How can a designer have a positive impact on the planet? What should designers consider? Should designers be accountable for the emissions they contribute to producing from the products they design? Or should we be held accountable for the human rights we promote? Or fail to support?
The SD Standard is a project I’ve been working on with other colleagues, mostly Valerie Elliott, and Tuuli Sauren. It is a rating system where a designer can self-assess her or his design, and one’s own practices as a designer in terms of social, cultural, environmental and economic impact. This system is focused on communication design projects, such as editorial, graphic, illustration, and web design. While the current system can also be applied to product and environmental design projects, it needs further testing in those categories.
To make this a practical set of tools, our core team is developing focused metrics per design category. A book, for example, carries different environmental factors than a website. While it makes environmental sense to design a durable chair, it makes little sense to design durable packaging for cookies. The current SD Standard encompasses about 60 metrics, which are being fine-tuned and focused, based on the nature of a given project.
You can learn more about this project on the SD Standard website.
Conejo en la Luna is a company that sells artisanal food products, made mostly by women who work in rural parts of Mexico. My work with this project was to design the visual identity, packaging and other communication products for the company.
The brand positions the product with other gourmet products, and communicates the social mission of the company: to bring the products made by small producers to larger markets, where their products can be bought at higher prices. Part of the sales are invested into training programs that ensure the producers comply to quality standards.
Since 2012, i’ve had the privilege of volunteering for the MIT IDEAS Global Challenge, ran by MIT (Priscilla King Gray Public Service Center), designing the visual identity of this group, plus the program’s award ceremony every year.
The visual identity is composed of various dots that represent the different activities undertaken by students, as they propose innovative solutions to global challenges in agriculture, water, environment, health, mobile, education, and economic development in countries around the world.
For a Mexico City museum, i was invited to present a proposal for signage. I developed the wayfinding iconography, and related signage, but also proposals for the museum´s educational activities and related materials, thinking of how returning visitors might experience the museum as well as first-time visitors . Although the project didn´t come to fruition in the end, it was a great experience to think of the complexity of people moving through space, and also getting a sense of an overall institutional identity.
In recent months I´ve collected basic information on how organizations, companies, and public sector institutions are using design methods to solve sustainability problems in three broad categories (social, economic, and environmental impact).
Doing a scan of 116 organizations and companies that are using design methods for business, social, or environmental innovation, some highlights became apparent:
There appears to be a tipping point at which companies first begin learning about sustainability, and only later start applying sustainability in their own practices and in the services they offer clients.
Only 20% of the organizations act on the three areas of sustainability.
The next most common areas that organizations work on are: environmental and economic factors (also, around 20%), hinting at the fact that social sustainability may not have a business case for the organizations.
The results of this research helped create a better picture of how design methods are applied to sustainability issues, and get a better sense of the current best-practices.
Here are the 116 people, and organizations used in this infographic.
Alt, Mark (See Center for Sustainable Design, AIGA)
Amatullo, Mariana (See designmatters)
Architecture for Humanity
BaSIC initiative, University of Texas, Austin
“Batten Institute, Darden School of Business, University of Virginia “
Bishop, Steve (See IDEO, d.school)
Benyus, Janine (see Biomimicry)
Bolton, Steve (See MBDC)
Brown, Tim (see IDEO)
Buckminster Fuller Institute
Burke, Anita C
“Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit (BAWB), Weatherhead School of Management, Case Western Reserve University”
Center for Sustainable Design, AIGA
Center for Sustainable Innovation
“Centre for Sustainable Consumption, Sheffield Hallam University
“Centre for Sustainable Design, Surrey Institute of Art & Design”
“Charter, Martin (See Centre for Sustainable Design, Surrey Institute of Art & Design)”
Conserve India (bags & accessories)
Corporate Design Foundation
“Cox, Maurice. Director of Design, National Endowment for the Arts “
Cradle to Cradle (design framework) D
Danish Design Center
“Designing for the 21st Century, University of Dundee”
Designmatters, Art Center College of Design
Designworks (See Rotman School of Management)
Design 21 Network
“Design and Innovation for Sustainability (Unita di ricerca), Politecnico di Milano”
Design for All Foundation
Design for the other 90%
Design for the world (ICOGRADA, ICSID, IFI)
“DKDS (Danmarks Designskole /
Danish School of Design)”
Doors of Perception
Design that Matters, MIT Media Lab
d.school, Stanford University Institute of Design E
Earth Institute, Columbia University
Forum for the Future
Frog Design (Sustainable Design Initiative)
Fuad-Luke, Alistair G
Global City (Aarhus)
“Global Poverty Mapping Project, Japan Policy and Human Resource Development”
Greener World Media
Herron School of Art and Design
“Heskett, John (See Hong Kong Polytechnic University)”
The hippo roller
Hirshberg, Gary (See Stonyfield Yogurt)
Hong Kong Polytechnic University
INDEX: Design Awards
Innovation Lab (DK)
Institute of Design, Illinois Institute of Technology
Integrative Design Collaborative K
Keely, Larry (See Doblin)
Kelly, Brian (See Sustainable Enterprise Academy)
Kotchka, Claudia (See Procter & Gamble) L
Learning Lab, Denmark
Liedtka, Jeanne M. (see Batten Institute)
Lovins, Amory (see Rocky Mountain Institute) M
MaDe In Lab
Makower, Joel (See Greener World Media)
“Manzini, Ezio (see Design and Innovation for Sustainability)”
Meyer, Michael (See Batten Institute)
Monday Morning (DK) N
The Natural Step
NextDesign Leadership Institute O
Ocean Arks International
“Open University. Department of Design and Innovation”
Owen, Gary (See ResponseABILITY Alliance) P
Palleroni, Sergio (See BaSIC initiative)
“Parrish, Bradley D. (See Sustainability Research Institute)”
“Prestero, Timothy (See Design that Matters, ThinkCycle)”
Procter & Gamble
Product-Life Institute R
Reason, Ben (see live|work)
RED Unit, Design Council
Richardson, Adam (see Frog Design)
Rocky Mountain Institute
“Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto”
Ruxin, Josh (See Access Project) S
Sanders, Elizabeth B.-N. (See MakeTools)
Sinclair, Cameron (See Architecture for Humanity)
Slow Design (movement, philosophy)
Social Design (movement, philosophy)
Stanford Institute Of Design (see d.school)
Strauss, Carolyn (See SlowLab)
“Sustainable Enterprise Academy, Schulich School of Business, York University”
Sustainable Everyday Project
“Sustainability Research Institute, School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds” T
Todd, Sara (See Frog Design)
Todd, John (See Ocean Arks International) U
Verganti, Roberto (See MaDe In Lab) W