Recently in Environmental Category

Fun and the Environmental Agenda | Jonathan Glatfelter






As we all know, many design and advertising firm offices are all spruced up so that the people working there have more fun working in a much more exciting environment. Many other companies have pulled on to this trend and have really put great thought into the design and the architecture of their workspaces in belief that their employees will produce better work. Companies will go at any length to make their employees happy while at work. I found a post at that discusses the way a fun, killer environment can really influence the work ethic of the people within that space (



There are many elaborate offices across the world. Today, it seems like every single one of them have a pool, numerous amounts of pool tables, vending machines, sofas, and anything else you could imagine. Is there a limit when it comes to what companies spend on interior space? Can it get to a point where it becomes too much? I guess it depends on what kind of person you are. I personally feel like some of it could get a little overboard for me. While I think many of these offices can look very pleasing, I feel like sometimes some of the "extras" could get into the way. It almost is the question of what the fine line of work and fun is. I think work should be fun, but should the extracurricular activities that surround us at the office distract us from the true reason that we are there for?

A great website to view many awesomely designed offices is The Cool Hunter ( The design of some of these office environments is simply incredible. These rooms don't even look like offices! I think that it is important to put someone into a comfortable working environment, but again, do the "fun factors" of these designs get into the way?

The Cool Hunter. Retrieved November 30, 2010, from

Positive Sharing. Retrieved November 30, 2010, from

Utility | Environment | Andrea Leesley


Design that respects the environment is here to stay. People are becoming more informed and concerned with the effect products and how they can affect them in a new light. However, we are seeing more and more environmentally awards designs on a daily basis, how do we as consumers know that brands aren't using 'eco-friendly' as a marketing gimmick to persuade us to buy a certain product? On the other side of the spectrum, have some designers taken environmentally friendly too far?

For example, Relogik came up with an ecological and simple concept for the traffic light called the Eko light. The Eko light can be installed on already existing traffic lights, as a result, increasing their utility by improving traffic flow and decreasing air pollution. Relogik believes that the Eko light will help drivers and pedestrians be more aware of the remaining time until the light changes. They claim the main benefits of this light would be less fuel consumption and less pollution, because drivers can turn off their cars and cut carbon emissions while they are waiting for the light to turn green. Is this really practical? Not to mention, they also believe this will cause less stress among drivers because you know exactly how long you have to wait. Hmm...I can already picture pissed off drivers honking their horns at people waiting for them to turn their car back on. While I do think this concept sounds like a great idea, much like other environmentally friendly designs, it is a little 'over-the-top' one might say and may cause more harm than good. Adding utility to something (that already been working fine since 1920) doesn't always mean a better design. Why not just use eco-friendly bulbs?

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More recently, being 'green' has become more of a marketing concern for several brands, rather than a design ethic. When we walk through stores we can easily recognize the 'Eco-look." It seems as though the 'Eco-look' takes precedence over 'Eco-friendly".

On another note, have you ever walked through the frozen food section at Target and noticed all of the lights were off in the freezers, and when you walk by they magically turn on? I love running down the aisles in the frozen food section when the lights are off, it's like your in Vegas inside a Target. Ok, so back to my point, Target added utility to the frozen food section by installing motion triggered lights, therefore keeping the electricity bill down. This saves the consumers money because target is able to save money on their electricity bill which allows them to further lower their prices as they compete with their competitors.

Disability | The Environmental Agenda | Christine Yakshe

When looking at disability and the environment it is hard to find anything related to actually "being" environmental. Disability design is generally so widespread and yet non-specific that environmental responsibility doesn't seem to be taken into account.

One article I did find dealing somewhat with eco-friendly design was specifically about disability-friendly surfaces. For someone in a wheelchair, the best flooring happens to be smooth and hard surfaces, or something such as tile, compared to carpeting or other soft flooring that makes it difficult to move across the surface. This article talks about laminate and bamboo flooring being a great alternative to other flooring such as hardwood and it is also less expensive.
Other focuses in the article include walker and cane users and those with joint pain. Rubber flooring is talked about for those who need a more slip-resistant surface and then for those with the joint pain, actually using carpet and cork can be better for those types of "disabilities."'

There was also an interesting article related to disability design and eco-friendliness on The National. A 47 year-old polio sufferer is planning a 14-hour non-stop journey from Abu Dhabi to Sharjah to set a world record in none other than his own specially designed solar-powered wheelchair. This is one of the few environmentally designed disability products.

Interestingly enough it seems as though most of the new and different designs for disability are centered on mobility impairment and the wheelchair, yet the environment is not designed for mobility impairment. In all the research I did for disability design in all different aspects I did not see much for those with more specific or intense disabilities or even for those with mental disabilities such as my younger brother. I can recall a few different kids from his classes in high school that could not communicate verbally and would not be able to learn things such as sign language. Wouldn't it be great if there was some sort of communication designed for their kind of disability?

The disabilities across the world are so varied and specific with each different person that it can be difficult to not only design for those individual disabilities (even when trying to design something more "universal") but it also makes people less motivated to design for disabilities. The need is there but at this point most of the design is not. It is even disappointing to search for disability design and come up with some prototype images but not much as far as research or actual products. I'm not sure what the answer to this problem is: more awareness? Better resources? More in-depth research? Hopefully as design advances, disability design will too.

