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Good Visualization Approaches for Sustainability’s Bad News

As consumers, when it comes to sustainability, we are surrounded by bad news: Global warming, water scarcity, air pollution, loss of biodiversity, human rights abuses, carbon emissions, poor working condition… The list goes on and on. Fortunately, technology increasingly allows us to track and trace the back-stories of everyday products related to these sustainability topics

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Learning From Nature

During the 2012–13 Biomimicry Student Design Challenge (BSDC) competition, I discovered that solving humanity’s biggest design challenges requires new skills applied within a comprehensive framework that integrates sustainability. I gained a deeper understanding of the Buckminster Fuller Institute‘s tenet of what Fuller described as “comprehensive anticipatory design scientists.” (Fuller, 1999) Learning from nature Biomimicry, the

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Putting Theory into Practice

Practicing sustainability-focused design, like any art form, is a skill that requires craft and sensitivity. As designers, we are tasked to skillfully create consumable goods, services and systems that inevitably make an impact on many levels, many of which are not well understood or even measurable. By learning and then practicing various approaches, I have

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A New Way of Thinking

We all know the plight of the typical industrial designer: make (more) stuff; repeat. But with the nexus of vast technical abilities and support systems to deliver ideas, where does responsibility and “design sensitivity” come into play? How will we be able to design with an understanding that every design decision is connected in some

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Visual Communications for Sustainability

Arlene Birt (MDes) is an information designer who is dedicated to sharing the ‘visual stories’ of companies’ sustainable products and services. We recently caught up with her to discuss her career with Background Stories as well as her new Summer 2014 fully online course devoted to the subject of how to communicate sustainability stories, Visual

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Becoming a Creative Leader

A master’s program in sustainable design? Taught completely online? Led by a biologist? Requiring a course in leadership? What are they thinking? For those comfortable with traditional design programs, these sorts of questions must come to mind when looking at MCAD’s one-of-a-kind MA in Sustainable Design program. When the director of MCAD’s MA in Sustainable

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Sustainability in Design and Marketing Boot Camp

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

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The Design Studio as a Living System

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

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Where Graphic Design is Failing

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

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Blogging for Sustainability

During my spring 2012 semester in the Master of Arts in Sustainable Design program at MCAD, I had the opportunity to deepen my engagement in social media through a practicum with Joshua Foss from Metro Hippie. Josh is an adjunct faculty member of MCAD’s MA in Sustainable Design and teaches the Introduction to Sustainable Design