Issue #1 September - December 2011
Print isn’t as bad as you think y’know!
On Visualising Sustainability
A personal journal by Mia Tivey, documenting the progression of work throughout the SUSTAINABLE: ME project.
Welcome! How sustainable is the practice of graphic design? During the past ten weeks, we have been asked to explore and research this idea. The issue of sustainability is something that is only going to become more important, thus it is vital for both current and emerging graphic designers to be aware, and wherever possible, make design decisions in order to achieve the most sustainable outcomes possible. It is also important that we look at sustainability from a people and profit point of view too, as it is vital that designers these days know their value! We have worked on a number of different projects this
Refuse to Reuse?
How to turn an ordinary office object into a fun children’s toy term, both individually and as part of a group. The briefs have challenged us to think critically and in new ways. Additionally, we have been introduced to the designer/ client relationship which was obviously an incredibly valuable experience. This newspaper brings together a collection of my work and findings, together with my developments and thoughts during this term Overall, I have had a really enjoyable time and will take away valuable knowledge of which I am positive I will refer back to in future practice. Just be sure that when you are finished with this newspaper, you remember to recycle it! Prototype of the ‘Squidgeroo’ - a completely recycled, fun toy for children Photograph: Beth Kelsall
We have been given the persona of a child aged 3 to 4; Obviously at this age, children are incredibly playful and inquisitive. They are at an age where toys are of great importance, but it is also apparent that they are likely to have a relatively short attention span. At this age, children are learning at an incredible rate. This age group also coincides with the beginning of their formal education, so it is likely that toys with an educational element will appeal to them (I know that this was the case for me - incredibly conscientious even then!). Additionally, it is common for some young children
to be reluctant to play by themselves. Many are quite attention seeking and therefore will seek the attention and interaction of adults. This is so they can show them what they are doing in order to get them to either participate or to just speak words of encouragement. Other general personality traits include being demanding, sulky, excitable and impulsive not that I was ever any of those things, of course!
The first mini project of the Sustainable: Me brief was all about re usage of materials. We were split into groups of six, with each group then assigned a persona (of which later, we had to further develop). The point of this brief was to choose an object or material
that one would ordinarily find in the graphic design environment, and then reuse in a new way (obviously in a way that would be appropriate for our target group). Initially, we were keen on reusing cardboard, because it is such a diverse material that can be so easily recycled.
All illustrations are my own; © Mia Tivey 2011
We were toying with the idea of perhaps designing some sort of ‘ﬂat-pack’ object that the child could assemble themselves - a ‘treasure chest’ for example. However, after discussing things with the tutors, we felt that it was important to push the boundaries more; To think ‘outside the box’! We turned our attentions to plastic wallets (or poly-pockets) because they are such a diverse material and offered up many more interesting possibilities.
There was a substantial development phase during this project. After coming up with the basis of a strong idea fairly early on into the project, thoughts and ideas of how to develop the product further seemed to naturally occur! Initially, we were filling the poly-pockets with ink, but we realised it wasn’t a malleable enough substance. Looking around the studio, we spotted some washing-up liquid and had a brain wave! It turned out to be the perfect solution; Filling the poly-pocket with just
The project was going brilliantly - we were ticking so many boxes and there was such a natural ﬂow of development! At this stage, we needed to bring everything together and make as good of a prototype as possible. This led us on to creating the illustrations. We needed a background illustration and an illustration for the fish to go inside. An underwater scene seemed like an appropriate choice of background, and so it was my job to create the graphics. I adopted a really simple, vector illustrative style which would definitely appeal to our persona. The fish were very simple and cartoon-like too, with the numbers and mathematical symbols in a bold typeface. Unfortunately, problems arose when it came to assembling the prototype; Initially, we struggled with the fish because they kept getting ruined by the washing-up liquid. Through
the right amount, it enabled the user to really ‘get in there’ and push the stuff around! As an object, it feels really nice, and as a group, we decided that it would appeal to our persona. But the development didn’t stop there! Another element needed to be added, and that came in the form of small, plastic clown fish. Because of the transparency and liquid like qualities of the polypocket and the washing-up liquid, it seemed like a natural progression to add fish into the mix. We thought that they could even have numbers and mathematical symbols on them to add an educational element too!
