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The Prepress Toolkit Suiting Up For Eco-friendly Design

Aaron Trigg

Overview Before diving in to any project it is wise to consider what it will take to get your project produced smoothly and, more over, what its ecological impact will be. There are many unforeseen factors that can ultimately crush your chances of having a flawless project. The Prepress Toolkit handbooks are designed to get you, the designer, through the prepress process with your sanity intact. Use these handbooks as quick reference guides to keep with you when starting in on a project and let them guide you through till the end. Follow us down the rabbit hole.

Aaron Trigg

Image: Oh, the irony of having ‘beautiful’ green grass.

Green Design? Who are these tree huggin’ hippies? You! Green design is not only finding and using better physical materials for the environment, but finding and practicing new ways of thinking. Einstein once declared,“We can not solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”. One must agree that this is why we are in our current environmental predicament in the first place; climate change, exploding population, global pollution, water shortages, etc. You know, that old hat. Green design starts with you! That’s right, you heard me correctly. In recent years the role of a designer has shifted. We, as designers, have more responsibility than ever before. We must The Prepress Toolkit

consider our role in the grand scheme of things, and adjusting accordingly. The design core is about effecting change. We design things to improve others experience, right? When we consider the grand scheme, we discover that the status quo we are used to is fundamentally flawed and needs some of the largest improvements because of where our designs inherently end up: in the trash. If we can change our bad habits, we can improve upon our negative impact on the environment and potentially enhance the end users experience.

We can not solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. Einstein

Design As a String It’s like finding a new way to tie your shoes. Except way cooler. Green design can be represented as a string. This string simulates the design process from conception to destiny. The designer can be found somewhere along this string, usually towards the beginning. If you, the designer, were to pull on the string you would undoubtedly affect the way it behaves. Subsequently, upstring would react in sequence along with downstring adapting to whatever new position you have chosen. By pushing, pulling, and molding you can reshape the string to create a new order. This is a new way of thinking, a paradigm shift if you will. This gives designers a new outlook on the amount they influence. Designers actions The Prepress Toolkit

create consequences that influence upstring and downstring. With careful placement and consideration a designer can gain the upper hand and restrict negative influence from floating downstring. The successful positioning of the string is key to effective green design.

Downstring Upstring

You Dare you to pull

Image: Understanding our reach.

Design Impact Today Bad, bad designers. Shame on you. Noses in the corner. Today graphic designers are designers of stuff, making stuff look nice to appeal to users. They often construct plans that only solve communication problems. These designers are creating without even considering their impact on the environment. They are influencing downstring with a cumulative impact that is exponentially crappy for the Earth. It is safe to say that most designers today are naive, inheriting their lackadaisical outlook from past designers who too did little in the way of examining their impact. But it is time for designers to stop and look around. The one thing designers have going for them and always will is that they are catalyst for change! The Prepress Toolkit

If there is a good reason to scream at you, then that would be one (hence the exclamation mark). Now the trick is pursuing positive change; not any-ol’ change will do, because that is what left us stranded here to begin with.

The Graph What we control as designers is a finite portion of the greater picture. Our zone of control is depicted by the green bubble. Our zone of influence is in blue. Notice that what we influence is tenfold from what we control. This is important. We can only reduce our impact if we understand the reach of our influence.





Image: Keep baby Sammy happy.

Future Design Impact See baby Sammy over there? Lets keep him happy. The role of a designer is shifting and expanding, ergo, their role is redefined. Designers were never designers of stuff but were designers of consequence all along. Their design plan which once housed the solutions for communication problems will now contain economical solutions for people downstring as well. The designers awareness of his/her influence will be recognized and acknowledged with a larger array of responsibilities not once perceived by today’s designers. The increase in responsibilities will place more opportunity for innovation within the designers hands. These future designers will be the people planning ahead to ensure a positive environmental impact with the ultimate goal to The Prepress Toolkit

reduce their impact until they no longer have a harmful footprint on the Earth. Green design should no longer be a niche but a community of shared knowledge that involves all designers. This said, the community will allow all designers to be a green designer to some extent. Baby Sammy will be kept happy because we have invested our time into making his future a better place to live. Think about the kids! So how exactly do we achieve a positive environmental impact?







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Design Backwards


If it isn’t the guilt that gets you maybe the stink will. Do you know where your hard work will end up? I do. In the dump or, in a more optimal setting: a recycling facility. If you factor this into your design lexicon, then you can better accommodate for your design’s destiny. It is no longer appropriate to plan projects from where you stand. It is best to plan around the ultimate destiny of your design and work backwards to get the biggest bang out of your eco-friendly buck. Designing backwards surfaces knowledge that enables us to creatively avoid most roadblocks that may prevent green solutions from continuing downstring. Also, it helps to keep in contact every step of the way. Here it is broken down into six steps. Easy.

Waste Design for destiny.


When designing backwards, start at the end of your projects voyage. It usually ends up in the trash. Consider finding ways to enhance your users experience so that he/she will recognize that the design can be reused. The reusing of items is the best cycle for your design to belong to because of the dividing effect which makes it more efficient. If the user decided that the design is no longer needed be sure the design is either recyclable or compostable, preferably recyclable, if not both. This will guarantee that the design will cause the least amount of environmental impact.

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User It’s about their reaction.


The desired outcome of the interaction between your design and user should cause a change in belief or behavior. This helps drive sales and build brand value. Do studies to ensure that your work is delivering the desired reaction. If your work is more effective then you will need far less stuff to achieve the desired outcome. We don’t need math to know that less stuff equals reduced environmental impact.



Understand how it gets there.

Green graphic designers need to understand a few principles of efficient transport and then actively collaborate with these specialists in order to change the status quo and create ecological innovation. Use Ephemeral packaging or Durable packaging. Ephemeral packaging should only last as long as the user needs it to and Durable can be used multiple times. Strip away any unnecessary layers. The lighter the package, the better. If possible consider alternative distribution (i.e. door-to-door). Moving stuff fast is not the most efficient. Consider ship, train or truck.


Storage To pack it or to not pack it.

Think about how the primary package design effects the secondary package design. Green packaging designers look for ways of minimizing dead space. Rearrange the way the products are stacked in a case, you may be able to maintain required volume yet use less paper. Allow you package design to preform multiple functions. This will allow you to design away some of the layers. Many things that typically need envelopes could be reconceived as self mailers. Consider on demand publishing to remove storage from the equation.

Image: Durable packaging.

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Finishing Don’t fight the machine.


It is easy to end up with designs that fit poorly on press sheets and leave a great deal of trim waste. Be sure, when possible, to design your press sheet to cut down on trim waste. If possible avoid bleeds. Mechanical binding is generally the most recyclable type of bindery. Avoid adhesive bindery unless aware of type of adhesive.

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Printing Design for green printing.


This is the step that graphic designers have the most control over from the start. You must choose the print technology that suits your project best, ranging from large to small. Consider the setup, run time and clean up of these technologies. It is wise to avoid inks with high levels of VOC’s (volatile organic compound). To do this, consider fast drying UV inks which emit very little VOC’s You can also find soy based inks. Once again, design your press sheet. This is one of the most effective ways to reduce your impact while saving a little green. The paper you choose plays a large role in your impact-o-meter. Typically you should choose either recycled fibers or synthetic/ alternative fibers. Avoid virgin (tree) papers.

The Design Balance Stand on one foot, touch your nose and count down from ten. Green design is relatively new to the game and many of your clients will be weary of green designers because of all the “green washing� that has taken place over the past years. Green washing occurs when designers over-promote and under-perform. This can be overcome by complete transparency. Make the client aware of all the intricacies of the project. It is the new designers responsibility to balance the value of the project with the cost. Successful balance will gain the trust of prospective clients. The value is determined by authenticity, restraint and follow through. The cheapest option might not always be the best option. Added value The Prepress Toolkit

makes more expensive options a better choice. Because of this, the importance of value should always outweigh the cost. Keep in mind that green design does not necessarily add cost to a project. There are plenty of alternative options that cost roughly the same as traditional ones. If a client/ designer focuses on cost alone then they may implicitly accept the broken system. Adding value to a project is a creative process. This is good news for designers. Designers are good at adding value. When designers concentrate on their creativity on reducing waste, they find novel ways of doing things. This is the root of green design.



Bibliography Dougherty, Brian, and Cellery Design Collaborative. Green Graphic Design. New York: Allworth, 2008. Print. “Part 1: Designing For Stainability.” Video blog post. Inspire. Adobe, 7 Mar. 2009. Web. <>. “Part 2: Towards Sustainable Design: A Discussion.” Video blog post. Inspire. Adobe, 7 Mar. 2009. Web. <> “Part 3: Building a Sustainable Design Movment.” Video blog post. Inspire. Adobe, 7 Mar. 2009. Web. < >. “Designing for Sustainability.” Interview. Video blog post. YouTube. Eastman Chemical Company, 30 Oct. 2009. Web. <>.

The Prepress Toolkit

The Prepress Toolkit Suiting Up For Eco-Friendly Design Aaron Trigg

The Prepress Toolkit - Suiting Up For Eco-Friendly Design  

A look into eco-friendly design or green design. Made as a school project.

The Prepress Toolkit - Suiting Up For Eco-Friendly Design  

A look into eco-friendly design or green design. Made as a school project.