Kapsin, K. (2008). Disability-friendly surfaces., Retrieved from

Croucher, M. (2010). Abu dhabi to sharjah, with help from the sun. The National, Retrieved from

environmental-communication-amy maleson

When talking about the environmental agenda, I believe a very important part of the design process is to communicate well. Communication as defined by Wikipedia is, "a process whereby information is enclosed in a package and is channeled and imparted by a sender to a receiver via some medium. The receiver then decodes the message and gives the sender a feedback." In order to create successful designs, people need to communicate with each other. Communication needs to take place between designers, clients, and intended audience that the product is for. In terms of the environmental agenda, there needs to be research done to understand what will be most beneficial for the environment and from there the designers can start to interact with the people it will affect. Listening to their needs will increase the products activity and usability.

When talking about the environmental agenda, a speech by Thomas Friedman comes to mind. He spoke on Minneapolis Public Radio about his newest book entitled, Hot, Flat, and Crowded. Here is the link to the speech:
This speech talks about the real changes that need to take place in order to save this world. In Friedman's opinion, "the current green revolution alone will not work to destabilize global climate change." He designed his book around the idea of what needs to be done in the world.

Related to one of Friedman's topics about overpopulation, I found this advertisement.


In terms of the environment, overpopulation is going to cause problems along with pollution that would increase as well. This specific advertisement takes place in the big city of New York, which is one of the most populated places in the world. The ad is eye catching with the phrase and then goes on to say how harmful pollution is to us citizens. Design is a great way to communicate the problems the world is facing and how to make changes to better the world.

Wikipedia: Communication. (1/22/2010). FL: Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. Retrieved 11/22/2010, from

Friedman, Thomas. (12/18/2008). MPR News website. Retrieved 11/22/2010, from

Returnability (reusability) | Environmental | Lisa Hocraffer

Reusability has the potential for significant positive environmental influence. Containers and packaging have been stacking up around the world for decades, even some items intended for reuse, such as shipping containers. 2005 estimates suggest there were one million unused shipping containers stacked up in the US alone ("Shipping container homes"). Shipping containers are extremely resilient because they are made of Corten steel, a type of steel that is resistant to rust, termites, corrosion, and mold ("Shipping container homes"). For these same reasons, these unused shipping containers are ideal for storage units, buildings, or shelters.

While shipping containers were used for other purposes prior to 2005, David Cross of SG Blocks popularized this idea in 2006. Cross used shipping containers to design traditional-looking hurricane proof homes out of ISBU (Intermodal Steel Building Unit, as they are called when used for not shipping purposes) shipping containers in Florida. Since then, many other companies have started building with ISBUs.

Reusing old shipping containers has a 95% smaller carbon footprint than simply recycling the material ("Shipping container homes"). These buildings are not only environmentally friendly, but many of them are simply beautiful as can be seen in the following video. This revolutionary concept of reusing shipping containers for buildings, homes, and other uses has created an affordable way to create green homes. Since Cross popularized this idea, shipping containers have been used for commercial projects, as well as being used to build a US Army office building and Travelodge hotels.

In addition to designing reusable products, it is also important that designers look at ways to reuse the items we already have. The popularization of shipping container buildings reduced the number of unused containers in the US by 50 percent (to 500,000) in only two years ("Shipping container homes"). Imagine the dramatic changes that could happen if we come up with uses for other potentially reusable items, like plastic bottles and plastic bags that are currently piling up in landfills or cluttering roadsides.

Reusability can have a huge impact on the environment. As designers, we need to search for ways to integrate reusability into new and old designs.




Works Cited

The architectural consultancy. [Web]. Retrieved from

Earth for Tomorrow. Cargo container living homes also known as
shipping or sea container. [Web]. Retrieved from

Eco factor. [Web]. Retrieved from

Green homes. [Web]. Retrieved from

Sg blocks. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Shipping container homes. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Solar powered shipping container. [Web]. Retrieved from

Taking Ownership in the Environmental Agenda - Jenny Zanatta


When you hear the word "environmental," I'm guessing the phrase "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" comes to mind. This is a common phrase I'm sure we have all heard since elementary school when learning about the recycling bins in the classrooms. There is some controversy over the phrase though, believe it or not. Have you ever thought about why the words are in the order they are? Do people just think it just sounds best that way? Or is there a meaning behind it? The controversy about this phrase is that the order does matter, and many want to change it to "Reduce, Reuse, THEN Recycle." These days, so much emphasis is being placed on recycling, that people can forget about the first two, which is where we should really start if we want to help Mother Earth. We, as designers, need to take ownership of each aspect of this phrase as we create, to make sure we don't forget the first two steps.

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As designers, we need to take ownership of the real impact we have. Sure we can try to cop out by saying we just design what a box looks like, but often times we actually can speak up and at least attempt to reduce the amount of materials or processing used to produce our design. One good example of reduction is this coffee cup redesign by Miller Creative. One of the great features of their design are the radial fins which specifically eliminates the need for a coffee sleve. This reduces both the amount of materials consumers use, and the amount of processing needed to manufacture them.

After we reduce, then we can move on to reusing. As designers a great way to help the environment is to design packages that people want to own for the sake of the package, not just the product. Packages that can be reused for other purposes are the step in the right direction. Apple is one example of packaging that people want to keep, I know for a fact I still have every box to every iPod, MacBook, and iPhone I've ever had. An even smaller step is Target's approach by printing "10 ways to reuse your Target bag" right on the side of their plastic bags.


THEN Recycle.
Finally, AFTER we reduce, and then reuse, do we recycle. As designers who care about the environment, we need to take ownership of our beliefs and if possible, try to convince your clients to use recyclable materials. As with reduce, we can attempt to figure out ways to use recyclable materials as well as reducing the amount needed in a specific design. The process of recycling materials sometimes is not as kind to the environment as we think it is. That is why this is the last step in the process. It would be much more beneficial to the environment to reduce and reuse things, before sending them through the process of recycling.

Designers have a hand in every step of the Reduce, Reuse, THEN Recycle process, in one way or another. We need to take ownership, and promote ownership (in consumers keeping products and reusing them) through the designs we create. We are the creatives of the world, and it's up to us to step up and promote this change in ideologies. So take a look at your projects, products and designs, and see where you can help out. And remember, Reduce, Reuse, THEN Recycle.

Reduce, Reuse, THEN Recycle

Redesigning the Coffee Cup

Cost Effectiveness: The Environmental Agenda

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So we probably all know by now that designing/producing something that is both aesthetically pleasing and environmentally safe is next to impossible. Let's face it, cheap materials are often worse for the environment: Non-recycled paper, harsh chemicals in ink, almost any kind of plastic or glue, and a huge amount of process work that ends up getting tossed. It's often difficult for me to think about how much I'm wasting (under the impression that I'm actually saving money), but there you go. Before I know it, I'm stuffing excess paper into a trash bag along with scraps of cold mount, wax paper, and post-it notes.

In my search to find sustainable resources that are also affordable, I saw this blog, which is a handy guide for graphic designers who are looking to be environmentally-friendly without spending a lot of money. It heavily emphasizes prevention as a way to do both: Since we designers primarily use computers, we're decreasing our output just by stunting how much we print out! Thus, double sided printing, scratch paper, recycled printer cartridges, and email become valuable as solutions to money woes and biodegradability. Of course, once you start learning about sustainability, you inevitably get sucked into a world of eco-friendly techniques, from the general rules about recycling to the finicky (and somewhat anal) suggestions about solar powered eco-hosting options for websites.

Another website that looked into this issue was a design business blog, which also had a helpful list of what to do to be more efficient as a designer. This blog also included hints about lightbulbs and water conservation, which also tie into design, albeit in a roundabout way. Though we as individuals can each do a little bit to decrease our carbon footprint, it's probably more difficult for a business to follow the same practices. I'm sure not everyone in a company remembers to "think before they print," but I've found that environmentalism is all about taking baby steps on the road to freeing ourselves from the constrictions of chemicals and wasteful solutions.


Convenience - Environmental Agenda - Manon Ibes

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Almost everyone these days is concerned about the environmental preservation, but it feels like we, as consumers, are not always willing to sacrifice convenience and change our habits or consumption to make a serious commitment to the environmental agenda. There are many fair reasons why we can't commit, the strongest being the lack of financial resources to purchase environmentally friendly products. There is also a lot of concern about "greenwashing," which drives people away from so-called green products because of potential unsubstantiated claims about their ecological benefits.

It is easy to see that we have found ourselves in a situation in which there is a strong social need for environmental protection, but an inability to match that attitude with action. As documented in the Roper Organization research (as cited in the Reference for Business Encyclopedia article on Green Marketing), between 1990 and 1996 the number of people who were committed to environmental products declined, as measured by what premium they were willing to pay for green products, from 6.6% to 4.5%, and the number of consumers who rated themselves with the highest commitment to green products also declined.

To encourage this social need to evolve beyond an attitude to a behavioral switch, we need a combination of legislation and business initiative to make products and behaviors that are environmentally friendly more convenient for consumers. The main barrier to behavior is the pricing of green products, but businesses must also look to potential health benefits and the ease of use and disposability (which is key in the fight against landfills) that might encourage consumers to look beyond the price difference. If the study from 1996 can be taken as a measure, then consumers (even those less interested in environmental conservation) are willing to pay up to 4.5% more for environmental products, might have some leeway in that arena.

Hotels have found many green cleaning options actually save them money, or are at least are price neutral, compared to traditional cleaning products. In addition to saving money by preventing chemical related accidents, hotels are saving money in the reduction of water used, and in the amount of cleaning products they need to purchase. The Green Hotels Association, the group responsible for cards in hotel rooms asking visitors to reuse towels claimed that the initiative saves hotels $.50 per day per occupied room (as cited in Ecofriendly Cleaning gets the Green Light by Kristine Hansen). Government agencies are also finding cost savings through using green products; Seattle estimates that its recent switch to green cleaning products costs the city 60% less per usable gallon (Hansen).

What is important to consider is how these savings can be communicated and hopefully transferred to the consumer. If a company brags that their green products are saving money, consumers will expect to see some of the price savings, either in terms of a discount or some other tangible benefit. One obvious benefit from the reduction of chemicals and the use of non-toxic cleaners is the reduction in chemical allergy and irritation complaints. If reliable statistics could be found about the amount of these types of situations that occur in hotels, it might push consumers to use the more environmentally friendly hotels, and could encourage the trend throughout the industry. There really is a circular effect that could happen here, if a few companies can teach consumers the benefits of green products, through their own usage, then those consumers will in turn drive market demand that will encourage other companies to follow suit. This is different from the boom of 'green washing' because it is the companies themselves that will have to use the products to get consumers interested. This could be especially effective in the service industries, like hotels, restaurants, and public transit.

A second important element that businesses must consider is the ease of use in encouraging consumers. Cobalt Park, an office complex outside of Newcastle, UK, is working with local public transit and ridesharing programs to lower the carbon emissions created by workers going back and forth between the complex. As the largest business park in the UK, Cobalt Park wanted to provide convenient and effective transportation options to cut down on the pollution created by all the workers. To do this, they engaged in massive research to find out what consumer perceptions of public transit were and how they could be countered to encourage usage. Cobalt worked with the buses to change routes and used a variety of media to educate the workers in how the bus system worked and how it would benefit them and the environment. Their press release states that the number of people using the buses increased substantially through their efforts, with more than 650 people riding in late 2007, compared to less than 400 in mid 2006. Associate director Peter Whitehead, says "These figures illustrate the success and effectiveness of Cobalt's sustainable transport strategy. More and more people working in the area are realising they now have the realistic option of leaving the car at home. This reduces CO2 emissions and Cobalt is an excellent example of how, simply by working together in partnership, a sustainable transport scheme, on a large scale, can work."

This example demonstrates an opportunity for businesses through the world to consider how they can make transportation more convenient for their employees, while also reducing their environmental impact. It might not work in the US now, as we are all addicted to our driving independence, but as roads become more crowded and parking rates increase, this is an area that companies should consider investing in.

The last area of environmentally friendly actions that companies can consider to increase convenience for consumers is disposability. Many consumers want to do the right thing and recycle their products properly, however, a lack of knowledge or resources to do so can prevent these well-intentioned consumers from following through on their desires. One big example of this is in the electronics industry. Everyone knows that you can't just throw a computer in the garbage, but what do you do with it? You could make a time-consuming trip to the local recycling facility (where you may have to pay to drop off your items) or conduct research to see if any appliance stores will take your old equipment. These options require time, effort, and thought on the part of the consumer and reduce the likelihood that they will follow through and do the correct thing. Many communities offer electronic recycling days throughout the year, but to participate in these consumers have to know when and where, and be free to go during those hours. They also have to hold on to the item until they can dispose of it. Another problem area is packaging materials that consumers get products in, but often through in the garbage because of inefficient recycling programs or a lack of knowledge about recycling these products.

Germany, who is already leading in eco-labeling and environmental regulation compliance, has passed many ordinances concerning this problem of "reverse logistics," which involves manufacturers taking back the products at the end of their useful lives, specifically targeting the electronics, car, and packaging industries. A group of manufacturers in Germany have banded together to create the "Dual System" which is a country wide waste management system that guarantees the collection and recycling of various packaging materials (as discussed in the Reference for Business Encyclopedia article on Green Marketing).

All of these areas are opportunities for business to be a driving force in the social shift towards environmental protection and conservation. Legislation and regulations need to be crafted to encourage business to promote and use green products and to restrict their messages to prevent lies and exaggerations of green-based claims. Consumers are already willing to change, but corporations and the government will need to provide them with a convenient way to reduce and properly manage their consumption and waste.

Works Cited:
Glanville Consultants. "Changing Perceptions and Travel Choices at Cobalt Park." Glanville Group, May 2008. Web. 23 Nov. 2010. .
Hansen, Kristine. "Eco-Friendly Cleaning Gets the Green Light." CleanLink | The Information Resource for the Cleaning Industry. Housekeeping Solutions, Apr. 2002. Web. 23 Nov. 2010. .
White, Mark A. "Green Marketing." Green Marketing. Reference For Business - Encyclopedia of Small Business, Business Biographies, Business Plans, and Encyclopedia of American Industries. Web. 23 Nov. 2010. .

Environmental | Emerging Economics


The home and its functionality make up much of peoples' environments. This isn't just about the family; space efficiency in the home is important as well. In countries with emerging economies and large, overcrowded cities, this is a difficult issue. How does one fit a whole family - one which may not have access to proper healthcare and birth control - into a 400 square foot or smaller flat? Gary Chang of Hong Kong (considered part of an emerging economy) has designed a solution in his revolutionary sliding panel "24 rooms in one" home, which can be modified at will to include an enclosed bedroom, kitchen, or living room at any given time. Without such modifications in cramped apartments, "Killing each other is not uncommon," says Mr. Chang in an interview with the New York Times (here and here).

A short clip showing the Hong Kong space-efficient home

This space comes at a cost, however. The average income per family in Hong Kong runs between 10 and 25 thousand dollars a year, according to government publications. The apartments are expensive in the first place, but how can families afford to completely redesign a home, much less find the space to do it while living there? When only half of the population of Hong Kong - one of the more well to do areas in Asia - owns their own homes or flats, the only feasible way to do this is to require landlords to modify flats or have government enforce it. This is fine for the human environment, but it still only considers people and does not take into account the need for green space.

