Have you ever noticed that there always seems to be a dearth of one commodity in particular? It’s intangible yet the most precious thing we have. TIME.
The desire to tackle all efforts from a sustainability perspective has been growing for some time. From protests causing major manufacturers like Mattel and Lego to rethink their purchases from old growth forests, to the rise of Fair Trade and Certified Organic goods, to the severe punishments doled out to wrongdoers in China over issues of product safety, to ethics-based criteria clients now use to assess vendors and potential partners — people want know the products they’re buying or selling as well as who and what they associate with, are inline with their vision of themselves and their actions.
Image caption: Is this the first time someone is viewing your portfolio?
The design studio has essentially remained unchanged for the last century. Seasoned designers, no matter how progressive, are oft quick to declare, “how it’s done” following a workflow and studio model they were trained to follow, without ever wondering why.
Most studios operate using a top-down management model similar to the one illustrated below. Orders are passed along, using strict levels of hierarchy. This is generally done while adhering to a traditional product assembly-line process .
A master’s program in sustainable design? Taught completely online? Led by a biologist? Requiring a course in leadership? What are they thinking?
But for those of us out there who are relentlessly exploring and developing and driving solutions to the world’s biggest challenges, the responses to these questions are:
- That will create so many new opportunities!
- What a fantastic perspective!
- Why didn’t we think of that before?
- They are thinking so progressively—and so pragmatically — about what the students need, and what the world desperately needs, to succeed and thrive into the future.
- Right on!
Last month a new app quietly appeared on the Apple app store. Created by engineers and designers at Nike for apparel designers and driven by their cradle-to-gate Materials Sustainability Index (MSI), The Making App represents a new development in sustainable design. One that is designer-focused and user-friendly. Intended as an educational tool that works using comparisons between materials, version 1.0 has only 22 to choose from. These range from silk to grass and corn-fed leather to spandex, all materials currently used in today’s fashion industry. read more…
In today’s graphic design process, sustainability is born of the creative minds of the art directors and designers, early in the concept phase. But the top-down management model of today’s graphic design studio, branding firm, or ad agency is not always compatible with the demands of sustainable design. To change this without jeopardizing jobs, the first step to turning sustainable concepts into sustainable results is to ‘push production to the front of the line.’
The production team should be part of the creative process, from tip to tail, rather than brought in at the end. This is often proposed, but rarely implemented. It’s not a surprise because typical studios use a top-down model where orders are passed from one stage on to the next. This process resembles a traditional product assembly line and there is little incentive to disturb a workflow already in motion.
But, creatives make decisions often lacking the research required to insure sustainable solutions. Proper production techniques, material sourcing, and life cycle analysis are usually solely in the domain of the production department. Bringing them into the earliest stages opens the team to research and execute based on the goals of the project. This is every bit as important as beta-testing or client demographics and the results could be significant.
With an idea that began in a Bucky Fuller course about systems thinking, taught by Curt McNamara as part of MCAD’s Sustainable Design program, it sparked into what became the focus of my Master’s thesis project – the SolDrop solar still concept.
SolDrop is an affordable, sustainable, adaptable, and scalable water purification solution designed for the growing number of people living with contaminated water supplies. This biomimetic design is based on modular solar distillation pods, made from recycled plastic bottles and other locally available materials used to purify water at home.
When Valerie Casey founded the Designers Accord in 2007 to create awareness of sustainability issues in graphic design, she hoped it would be a short term project. One that would start the conversation and put in place industry standards for sustainability that would become the norm. Five years later, though, even with all the movement’s success, too many sustainable graphic design books, events, and conversations are still focused around the introductory topic of what sustainable design is, and why it’s important, instead of innovating beyond what should be obvious by now.
So why isn’t the sustainable graphic design conversation progressing?
New techniques and innovations in ecocentric paper, printing, inks, technology, materials, and manufacturing are being developed at a rapid pace. Yet, instead of discussing new inventions and techniques that affect the lifecycle of our deliverables, an embarrassing number of designers either don’t know that sustainability is an issue, or think that their responsibility stops at recycled paper and soy ink (hint: there’s a lot more to it than that).
We in MCAD’s Sustainable Design Program are as proud as peacocks and happy as clams. This week one of our amazing students, Kendra Hargens, makes history at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) as the first student to graduate from the Master of Arts in Sustainable Design Program. She also creates a new benchmark in MCAD’s 125-year history as the first online student to “walk” at MCAD’s commencement ceremony. We are so proud of you and your inspiring sustainability work, Kendra!
It’s part visual discovery tool, part spreadsheet by-passer. The Nike Making App is being shared with anyone who wishes to download it. It stacks up some of the most commonly used materials in the apparel and footwear industry and you can watch the materials get pushed up or pulled down through the ranks by adding or subtracting certain impacts such as: chemistry, energy, water, waste, etc.
After the ranking and re-ranking display, my favorite part is a few more swipes into the Making app where you’ll find a bar graph that visually ranks the material choice in terms of its multiple impacts. Users can also get to the graphing feature by choosing a material name at any point. If ever feeling lost there is always the little info button in the top right corner to help users through the app.
Pioneers of change, let your story be told: