As an environmental graphic designer at a multidisciplinary (but primarily architecture) firm, I’m somewhat outnumbered in my LEED credit contributions on most projects. Sure, there are alternatives to some of the environmentally awful products typically used in graphics, and most typical methods and materials are at least somewhat aware of their impact, but when you’re applying branded graphics and signage to a 9 story building, full of HVAC calculations, sunlight + wind considerations, low-flow this and that, and thousands of tons of concrete, flooring + furniture, is fighting the fight for eco-friendly signage worth the battle? Such is the attitude we’re all forcing ourselves away from.
We’re looking at two ideas here : first, considering the environmental impact of graphic design products throughout their entire life cycle (raw materials > manufacturing > use > disposal), and second, how storytelling via graphics can perpetuate the success of a company’s integration of sustainability into their core values, culture, and environment.
Slowly but surely, our fabricators and vendors are jumping on the bandwagon and realizing that while it might be less detrimental than a high-VOC flooring spec, our materials matter, too. As designers we’re working towards a consistent audit of the amount of materials required for production, using materials made with recycled, post-consumer waste, printing with low-VOC inks, minimizing the amount of transport required, and which vendors might use renewable energy. On the flip side, however, integrated brand design can take years of thoughtful attention to green building from a proud moment between the design team + the client to a public-facing recognition of stewardship and forward-thinking values.
Walking into a space, the identity, mission and personality of that company should be immediately reinforced. Branding an environment transforms a building from a container or shell into a piece of the brand puzzle. We’ve seen (and completed) some projects that do an excellent job at walking a visitor through the space and the story, and integrate those sustainable attributes into everything from landscaping to embedded signage and graphics all the way to LEED-specific iconography. Our goal, at this point, is to show the world that involving a brand designer from the moment you decide to build is the easiest, greenest, and most cost-effective way to ensure that the opportunity to tell your story of sustainability doesn’t get left behind.