Green space describes areas capable of sustaining plant life. It doesn't have to be a field of soybeans, but setting aside any room for vegetation is rare when every inch of space is crucial. According to PureHealthMD, gardens bring with them more health benefits than just visual appeal and the potential veggies they can produce. They can provide stress relief - crucial in such small confines - and a reliable source of food during times of political unrest or when jobs are hard to find. In areas where the population is constantly growing, not necessarily in proportion to the job market, this could be a good change. It could detoxify the air and create a greater well being for the whole city, as it would beautify the area. The city could even recommend certain greens to be grown, which would provide a structure for people to follow.

As interesting as the use of gardens and the space they take is, the larger problem facing cities like Hong Kong is keeping small spaces efficient for people to live in so more can be packed into a smaller space. Gardens would help reduce waste from food packaging as well as provide a place to compost biodegradable wastes. The minimal amount of space is further reduced when each room can be modified at will. There could be fewer unnecessary things, and having smaller spaces with the proper reflective properties could allow for less energy usage in light and heat.

As I dove into researching affordable yet environmental design, I was skeptical. Generally speaking in my experience I have found that "going green" always tends to need more green than not. In other words, if I want to buy organic food, it's more expensive, if I want to buy environmentally friendly light bulbs, they're more expensive, if I want to print on environmentally friendly paper with soy-based inks, it's more expensive. In my eyes, I couldn't see how environmental and affordable could be in the same sentence in respect to design. But then I found these images from


"World Wildlife Fund ad campaign: As the paper towel dispenser is slowly emptied of its green paper towels, we see the greenness slowly drained out of South America, symbolizing the nasty environmental impact of disposable paper towels."

"This eco-ad utilizes the movement of shadows on a billboard to demonstrate how global warming will lead to rising water levels with a shaped canopy and the shifting sun."

"Prolam Y&R , Santiago produced this large-scale billboard showing refugees fleeing from a flood in Asia, with dozens of air conditioners peeping out from a refurbished building. It was produced to raise conscience regarding global warming. The line " El aire que enfría tu hogar, calienta el mundo" (THE AIR THAT COOLS YOUR HOME HEATS UP THE WORLD), was used to help convey that climate change is also due to excess of carbon dioxide in the air."

I was blown away when I saw them. To me, these images cause me to think outside of the box in a couple of different ways. For one, they show me that as a designer, if I want to design something affordable yet impactful, it has to be a big production. These images show that placement can be just as powerful if not more so than the graphics produced. None of these campaigns would be effective had they been made as a poster. How simple is putting an awning on a billboard and using the resources given by the sun and placement to complete the design? And creating a strategic cutout sends a very powerful message. And in the last image the combination of the image choice, placement, and tagline make it an unforgettable and unavoidable message.

Switching gears now, I researched a little about our precious life-sources, the Mac computer. As designers, the majority of us eat, sleep, and breathe our apple laptops or desktops at work at school and at play. I was curious how environmentally friendly they were. Turns out the MacBooks (including air and pro) are Energy Star qualified. They are also way ahead of the game in informing their clients about their environmentally-mindedness, check out their environment page. I find it extremely interesting that they are up front and honest about their carbon footprint. Statements such as the following surprised me that they would share so truthfully with everyone but also made me respect them that much more. For 2009, we estimate that Apple was responsible for 9.6 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions. To me it shows that they are aware of the situation and are going to do something about it as they move forward.

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So what does this have to do with affordability? For one, it means I can keep using my MacBook and feel good knowing it's a green machine. For two it means that the leading companies in the technological world are taking steps towards being more environmentally responsible, which is setting the stage for the rest of the world to follow suite. Once being green is the standard and no longer an alternative option, being green will be much more affordable.

Seeking Pleasure in Environmental Design


For more than 4,000 years, people have used their outdoor surroundings as a place to relax, enjoy the company of friends, and seek pleasure in the gifts Mother Nature has bestowed. From the Hanging Gardens of Babylon to the Gardens at the Château de Marqueyssac, it is apparent that society has always valued the design of nature for aesthetic purposes.

Persian gardens blossomed out of impossibility in their harsh and arid landscape, while later Egyptian gardens were maintained for secular purposes and for the pleasure of the wealthy to enjoy. Roman gardens served as places of tranquility and refuge from urban life. Japanese gardens were intended to be seen from inside, evoking mountains and rivers with suggestions of water raked into wave patterns on sand. In Byzantine Europe, gardens started to become enclosed spaces, sometimes with scenic views painted on the inside of garden walls. The Italian Renaissance later inspired a wave of private gardening, full of scenes from ancient mythology. The picturesque landscape gardens of England challenged the typical manicured style by valuing the wilder, untamed quality of the natural landscape.

Gardens have since evolved into places where harvesting herbs and vegetables is just as common as sitting and enjoying the colorful view. Also, there are many ways people are trying to bring the outdoors in and the indoors out. Not only is it fashionable to decorate our kitchens with bouquets of flowers and our mantels with preserved animal specimen, but it has also become quite trendy to create outdoor living spaces, with manufacturers creating weather-proof furniture, lighting and kitchen appliances more than ever. With TV shows like The Outdoor Room on HGTV, the idea of having a personalized living space outside is as exciting and accessible as ever. The Cool Hunter is also initiating an interactive exhibition of modern eco tree houses that allow viewers to experience nature while also escaping from the stress of everyday life. This TreeLife exhibition also focuses on sustainable design, which is becoming more apparent it many other fields of design as well.