lots of experimentation, we realised that the best way was to print the fish onto strong paper, cut them out individually, laminate the cut-outs, then cut around each laminated fish (follow all that?!). We were pleased to see that it was easy to push the fish (laminated in this very convoluted way) around the poly-pocket. Hypothetically speaking, if the product was ever put into production, it would be imperative that we used an industrial strength sealer to seal the plastic wallets. Throughout the project, we were using a mini handheld one, which is meant for hobby/craft purposes. We were getting frustrated by the constant leakages of washingup liquid, which was rather sticky, and to be honest, a complete waste of washingup liquid! Not particularly sustainable practice at all (and a waste of our studio fees too!).
Sea the Spaceman
We had time to spare which meant one thing - more drawing!
Showing our slightly more refined prototype to another group was a very useful exercise. The overall feedback was very positive, but they highlighted some issues that were important to consider, and would eventually make the product even better! I’ll begin with the positives: They loved the concept, (it became apparent that one can never be too old to enjoy pushing washing-up liquid around inside a plastic wallet!) and also thought that the added educational element was a great idea. They also really liked the illustrations and agreed that they were completely appropriate for our target audience. However, they made the point of a potential danger; If the product was played with particularly vigorously, then the washing-
up liquid might leak and cause harm to the child. Therefore, we would have to ensure that the washing up-liquid was non-toxic and also, perhaps reinforce the edges in some way (especially the edges which we had to seal) so that it becomes even more unlikely that a leak will occur in the first place. So, I think you’ll agree, very helpful feedback! I genuinely think that if we amended the issues raised, we would be left with quite a commercial product! There was an additional suggestion of perhaps using recycled materials to create a collaged background scene, as opposed to using printed media. This was a very good idea, and would make the product even more sustainable - brilliant!
Birt’s visual storytelling techniques to communicate sustainability A few weeks ago, we were introduced to the work of Arlene Birt. Birt describes herself as a ‘visual storyteller’, and in 2001, developed ‘Background Stories’, a system which promotes corporate transparency and more sustainable purchasing behavior. This allows organizations to communicate their social and environmental objectives and progress to their consumers. When asked about her work, Birt states: “The boundaries between art, design, commerce, and technology blur and intersect in my work: realworld static data plays out into more emotionally charged, collectively visual, stories. I visualize the narratives behind the seemingly ubiquitous everyday objects that we interact with as consumers; focusing on the larger inﬂuence that these interactions hold on the world. By bringing the attention of the viewer to the detailed background narratives of objects and ideas, my intent is to inspire people to understand how their everyday choices impact global environment and society.”
The life cycle of the humble T-shirt
Find out exactly where you T-shirt was made, and where it’s going to end up!
‘Bicycling Counts’ project, 2010
Through her work, Birt frames every-day actions within the context of the big picture in order to communicate consumers’ roles in social and ecological sustainability. We were shown a video of her giving a talk on the theme of ‘Visualising Sustainability’. During the talk, she refers
back to two of her recent projects, one of them being the ‘Bicycling Counts’ project. The idea is to visually communicate the benefits of cycling, in terms of CO2 saved, money saved and calories burned. The technology involved was relatively simple; A camera hooked up to a motion senser,
which was programmed to recognise when a cyclist rode past a designated point (of a well populated area of the town). The number of cyclists from that day, together with the other data was projected onto a large screen, with various animations after significant milestones were reached. It is a simple but very effective idea, and a concept that obviously appeals to the general public - who doesn’t want to find out how much money they’ve saved and how many calories they’ve burned as opposed to if they had chosen to drive instead?! Arlene’s work was very inspiring. She really reinforced the importance of storytelling. In these modern times, it seems more imperative for people to know the provenance of the things that they buy. Since being exposed to her work, I have become far more aware of other companies that seem to be running campaigns in the same vain (for example, John Wests’ ‘Discover the story behind every can’ campaign). Overall, she has proven herself to be a real pioneer of sustainable graphic design!
