Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash showing environmental rally with signs "there's no planet B"

What is sustainable communications design?

My colleague/friend Sebastian Abboud and I collaborated with the Graphic Designers of Canada’s (GDC) National Sustainability Committee (NSC) to create an infographic answering this very question. Over the course of nearly a year (!) we debated, designed, and refined this infographic together. As with many volunteer projects, it was an awesome learning experience, and an opportunity to hear from a variety of voices within the GDC. I’ve been a GDC volunteer for many years, and this project really shone the light on a depth of understanding that I’m not usually given space to discuss. 

As defined by the GDC, “Sustainable communication design is the application of sustainability principles to communication design practice. Practitioners consider the full life cycle of products and services, and commit to strategies, processes and materials that value social, cultural, economic and environmental responsibility.” In a way, it’s hard to sum up sustainability, since it impacts almost everything due its inherent integrated nature. And as many of us are beginning to understand, good design is sustainable design.

We created this poster for designers who might not know a lot about what sustainability means. Our goal was to make sustainability feel tangible by suggesting things in each of the four pillars that designers can focus on to create change within the context of their work. Sustainability is often discussed in broad strokes (because it is broad and all-encompassing) so we kept the infographic simple and attractive, and provided one or two new ideas to build curiosity to learn more. Visit the GDC website for a PDF of this infographic.  

Sustainable communications design infographic showing different areas designers can create a positive impact.

I truly enjoyed leading this self-directed project, which aligned well with the NSC’s goal for 2018 of making sustainability visible. It also allowed me to discover how talented an illustrator Sebastian is! After thinking about starting this project for years, I’m happy to have something to share when students and designers alike ask, “What is sustainable graphic design?” And I’m grateful for Sebastian’s time and patience, and all the NSC committee members who contributed their energy to this project: Steven Cretney, Valerie Elliott, Erika Rathje and Elise Cheetham.

Interested in joining the GDC’s National Sustainability Committee? We meet virtually once a month and would love to have you! Email to drop in on the next meeting and try it out.

Infographic designed by Sebastian Abboud, CGD. Creative Direction by Lisa Hemingway, CGD. Banner photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash.