, plot the factors that operate within your work place. Following are factors that we have considered in the context of a graphic design studio:

  • How one travels to work
  • How one interacts with the space one is in
  • How one impacts with the people one works with
  • The work one produces
  • The clients one produces work for
  • What one does outside of work

Most of these points are obvious, yet worth highlighting and actioning in one form or another. In the coming weeks we will be developing these observations to assist you with making your work life carbon neutral.

We invite you to read on, comment and investigate other studio’s like Sydney’s, Digital Eskimo (these guys are very committed to being carbon neutral) and make your own plans.

Observation 1 — How one travels to work?

If you drive to work, tune out of the morning radio and have a look around you on your journey to work. Thousands of Australians traveling to work by car are typically stuck in traffic queues, usually on their own. This convenience has a price, all these cars need petrol and maintenance, somewhere to park, they spew out tons of carbon, are anti social and put an enormous strain of road infrastructure and tax payer funded budgets. Making changes to the way you travel to and from work, and to work related meetings helps reduce a studio’s carbon emissions, start traveling by:

  • walking or riding a bike
  • joining or starting a car pool
  • public transport
  • booking a cab
  • telling your colleagues how you travel to work

When you travel without using a car, time is a consideration that you will have to build into your trip. Think of it as time to do a little reading, writing, meditating, observing, exercising, thinking or just zoning out.

Traveling in peak times can be a off putting; commuting can be people packed squeeze. Many Western cultures have this crazy situation where work, school and life all start at 9am and finish at 5pm.

Traveling at 9am, 6 to 7pm or there after usually means there are less people and you can get a seat. Ask your management about shifting your hours so you miss the travel peaks.

At the Studio we travel to work…

The studio is located to the south east of Melbourne’s CBD, it is served by the Sandringham Line train service and trams that run on Chapel Street, High Street and Commercial Road to city and surrounding suburbs.

Andrew in the spring, summer, autumn endeavours to ride his bike, he also commutes on the train. Shelley catches the tram, and or walks to and from the office. Owen our current intern, travels on tram and train. Toward works remotely from his home office.

Observation 2 — How one interacts with the space one is in

Modern studios are generally passive spaces, designers and support staff operate from a designated desk space that services a desktop. The act of developing and making design is centralised by the desk top computer and the capabilities it can wrangle for an individual user are dynamic, diverse and daunting.

Research, reference, image and information libraries, design rendering, image manipulation, typographic design, layout, approvals, client and project communications, artwork, proofing, and entertainment are delivered by most computers linked to the internet.

The most exercise a typical designer does in the day is represented by the commute to the office, the trips to the office laser printer, kitchen and bathroom, and the walk to the sandwich shop for lunch. A surgeon once mentioned to Andrew, that the average designer probably uses the equilavent of an apple in energy a day. Designers are prone to weight problems, with all that good food, socialising, long hours and inactivity! Oinky, oink.

The minimum any studio can do to be more sustainable is the following:

  • remember Newton’s 3rd Law.
  • switch off all machinery that is inactive at the point
  • switch to green energy suppliers
  • fix leaking taps and introduce half toilet flushing
  • switch to business partners that have a sustainable practices in place
  • use and support local manufacturers and products (take into account the carbon cost of products you use or specify)
  • prevent unsolicted mail (junk mail)
  • don’t accept or return communications and samples that the studio wont use
  • put in place recycling for paper, print consumerables, food packaging
  • open the windows, close blinds, put on a bit more clothing before resorting to air conditioning or heating
  • use biodegradable office, bathroom and kitchen supplies
  • fill the dishwasher before turning it on, or wash the dishes by hand
  • change the lights to the low wattage lights
  • if the room is well lit with natural light, try working without the lights on
  • buy studio supplies from local businesses and walk up the street to get them, use reusable shopping bags
  • avoid take-a-way packaging… take a coffee mug to the cafe, eat out using crockery, bring lunch from home, make lunch at work.
  • at the end of the day, switch off all lights and machinery

A wish list items

  • plan projects, avoid rushing projects. Build more time into project to avoid mistakes and expense caused by rushing
  • employ a proof reader to triple check artwork leaving the studio
  • go to a client meeting in a cab, or catch public transport
  • consolidate and minimise meetings, can issues be resolved over the telephone?
  • avoid air travel
  • carbon off set air travel
  • use carbon off setters that are making a real difference rather than green opportunists

Studio Pip and Co. actively employs the above suggestions. However it is easy to achieve this because the studio is centrally located in a small office space. The office is well ventilated, has year round northern light, the ability to open and close to the elements quickly. The studio’s land lord is green focused too. The office houses three staff members and serves clients actively pursuing green practices.

Observation 3 — How one impacts with the people one works with… will be covered in our next post