Hartley Wilprint prove that print really isn’t as bad as you think We recently went on a visit to Hartley Wilprint printers, based in Cardiff. It is clear that they run an environmentally responsible business, which are continually striving to operate in an ever-more sustainable fashion. In order to achieve this, they consider the environmental effects of their activities in all stages of business planning, development, production and marketing, whilst producing a high quality product.
Additionally, in recent years they have achieved an ISO14001:2004 rating (this specifies requirements for an environmental management system to enable an organization to implement a policy which take into account legal requirements) and have the only Alcohol Free colour press in Wales. Also during the visit, we learned of some interesting misconceptions regarding paper. Obviously trees play a
I think that it is important to explain my reasoning as to why I’ve created a newspaper for my journal this term. Although we’ve had lots of workshops on Dreamweaver and the interactive features of InDesign this term, I was keen on designing something for print; I can’t justify that decision anymore really, it was just a mind-set that I had from the beginning! As opposed to designing a book or poster, I thought that instead, a newspaper would be a more appropriate option for a few different reasons. Firstly, they utilize space incredibly efficiently, which in itself, is of course very sustainable. Secondly, they are predominantly printed on newsprint, which is a sustainable material because it is very low in cost and is largely constructed from
vital role in the paper making process, and before visiting Hartley Wilprint, I thought that trees from rainforests were being used. Whereas in fact, much of the wood used by paper companies come from privately owned tree farms, where forests are planted, groomed and thinned for harvest in 20 to 35 year cycles, depending on the tree species. Around the world, tree farms supply 16 percent of all wood used in the paper
industry, while the bulk comes from second growth forests. Less than 9 percent of the wood used to make paper is harvested from old growth forests, which are impossible to replace because of their maturity. Obviously an environmental impact remains when it comes to print, but it is still a valued and necessary commodity which as an industry, is trying to act as sustainable as possible.
recycled fibres. These are the main reasons why I thought it would be a good idea; I thought it would be rather hypocritical if I designed something that was printed on expensive, virgin paper, using lots of colour and ink etc! Whilst browsing the internet, I came across ‘Newspaper Club’. Basically, they “have a passion for ink on newsprint”, and anybody can send off a PDF and they print it for you, to full newspaper dimensions, using a proper printing press, and of course, printed on newsprint. Perfect! Looking at their various case studies, I can see that the ending product is of incredibly high quality, which reassured me again that making a newspaper was a good idea. Even the price wasn’t too bad either - £14 for one 12 page copy, but obviously economies
of scale come into play the more copies you want (for example, 5 copies are £29, 100 copies are £169 Etc). Obviously for what I want, £14 for one copy isn’t particularly financially sustainable, but hey, I am a student! The process of designing and constructing this newspaper has been laborious and timeconsuming, but also fun and a great learning experience. It’s given me many opportunities to indulge in my favourite thing, drawing, too. So sorry if it’s perhaps slightly overkill on that front, I have a tendency to get carried away sometimes!
The next project specifically asked us to consider ‘How sustainable is the world of graphic design?’. We were split into allocated groups, with each group asked to choose a graphic design related subject to research and identify its sustainable and unsustainable
components. The outcome would be to tell its story using print and screen-based media, and then to present our work to our client, Simon O’Rafferty (and the rest of our class) on the 2nd December. From the list of various research ares, we chose
‘profession’. As opposed to the other options available, (which included water, ink and paper), we thought that profession may give us the opportunity to have slightly more freedom, and not to focus quite so centrally on the ‘planet’ aspect of sustainability. It was clear from the offset that this project was going to be a challenge, and that we were also expected to be a lot more self-motivated than on previous projects.
Working in a group can also prove problematic, but I think I was quite lucky with my particular group; Having worked with a couple of them before, I knew that we would all work well together. Fortunate really seeing as though we would be working together for the next 8 weeks! I was excited to start the project, and could see great potential after reading and rereading the brief. It was just a case of getting started now!
Recycling facilities How do designers communicate with their clients?
How much do clients already know about sustainability?
Is it important that the next generation of graphic designers are concerned about sustainability?
What exists already to educate clients about sustainability?
