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Sustainability and responsibility.

Discussion in 'Logo Design & Brand Identity Forum:' started by mrp2049, Feb 14, 2010.

  1. mrp2049

    mrp2049 Senior Member

    So it has come in one of our other threads, talks of our responsibility as designers to guide clients about sustainable options.

    Now, my girlfriend is a product designer, and they drum the sustainability argument into them from the moment they walk through the door. In fact most of the high graded pieces from her final show were effective ideas pushed into a sustainable medium. Example, one girl made a lunch box made out of light weight re-enforced glass! Sounds ridiculous, but in principal it worked! The science was sooooooo complicated it was boring, but it did work.

    My girlfriend's dissertation was also about sustainability in design. So I might get a little OTT on this topic.

    This discussion was started because of plastic credit cards, plastic is not as bad as it used to be, whilst not totally sustainable, easily downcycled and recycled.

    Wonderful example:

    innocent drinks : all about us

    They used to use bio plastics, but found them unsustainable in the grand scheme, production, manufacture....

    The other favourite argument on the subject of sustainability is the scrapage scheme and the toyota prius. I going to avoid example here and just generalise, 80% of a cars overall emissions are created in the manufacturing process, so the idea of destroying an easily repaired car to buy a brand new electric car is a joke! The best way to make cars more sustainable is to keep them on the road longer and convert them to lpg, bio fuels etc.

    Right I have started a major rant here, please someone else get involved before this turns into "Michael's Big Sustainability Speech".
  2. Renniks

    Renniks Senior Member

    I feel that while it may be our responsibility to try and educate clients as to what methods and materials (and the inherent sustainability) they want us to use, they are still our clients, and without them design wouldn't happen.

    So while we can say "you should look at using x y or z instead of plastic for a business card" if they turn round and say that they want plastic, I think that you are not the person to be held responsible and that you should complete the work. At the end of the day all products have their problems, attempting to use the lesser of the evils is the goal, but completing the work puts food on the table.
  3. mrp2049

    mrp2049 Senior Member

    its not neccessarily about paper, card, glass or whatever, plastic isn't all bad, its just using the right kind of plastic.
  4. Levi

    Levi Moderator Staff Member

    I trained in product design at uni and a can't really remember too much being taught on sustainability but this may have changed now.

    In work I'm quite lucky, most of my work is digital files, sometimes requiring dvd/cd's etc but it's not like doing test prints to show clients etc.

    From a personal perspective I've tried to go paper free as much possible at my end of the business - although obviously there are some area's where you can't get away from paper. I've also looked into becoming carbon neutral by using carbon offsetting - was thinking it would be good selling point for business but couldn't find a great deal about it :(

    My next set of business cards are going to be made of paper (recycled option) but I would happily go for a metal or plastic one if I knew it wasn't likely to be thrown away once the data's been recorded - does anyone have a business card filing thingy anymore? Having said that I'm still looking into more electronic options to add to it - vcards, bump etc are all options to have but nothing beats the old here's my number etc of a business card.

    I'm very much of the view that any NEW buildings being built should make use of ALL options readily available to reduce it's use of electric/oil/heat/water etc. I'm going to be having some homes built opposite me soon (not happy over it but it's a done deal) and part of the sales pitch is sustainable materials etc - all they've got is a few bit's of wood cladding which to me makes no difference.

    Recycling can make a huge impact on sustainability but our council is useless, you can recycle 99% of all rubbish yet all we can recycle (bins) is clean plastics (ie non yoghurt pots), metal tins, paper (but not magazines) and glass (via bottle bank). Now that sounds like it covers everything but you can't put thing's like wrapping paper, magazines, yoghurt pots and other similar items. In my case 75% of the rubbish isn't recycled (not because of not trying mind).

    Heating is only on when it's needed, home is fully insulated even between floors and walls, double glazed etc.

