SustainAble is an invaluable new practical handbook on environmentally conscious graphic design from Rockport Books. Author Aaris Sherin, has done a fantastic job of compliling the latest information on materials and techniques for designers interested in working with the environment in mind [full disclosure, my company is featured prominenetly, but I really would recommend it regardless]. Not only is the content on point, but the book itself was printed using a range of sustainable methods (a rarity in publishing). Going beyond standard recycled papers, they actually used make-ready sheets for the covers and end papers. The last real handbook on these issues (The Complete Guide To Eco-Friendly Design by Poppy Evans) came out in 1997 and has been out of print for years, so this type of book has been long overdue. Considering the massive increase in interest in going "green" by corporate America, the need for designers knowledgeable about these issues will only continue to grow as well. Kudos to Rockport being the first to fill the void.
Aaris kindly agreed to a mini-interview about the book, so I sent her a few minimalist questions to answer however she interpreted them...
ALR: Why now?
Aaris Sherin: Graphic Designers tend to be concerned about social and environmental issues, and yet many have not idea how to apply this ideology to their professional practice. Increasingly clients are asking for eco-friendly design solutions and many practitioners are tasked with having to learn the relevant problem-solving and technical specifications for environmentally preferable production. To date there really hasn't been a comprehensive resource to go to for this information. My idea was to make a sort of one-stop reference for
those interested in the topic. The book covers topics that include sustainable forestry, basic history and theory, as well as practical information about eco-friendly production materials and techniques. The second half of the book is devoted to case studies that trace how designers approached specific projects with the environment and social systems in mind.
Aaris Sherin: The book is filled with tips for how to approach design problem solving and production with sustainability in mind. Here are a few of the most basic. 1. Using proper sizes or asking for custom sheets is an easy way to reduce waste 2. Every designer should be able to identify and understand the value of FSC and other third part certifications 3. Eco-friendly paper doesn't always cost more. 4. Creating customized environmental checklists is a great way to bring consistent value to clients
ALR: So what?
Aaris Sherin: I really believe that design has a crucial role to play as we move toward the cultural shift that will need to happen in order to become more sustainable. Graphic design is so often the conduit between manufacturing/services and customers/audiences; as such we can bring value to clients who working with environmental and social consciousness in mind. By making simple changes in the way we work and offering our services to like-minded organizations there is an opportunity to make fantastic, visually arresting work that doesn't have to cost the earth.
ALR: What's next?
Aaris Sherin: There are so many people (many of whom were early adopters) who have created their own resources, libraries, and community groups for teaching and practicing sustainable design. As I talked to people I realized that a lot of them are duplicating each other's work. We really need more resources and more sharing of information so that the next generation isn't tasked with replicating our work.
SustainAble is in stores now and of course available via Powells and Amazon.com.