Usability & The Environment | Sarah Schiesser

The S-word. It made its debut among popular culture a while ago, but it seems that nowadays, it's truly everywhere. In a recent article for AIGA, sustainability was referred to as "that word that seeps into everything from annual reports to dinner-time conversation...and seems, at times, unsatisfying blunt or maddeningly evasive." With the bombardment of 'go green' and 'eco-friendly' marketing schemes, the word sustainability seems to have lost some merit among audiences--after all, seeing it on your toilet cleaner, cereal box and sweater label can easily be considered overkill. I like to think of sustainability in the broader sense, not only can the designs we produce be maintained at a certain level but the designs themselves can encompass elements from the environment to reduce waste and production.

As designers our duties entail so much more than purely designing something. Yes, we may have the perfect image, impeccable kerning, and a kickass tagline--but great design encompasses so much more--it's as much about the process as it is about the finished result, it requires concept AND quality production. Unfortunately, more often than not--these elements are not given equal weight in the design process. Students are particularly skilled in the "command+p" mentality--we design, we print, we hand-in. Very little attention is paid to production methods or material selection (in regards to the environment), when in reality these factors are just as important as the colors we choose or the size of our type. To be fair, we are limited by minimal budgets and a lack of resources, but it's important to start considering ALL of the possibilities that design can have. In a world where technology has evened the playing field for creatives--the tools and technology of our trade are accessible to everyone--we often don't take advantage of what's available, especially things within our immediate environment/surroundings.

A recent project by Happiness Brussels (designed by Anthony Burrill in London) has been receiving a lot of attention lately, and for good reason. In an effort to raise money for the Coalition to Restore Louisiana, an organization dedicated to cleaning Louisiana's coastline after the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, a silk-screened poster was produced. Although seemingly simple and straightforward in appearance, the poster's impact comes from the materials used to produce it--collections of oil deposits from Louisiana's shoreline act as the ink in a process that traditionally uses water-based inks. The literal play on words in conjunction with the symbolic use of materials create a powerful juxtaposition that is inherently reliable on the relationship between concept and execution. This is a perfect example of how designers can use their method of production and materials to add a whole other dimension to their work, giving it substance and challenging the way people perceive the issue at hand. Two other powerful examples include the creation of rocking chairs (a symbolic peace sculpture) out of melted guns or commemorative pottery glazed with volcanic ash collected from the Mount St. Helens eruption. The contradiction between material and product is truly beautiful and provides a powerful foundation for discussion, while the concept of reusing materials as a means to produce something completely different is a practice that can yield interesting and innovative results.

OIL & WATER DO NOT MIX from Happiness Brussels on Vimeo.




Happiness Brussels (Anthony Burrill)

Hirasuna, Delphine. "The Medium Is the Message"

AIGA. "Reexamining the S Word"

Quantity-Environmental-Michelle Haga


In my last blog, I talked about people expecting cheap goods. Now, I would like to discuss the impact that these cheap goods have on the environment. Often, reusable goods are bought because the consumer feels like they are making a difference for the earth. It's not that I think reusable good are a complete waste, I just think people need to stop buying stupid shit.


Let me explain. People tend to purchase goods because of impulse and desire; this leads people to purchasing junk. Junk is merely cheap trash. I can't say that it's meaningless because people become attached to purchases. Nonetheless, people with some money freedom often feel the need to express their success through products. They see it, they want, and then they buy it only to toss it once they realize the product has little purpose.

People are buying tons of products they don't need. For example, people often have several different types of reusable bottles, typically for water or coffee/tea. But with design rising, people also have tons of choices for the shape of the bottle and the surrounding designs. Can't decide; buy them both. Yes, these are reusable products, but there comes a point where the mass amounts of reusable products that are produced can lead to tremendous amount of waste. Here is a comparison of reusable bottles according to ban the bottle.

Are the cheapest and simplest to clean, and come in a variety of colors and shapes.
Are not safe for hot liquids or microwaves, and can taste like plastic.

Stainless Steel
Are durable, lightweight, high-quality design, and there are no plastic toxins to worry about.
May dent, has a possible metallic taste, and can heat up in the summer temperatures.

Lightweight and trendy.
Possible BPA liner, dents easily, can be difficult to clean, and the construction isn't always legitimate.

No odd tastes, easy to dispose of, and production is easier on the environment
Is fragile and heavy.

I'll use myself as an example; I first bought a plastic reusable bottle and then found out about the BPA in plastic, so I bought the "better" Nalgene bottle only to later buy the aluminum bottle because I thought it was now the safest. Now, I've not only wasted my money, but there is still the plastic and toxins in the environment.

If people truly want to make less of an impact on the environment they should be content with the simple things in life. Using one mug for all their drinks is a feasible option if you are willing to lose the usability and luxury that comes along with the reusable bottles. This does not go to say that reusable bottles are bad, it's still much better than purchasing disposable bottles every day; I'm just pointing out that as a consumer society we are extremely wasteful even when we try to be "green". As it turns out this is actually more a problem of how society functions in their purchasing patterns. Something I will further discuss in my next blog.