    Car's, well I use a car as a tool and use it till it's dead not as a status symbol although I do like to mod if the car is worth it (my current one isn't although tempted to chip it for better fuel efficiency of course :)) Having said that I hardly use my car these days.

    I wouldn't use public transport here although if I lived in london I would, I'm too rural and the bus drivers are pretty crap out my way.
  5. Anagoge

    Anagoge Senior Member

    As a human being, you should have a respect and responsibility to conserve and protect the Earth.

    As a designer, you are doubly responsible. A designer and their clients need materials to show the work on. As a designer, it is up to you to persuade the client to use a sustainable option. Any reasonable client would be happy to listen to an argument for a sustainable material over one that isn't. It makes good business sense to be environmentally friendly. As a designer, you are tasked with finding the most sustainable and not just the easiest solution. It's part of your job. It should be second nature. Design is about being socially and morally responsible as well as visually responsible.

    I strongly believe you are not doing your job correctly if you choose not to go down a route of sustainability. I believe that if you simply go for a traditional method that may have worked 50 years ago when conservation wasn't as much of an issue and if you fail to research into recyclable and sustainable materials, you are not doing your job correctly.

    Finally, I believe that if you allow your client to use unsustainable materials, you cannot offload the blame onto them, claiming that "If the client says they want it, then give it to them". You are first and foremost the most responsible person in choosing a material. You are tasked with finding an alternative route and being able to say "There is another sustainable way forward".

    It is only when designers and studios begin to educate clients on sustainability that people's understanding and perception of conservation will change.
  6. berry

    berry Active Member

    I love Plastic, I love Smoke, Carbon Emmision, the Tory Party, The Labour Party, Paper, Lead and Ink with zinc in. I don't get paid extra to save the world, unless it's in the brief. Designers have no ethical or moral responsibility apart from answering the brief and achieving the objective.

    Sustainabilty doesn't pay the mortgage. Can't get a loan on ethical responsibilty either.

    What aload of hypocrital tosh in this thread.
  7. ralphsaunders

    ralphsaunders Senior Member

    I haven't had a problem until now but that creates one for me. As designers we shape what the world is like and we cannot afford to be reckless with what we create any more. It is our obligation to create a better environment through the materials we use in the things design.

    How someone can say that designers have no ethical responsibility to environment, to the world stuns me.
  8. Anagoge

    Anagoge Senior Member

    I would strongly disagree with you Berry. Designer's have every responsibility. If every design agency/packaging firm/whatever woke up tomorrow with sustainability at the forefront of their service, the world would be a better place, environmentally-speaking.

    Everyone has a responsibility to make sure that we're helping the world, rather than destroy it some more. I believe designers have a hell of a lot of power and influence over that decision, so I believe it's important to use it to good effect. If other industries are finally beginning to stray away from unsustainable materials, then we as designers should promote that further.

    Take Tesco, for example or indeed any leading supermarket. 25 years ago, it would have been unfathomable to consider reducing plastic bag use by 40%. But due to increased pressure on them by the public (and therefore their shareholders), that's exactly what happened in August 2008.

    Large businesses such as Tesco and other companies have a moral and at times a legal responsibility to make sure that they're doing their bit to help protect the environment and I believe that small businesses should do the same. A grass-roots type of campaign (and by campaign I simply mean client education) to make people more aware of sustainability is the best way to get people on the right track and this is how designers can help.
  9. mrp2049

    mrp2049 Senior Member

    Levi, maybe it is just her uni. But they drum it into them.

    Neil, you also have a point, it is part of our responsibility to make our client aware of the possibilities, but if they aren't going to listen, what can you do? the answer is nothing. Kinda brings me back to my point to about my lady in uni, they make physical products that have to last a much greater period of time, and the responsibility of products lifespan is becoming more important to manufacturers aswell.

    very interesting book on the subject matter (don't forget to use the DF link when you buy it ;) )

    Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things: William McDonough, Michael Braungart: Books

    Strong statement Mr. Burgess. Are you really saying if you could use recycled paper, or something that was carbon neutral for no extra cost, you wouldn't? We have no idea what the future of this planet will be. I am open minded enough to say evidence points to climate change theories being correct, but this could be a long term eco change to our environment.