Ink costs Understanding the routine - what do people spend their time doing?
Conference calls vs. face to face Still use fax?
How they communicate
Briefs catered towards more sustainable outcomes?
Use of materials vs. cost of creating them
It seems apparent that info-graphics are not my forte´! Future developments that contribute to graphic design
So, after our initial brainstorm, we met as a group and discussed what the next step was going to be. Firstly, we undertook some brief internet research. Following recommendations from our tutors, we looked at websites such as www. lovelyasatree.com and www. backgroundstories.com. These websites were set up in order to provide information for graphic designers on how to lead a sustainable practice. Reading the content featured, it was certainly a good starting point for us in terms of initial idea generation. Bearing in mind our research topic (profession), we quickly realised that it was going to be very important for us to gather some first-hand research. This meant one thing - studio visits! Fortunately for me, my Dad is a graphic designer and he also owns his own business. Therefore, this presented us with the perfect opportunity to pay him a short visit (especially good as I knew there was a fairly good chance
of getting a free lunch too!). The day before we were to make the trip to Cheltenham (which is where Dad’s office is), Rachel and I devised a short questionnaire which covered basic topics concerning sustainability. The next day, when we arrived at the office, we were given a tour and introduced to Dad’s business partner and other graphic designer. It is probably interesting to note that when I initially showed Dad the SUSTAINABLE:ME brief, he was quite confused and was unsure whether we were interested in learning about sustainability from an ‘eco’ point of view, or a business point of view - because up until this point, as a group, we had been primarily focusing on the ‘eco’ side of graphic design as a profession. However, the questions we had prepared majortively revolved around wastage of resources and client communication. So, basically, what we learnt is that in
Following a fair amount of research, we unanimously came to the decision that designers are busy people (and sometimes quite lazy). To help them out, it would be good if there was a place with lots of information regarding how to lead a sustainable practice. It would be collated all in one place, with various different ‘tools’ allowing the designer to check how sustainable a practice (or not so) they were currently running. This could include mobile phone ‘apps’ such as a ‘Cycling Counter’, which measures how much C02 and money one would have saved as opposed to if he/she had driven to work. Additionally, we liked the idea of a ‘Rate my Printer’ feature, where local printers would be dropped onto a Google Maps interface, and rated against each other to particularly compare their green credentials. Other ideas included environmentally friendly posters - the premise being a selection of nicely designed posters, with ‘eco’ messages,
printed on sustainably sourced paper using soya based ink (which we found out to be a more sustainable alternative as opposed to conventional inks). Additionally, I thought of the idea of designing stickers or posters that were kind of aggressive but in a humourous way. For example, a sticker that you would stick on the kettle saying : “Make one for everyone else too, selfish dickhead!” Or something along those lines anyway! I’m relying on the hope that on the whole, designers will have a sense of humour!
many ways, the practice of graphic design is becoming more ‘sustainable’, which is largely due to coincidence thanks to the advancements in technology. For example, most client interaction now takes place via email and/or conference calls (especially useful when dealing with overseas clients). This is because it is clearly the most cost-effective and convenient method; Fast too when it comes down to showing proofs etc. Overall, it was a very worthwhile visit, if for nothing else, it’s always great to see a proper working environment. It definitely gave us more of an insight into how a graphic design studio operates, and we definitely gained some valuable information regarding how sustainability affects graphics.
It was getting to the point where we didn’t really have a solid idea. I was certain that we should try to come up with a proper idea - a concept. It seemed like we were getting far too caught up in the whole ‘eco’ part of the sustainability of graphic design. Additionally, it felt like we were clutching at straws slightly - really, we were trying to research all of the other groups’ research
topics. Everytime I re-read the brief, I felt more and more confused, so the time had definitely come to ask for help! Help came in the form of Olwen, who isn’t actually our tutor for this project, so we had to (as best we could!) explain the brief to her, and our ideas so far. I think it was in fact very helpful to turn to someone with little prior knowledge of the project, it
meant a pair of fresh eyes and no pre-conceptions. She made us see that we had been completely neglecting the profit part of sustainability - obviously pretty major considering we’re researching ‘profession’ as a whole. Anyway, this realisation prompted a whole new wave of idea generation, with us coming up with far more creative solutions and really thinking outside the box. For example, it led us on to discuss the notion of: “Do designers know their value?” Particularly so in this day and age, it seems that because of the technology, graphic designed is viewed as a rather non-skilled industry and that ‘anybody can do it’. I think that this marked a major turning point in our thinking; At last - ideas!