Green + Blue = A clear cyan sky | Quang Dao

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GREEN and BLUE, the two pivotal components that make up our planet. Water and trees are indeed powerful and indispensable resources for us to sustain and maintain life on Earth. But what good can we get, if we keep using our resources without conserving or protecting it from excessive usage. How much is enough? In the past few years, we start to see more eco-sustainable products being introduced to the market. Eco-friendly products that are compostable, reusable, and made out of recycled materials are gaining more favorite in the market place as the "green" movement quickly spreads across the globe. Many major corporate decided to join in the ongoing 3R movement,"Reduce, Reuse, Recycle". It's a win-win situation for both sides. Companies can expand their customer base by offering more eco-friendly products that contribute to the conservation of resources and environment. On the other side, customers have more variety of sustainable products for a cleaner and healthier lifestyle.


Target is one of the leading companies that are very active in the eco-friendly movement. In the article "On Target: Eco-Friendly", Megan McLaughlin said, "Now, everyone's favorite [Target], trendy, cost-effective and convenient department store is offering an array of Eco-friendly products. Still affordable and smarter than ever, Target has been turning very greener every chance it gets." I think her observation is true. Target is on "target" to expand their eco-friendly product lines into more household categories that their customers would want to buy, such as home essentials, kitchen and dining, apparel and gear, etc. Target really tries to push their effort to understand what their consumers need and want from the company. For instance, consumers may find bedding accessories that are made of natural materials, bamboo and 100% organic cotton. Target also didn't forget about the appeal factor in their products. Many of their products are well designed and have nice packaging yet still economic and sustainable. For instance, the bamboo sheet sets are made from 100% bamboo fibers that were proven to "wick away moisture, block bacteria growth and are comfortable for people with night sweats." (Alter 2007) Going green without breaking a sweat.

Eco-friendly outdoor living products designed by MIO, which is known for its green design of sustainable, functional items. Target

Along with the go-green movement, the DIY (Do It Yourself) movement is also beocming more popular. It's evident that more people start making and using their own stuff. People bring their own reusable bag to groceries stores, instead of using the plastic bags. More stainless steel water bottles are being sold, it's economic, logical, and eco-friendly in comparison to buying bottled water every time. Consumers these days are becoming more conscious of the environment issues. Hence, it's very applausable that major companies are actually making efforts to help conserve the environment. It takes every single brick to build a wall of trust.


In this clip, Dianna Cohen was trying to persuade the audience that they should adopt a fourth "R" to go along with the old "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle", which is REFUSE. Her main point is to get people to avoid buying products that are packaged in plastic, so we can help cut down the plastic waste that the packages produce, which is heavily damaging our eco system. She also said, "In the United States, less than 7% of our plastics are being recycled." It is indeed a humongous waste of resource if we keep discarding plastic packaging, but instead we should use more recycled and renewable materials.


When one tugs at a single thing in nature, we find it attached to the rest of the world. - John Muir

The earth's energy is something we think that we can dig up, destroy, and take. Ever since the industrial revolution we have been mining the earth at an ever growing excessive rate. It has been happening for so long that it is now the standard and completely acceptable to continue doing so in today's society. Yet we have been tugging away the earth's resources for so long that we are impacting our earth's behaviors. Yet there is hope!

I came across a couple different websites of designed homes and communities that base not only their designs but their entire lifestyles on natural and sustaining elements. They are beautifully designed homes, eco-villages, and communities that are inspirational, natural, energy efficient, and sustainable.

As a graphic designer in school, being energy efficient and natural is something that is always on my mind, but gets lost and put aside often. This is because often these options are not affordable or available. A lot of it, which in my opinion should be the obvious and easy answer, is often not the answer in our culture/society. I as a designer am really inspired that there are communities that are designing eco-villages. These communities are encompassing sustainable development in most all aspects of life. It gives me hope that the energy and materials we consume is being thought about in these communities to an extent where it is a shift in a lifestyle instead of just a few minor areas!

In a similar respect, there are designers out there who are looking at other objects that are more common, and seeing how we can use them to harness efficient energy. I found this inspiration artist, David Edward, who builds sculptures that generate solar and wind power. It is so refreshing to see people start to ideate and who make things aesthetically beautiful and for a good purpose. Check out this flower sculpture that harnesses solar and wind power.

Check out the eco-villages and eco energy efficient homes. Not only are the sustainable and energy efficient but they are designed in a beautiful manner, and built using resourceful materials.

Biodegradable and the Environment: Molly Andrews


Products made from the cheapest materials tend to be favorable amongst the people paying for the product, both to produce and to purchase. Most people know, or at least believe that plastic lasts forever. Even though most people know or believe that developed nations are filling landfills too quickly with materials that will not biodegrade. Some choose to solve this dilemma by supporting production materials that do biodegrade to rival the materials that are cheaper that do not break down. Some companies tries to sell to consumers caught up in the green movement by making false claims about the biodegradability of their products. But very few people are pushing for the large scale move towards commercial composting facilities in all major cities, which is what I believe would be the most environmentally responsible act.