    I appreciate that a brief is a brief. But there is always a chance to do something positive if you can.
    I am never going to force my ideas and opinions onto a client unless they ask for it. However clients do often ask for opinions on printers and it wouldn't hurt to say, 'These guys are very good, these guys are also very good, and these guys are a little bit more expensive, but they do xx and xx, which is more enviromentally sound."

    Sustainability does not pay the mortgage, but it doesn't necessarily cost anymore either, just giving people the option.

    Going to see U2 doesn't cost any extra, now they ofset their carbon emissions, they still do the same thing. Does the fact that Apple uses lower power output screens, and use more recyclable materials in their computers change what they make?

    What we have hit on already is the argument of responsibility, which is a massive feature of this debate. Should the government step in and say "FROM NOW ON, WE WILL ONLY USE RECYCLED PAPER!" or should the consumers be just as aware? Surely if both sides of the equation are trying, then the improvement will happen.

    I try and buy second hand stuff all the time, second hand books that cost next to nothing, which I then give to someone else, so they don't have to buy another one. Yet I am guilty of buying new CD's rather than just going digital.
  10. tim

    tim Senior Member

    tbh i'd personally be pretty annoyed if i, as a client, asked specifically for an item, and got told by the people i'm paying that it was the wrong idea, and that their perfecty perfect way of doing it would much better suit them.

    not saying there isnt a reason to do it anyway, but tbh it wouldnt be top of my priorities.

    i think what got berry the bear annoyed was the post he posted for some help and got flamed...

    but... who cares?!

    it's personal preference how you are to go about your business. if you feel much better going ahead as carbon neutral, nice one, but if you're a very small company, chances are you're going to make next to no difference to anything.

    this is a good point, which kinda just pushes more my thoughts that it's an added bonus if you can modify something for the better, but if it's not top of your priorities, your outcome is pretty much the same.
  11. Levi

    Levi Moderator Staff Member

    Last time I checked it was the client that had the power and influence over everything in our lines of work and they're usually governed by this little thing called money. It is at this moment in time more expensive in most cases to use eco friendly options and don't forget we're in a recession.
    If you can find cheaper alternatives for the client within the scope of the brief that are eco friendly and give the same results as non eco products then great but it's not our job to make a company green, that's their decision.

    I believe there was talk of legislation coming into play and also the fact that customers usually equal profit. It wasn't down to eco friendly side of things at that time and they started bio degradable well before 2008.
    And the 'the return/reuse the plastic bags' to tesco/js etc was/is helping them save money or make profit by reusing bags again, it wasn't because it was better for the environment.
    iirc it costs around 5p to make a plastic bag so giving back 2p to the customer for reusing the same bag is actually making tesco's 3p profit.

    Business is about money not ethics :rolleyes:
  12. tim

    tim Senior Member

    that was pretty condecending levi...

    although fundamentally i agree with you lol
  13. mrp2049

    mrp2049 Senior Member

  14. Levi

    Levi Moderator Staff Member

    didn't mean it to come across as condescending, I'm all for saving the planet but we don't have the right to try and force other people to do the same if they disagree.
  15. Anagoge

    Anagoge Senior Member

    I would. Would you design a print ad promoting a car that you knew had failed x amount of safety tests? Would you help a campaign that endorsed animal cruelty? And so forth. This is morality. My morality extends to sustainability because I think I have a responsibility to make the planet a better place to live and for others to live in the future.
  16. tim

    tim Senior Member

    design forums, it's subjective.

    it's subjective.

    that means that there will be conversation based on personal feeling, emotions and opinions (thanks spotlight's dictionary search ;))
  17. mrp2049

    mrp2049 Senior Member

    obviously! I said it! :D

    this is where my line is drawn in the sand. I am always happier to go with a more eco alternative if it doesn't add to the cost dramatically.
  18. Levi

    Levi Moderator Staff Member

    well that depends on the ad, if it's advertising it's passed x amount of safety tests then it could be false advertising.
    done any perfume/medicine ads recently as theres still area's within these which use animals?
    Done any fish/meat ad's as a vegan could say it's cruel to kill an animal for food.

