Graphic Design

Responsible Visual Communication

On the surface, Graphics may seem unrelated to Responsible Design, however the volume of materials, especially paper, the associated pressure on forest resources, issues of recycling, bleaching, energy, water consumption and toxic inks means that the understanding of the ecological footprint or whole project environmental cost is as important as for any industry.
Let’s explore… Understanding and considered usage of materials plus relating how best to convey the desired messages should play a substantive part of the practice of every designer & specifier. SRD suggestions and directions for paper, printing and related proceses : the REAP guide for Eco paper info. and ideas, (an update is in progress) and The Greener Print Procurement guide and extra data below.
the REAP guide v2.0+
Print for Environment : Greener Print Procurement guide
  • Strive to create the greatest visual impact with the least environmental impact
    Achieving clients needs while limiting potential ecological damage
  • Consider the use of Recycled paper stock with a high Post Consumer (PC) recycled fibre content
    Clean mill waste has always been recycled so it is better to keep consumer paper out of landfill
  • Consider the use of tree free paper stock such as sugar cane waste, straw, seaweed, algae and hemp
    Alternative renewable paper sources can reduce need for wood pulp from old growth forests
  • Consider the use of vegetable based printing inks such as soy inks
    Vegetable based inks are renewable and emit less toxic Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
  • Avoid the use of ink colours which contain high levels of heavy metals such as copper, chrome, etc.
    Many bright colours contain heavy metals which leach into ground water when landfilled
  • Ensure the use of unbleached or non chlorine bleached paper stock
    Bleached paper requires the use of toxins which are harmful to marine and water based life

Circular economy, upstream innovation is about tracing a problem back to its root cause and tackling it there. Rather than working out how to deal with a pile of waste, prevent it from being created in the first place using three innovation strategies – elimination, reuse and material circulation. See how moving upstream can stop packaging waste and pollution while generating economic benefits from Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Lots of case studies, downloads, guides & resources.

AIGA sustainable design dictionary pic
  • Encourage their clients to consider the environmental impact of their production
    Educated clients are more willing to undertake ecologically sound projects
  • Avoid overuse of gloss paper stock, because more exists than can be de-inked and recycled
    In some areas there is a glut of gloss paper because satin or matt paper is used less
  • Avoid overuse of plastic films, foil stampings, metallic colours and synthetic adhesives
    Some synthetics have a life of 200-500 years after they have been disposed of in landfills
  • Consider the smallest paper size suitable for each job, ie A5 instead of A4
    Less paper used means less energy expended and should also be cheaper for client
  • Avoid ‘bleeds’ that are then trimmed and must be de-inked before recycling
  • Ink extended beyond trim marks requires more intensive recycling than ink within trim marks
  • Avoid over use of perfect bound or spiral bound spines as they are difficult to recycle
    The glues and metals in such binding impede cost effective recycling
AIGA have created a useful sustainability design dictionary with all things sustainability. Browse their information from A-Z
AIGA sustainable design dictionary pic
  • Consider using filmless and plateless digital printing technology for small run jobs
    Modern printing technology can reduce amount of plastics, metals and inks used for printing
  • Use paper sizes and number of pages that best fit standard sheet stocks without wasteful trimming
    Printers can advise on best use of sheet stock for less paper wastage and more price savings
  • Avoid using too much ink in their designs
    More ink means more difficult de-inking or greater toxic residue leaching into groundwater
  • SRD will soon be publishing its updated Recommended Environmentally Accountable Paper guide
  • Use the appropriate recycled logo or stewardship logos to promote the nature of their production
    Customers and Users need the opportunity to know the ethical qualitiy of the goods they are purchasing 
  • Promote design responsibility by printing PCW content, ink and bleaching type on their work
    Customers & Users educated by one product will look for the same credentials in other other products
  • Keep informed of the latest environmental developments in inks, papers and printing processes
    New technologies and rediscoveries of old techniques for green design are occurring constantly
  • We welcome input from all related Visual fields to improve our data.
the REAP guide v2.0+
Stopping commodity-related deforestation.
The Tropical Forest Alliance 2020 (TFA 2020) brings together governments, the private-sector and civil society organizations to work together to remove deforestation linked to the production of commodities such as palm oil, beef, soy, and pulp and paper…    NEW YORK DECLARATION ON FORESTS  PROGRESS ASSESSMENT  Goal 2: Support and help meet the private-sector goal of eliminating deforestation…


Mountain Ash, eucalyptus regnans, a.k.a. Swamp Gum, Tassie Oak
please manage forests properly
massive stump on a steep slope, tas.
woodchipping in Australia
the REAP guide v2.0+
Print for Environment : Greener Print Procurement guide