We continued to talk about the theme of designers knowing and understanding their value. I thought that this was a really cool angle to approach this project - no other groups would be looking this thoroughly into the profit part of sustainability, and also I think it is an important message to send out to designers anyway! Continuing from the earlier ideas about creating various ‘tools’ for designers, the idea of building a ‘toolkit’ was born! This swiftly led on to name generation. I thought of ‘Design is Hardwork’ because I thought it represented quite neatly along with the theme of designers knowing their value, and making their clients understand that too. Additionally, it fit quite well with the ‘toolkit’ premise because it is on the same kind of construction theme. So, the new ‘toolkit’ will still include all of our previous ideas, it will expand to cover profit based issues too. However, it was clear that we
still needed to think of some kind of hook, to engage our target audience and to make them want to get involved. Still thinking along the lines of construction, we were thinking maybe we could build something; We thought that it would probably need to be a more dynamic ‘stunt’ though, in order to directly involve our target audience and cause a stir... Eventually, Rachel came up with the ‘Lightbulb Project’, the premise being we ask designers to send us their old bulbs, we make a large installation in a room when we have enough lightbulbs then we invite the public to twist or push the bulbs until they find the single working one (this represents the difficulty of thinking of that one genius idea, after all, graphics is more about creative thinking as opposed to aesthetics). Once the single working lightbulb has been discovered, a series of bulbs light up around the room spelling out ‘design is hardwork’. We would film this stunt and put it on Youtube, and broadcast it on other available social media, in order to generate as much interest as possible. We at last had a definitive concept!
I was given the brilliant task of building the animation! This also includes drawing all the artwork and making the storyboard. I’ve ﬁnished all the artwork (and thus, the storyboard) but am currently still building the animation... So you’ll have to wait for a later insert I’m afraid because I’m running out of pages! I am loathed to carry on with it though because I cannot STAND FLASH! I’m glad it’s on it’s way out... It’s probably the least intuitive piece of software I’ve ever come across, excluding Microsoft Word of course. Anyway, to the right you can see various frames taken from the storyboard of the ‘lightbulb stunt’ animation. Obviously, with our given timeframe, it would be literally impossible for us to collect enough lightbulbs, find a suitable location and set the stunt up, but we thought it would be the next best thing to have an animation clearly explaining the idea and concept behind the stunt, to appear on our
website and other various social media sites. To sum up the detail of the animation, the camera slowly tracks along a wall full of lightbulbs, gradually zooming out. Various lightbulbs begin to twist and push themselves into the wall until (when the camera has zoomed out enough so you can see the entire room) one lightbulb lights up, followed shortly by ‘Design is Hardwork’ spelt out by many lightbulbs all around the room. You would think that would be fairly easy to animate in Flash? Think again.
Tears and tantrums over identity (kind of)
The development of our logo
Not a particularly laborious process, as you can see! Our identity is really a combination of Dan’s and mine’s initial logos, but obviously everyone was involved in the decision making process so that we could reach a fair compromise, because at some points there were disagreements! The attributes we liked about Dan’s logo were the ribbon shape and the tools. The attributes that we liked about my logo were the colours and the drawing of the bulb (although we agreed the stroke was probably a bit too thin at present). Overall, I really like our logo (and the rest of our identity
graphics). They are very consistent and look very modern. Hopefully, they will appeal to our market too. I think the use of colour is quite clever and always used to maximum advantage; Also I think the typography is strong too. We have kept within the Futura family - a designer’s favourite needless to say! I have done quite a lot of the artwork during this project, and I can honestly say it has honed my skills on Illustrator even more. Building an identity is something that I have had no experience in, so the entire process was very interesting. Great experience of drawing lightbulbs too!