    It's great having a moral stance but like I've said we do not have the right to push this on to another person.

    I'm the same with religion, I do not believe in a god (ie christianity etc) but I don't have the right to tell another person that what they believe in is wrong as it is their choice in the same way I don't want someone telling me I should be following their religion (Jehovah's witnesses knocking on my door for example) - no offence intended to any religion just using personal experiences. In fact I actually believe that the Earth has a spirit (Gia) and that every time their is a disaster (earthquake, tidalwave etc) it is the earth reminding us how insignificant we are and that she is still here.

    Anyways I'm off to bed :)
  19. tim

    tim Senior Member

  20. mrp2049

    mrp2049 Senior Member

    I can answer this through experience.


    I did this a long time ago (this is the only piece I can find easily). They are/were a vegan animal rights group. Whilst I don't agree with alot of their attitudes towards animal rights, (far far to extreme), and seriously disagree with the people who run/ran it (one of them had been to prison for crimes relating to assault on someone who worked in a lab that tested on animals), I was stuck in a difficult situation, work and money = good, no work = no money. I was younger when I did this, so work wasn't so forth coming, so I didn't feel I was in a position to turn work away. Perhaps now I might feel different, but the truth of the matter is morality is subjective aswell!

    Please don't take this as a random assault on your character, I agree with what you are getting at. But their is also the argument of the inside line in this case, perhaps by doing these jobs we can establish a positive relationship and do some good in the long term.

    I did feel guilty do work for a group associated with animal rights crimes, but I knew my conscience wouldn't pay the tuition fees of my masters. I knew I didn't agree with it, but at the time I had little choice. I was fully aware that this group in their sense of good conscience did bad things to human beings. But why does the lab researched who got assaulted for testing medical products on a bunch of rats to try and save lives deserve to be tortured for it? She is trying to do something good also.

    Now if this situation came up again, I might have a different attitude, but I know more work will arrive now. I had no idea then.

    Neil, personally, I am the kind of person who recycles, is aware of his carbon footprint and does as much as I can within my power to do so, I don't own a car and refuse to, I ride a bmx everywhere instead, if I can get something second hand that works and extends a products life then I will, that even extends to my pets (they are all from rescue centres). The only time where I buy things new, is music, because a second hand CD does not support the artist, and I know what its like to be that struggling artist. I give things away, that can still be used, no matter what they cost me, best example being my old bed (£200) and a guitar amp (£300) because I would rather see them used than sitting gathering dust. The point I am getting at is, what I do is my responsibility, what they do is not, I can try and change people, but I am never going to risk my livelihood or the roof over my head for it.

    Sorry if this seems a little ranty. I am a passionate guy and this is one of those things I care about.

    I have also done work for a finance company who specialise in IVA's (look them up, that is some hardcore indebt ****), In truth, they do help some people, but alot of their work is designed to take advantage of people who are financially up **** creek. But once again, I am not taking advantage of the people who go to them, I am stopping myself from requiring their services!

    Wow, I must seem like a scumbag right now!

    Edit: Fair play Levi, good point. I am anti smoking, drugs, alcohol and caffeine (seriously), but if its your poison then so be it. I am not going to force my lifestyle on you ever. If you want my opinion I will gladly tell people, but I am not going to judge anyone differently because they smoke, like a cuppa or a few brewskis. Drugs, that different, but lets never EVER get me started on that.

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