The Biodegradable Products Institute promotes products that are compostable and biodegradable. It is my belief that the BPI knows not to trust companies to be honest about how biodegradable their products are, since BPI does its own testing of products to certify that they are indeed biodegradable. BPI also provides information to consumers about composting as well as a directory of certified compostable products. The BPI is trying to help consumers help themselves, through education and tutorials as to how to purchase the products made from the best materials and how to set up their own compost at home.

The reason why there is such a distinction between compostable and biodegradable at the BPI is a matter of fine print. The ASTM International standards for compostable products define the rate at which materials must biodegrade, it is specified that the materials must biodegrade in a commercial composting facility within 180 days. The definition for biodegradable materials is much more hazy, since there is no set standards or time lines.

There are many nuances to composting, and it takes time and effort. Few people who live in a city have the space to set up a proper compost. Many people don't want to deal with the smell that naturally comes with the break down of organic matter. If compost was one more of the dumpsters lining the alleys of the city, then there is little more hassle involved right? Wrong, people would need to know what can be composted, and it would have to be easy for them to separate it out from what cannot be composted. For example, if a plastic cup made from biodegradable materials can be composted, then the lid and straw that comes with it must also be made from biodegradable materials.

I think if cities started adding composting to their waste management and recycling facilities the public would be hungry for the information that would point them to buying the right products and following the right procedures. I am not the first person to think this, as the city of St. Paul began a pilot composting program for residential neighborhoods. They began research in 2001 and launched the pilot in summer of 2010.

I believe as humans, we have a natural tendency to try and justify what we do or make ourselves feel better about what we do. I think as designers, we're probably struggling to do this everyday. This feeling might arise in us when having a conversation at a dinner party when you're standing in a group of people talking about what you all do for a living or are studying.

Guest #1: "I'm studying the effects of global warming on coastal farming communities in Central America."
Guest #2: "I'm in medschool. What do you do?"
You: "Im a graphic designer."
Guest #2: "Oh wow, that sounds fun!"

Fun...well yes, what we do is incredibly fun, but is also can have a positive impact on the rest of the world. Right?

Yes, I believe it can! We yeild the power and the outlet to convey positive or influencial messages to the public and promote causes and individuals who are striving for good. And yes, we can do our part to promote environmentally responsible practices and cut down pollution!..but unless we get hired by the EPA to promote clean air acts, how do we do this?

This brings us back to my original point that "we're always trying to make ourselves feel better about what we do." Since we're graphic designers who work in a lot of print, we probably feel bad about the amount of paper we use and end up wasting in the process. What's the solution to this bad feeling? Start using recycled paper! Instantly we feel better, but do we really know that recycled paper is that much better for the environment? According to the National Association of Paper Merchants,"There can be no definitive statement on which uses more energy because each forest, producer, vehicle, mill and so on will have its own way of working, and the different types of energy-use also have different environmental impacts. Broadly the reprocessed fibre in recycled grades is more efficient in energy terms."So maybe, it's a better decision, but maybe recycled paper isn't in that particular case. What do we do?

I think in order to truly make the right decisions when it comes to what we do sustainably as designers, we need to do the research rather than just accept the hype, even if it's just sitting there right in front of us, waiting to make us feel better. I think we can also spread this influence when working commercially by encouraging tthe compaines or firms we're working with to put an equal amount of thought into what they do rather than just printing "eco-friendly" on a product that deep down, might not be.

James Cosper: Minimalism and the Environmental Agenda


Water is a commodity that is in short supply. While most of the world is made of water, much of it is of limited utility for essential functions, like drinking. We live in the Great Lakes region and have one of the world's largest supplies of fresh water so we may not think about it often. However, Sara Elliott notes on the How Stuff Works website that the EPA estimates by 2013 thirty-six states in the US will have significant water shortages. Contemporary water shortages of the southwest states and Mexico should give us incentive when considering ways to implement a minimalist ethos to reduce or eliminate water use with tasks normally associated with water.

The EPA WaterSense page opens with Pac-Man-esque Flash game to test awareness of water issues facing residential users. A warnin¬g: the questions are not phrased well.

Water use in bathrooms sheds a lot of waste. Every time we flush the toilet we use between 2-5 gallons of water (EPA). There are some ways to reduce this. An important note: while I have installed the toilet in my house I am not a plumber and you should research this stuff on your own before implementation!

Also, a lot of this only applies to older toilets since modern cisterns are designed for reduced water usage. The 1994 National Energy Policy Act limits new toilets sold in the US to 1.6 gallons of water (Elliott). If your cistern doesn't list the volume it is easy to determine by emptying the cistern and bracing the lever with the floating bulb so it doesn't refill. Get a gallon bucket or a pitcher and refill the tank, noting how many containers it takes to reach capacity.

The lowest of low-tech solutions is "if its yellow let it mellow," the behavior of not flushing when the waste is just urine. I don't suggest this. Though Tyler Durden assures us that urine is sterile that is actually only until it starts the path out of the body. After that it may hit the "normal flora" and can become contaminated with bacteria from the body. The attraction of this is the cost: free. The downside, besides possible bacterial growth leading to a bar bathroom odor, is the surprise for visitors.

The low tech solution places a brick or two in the cistern as a way to limit water use. The bricks displace water volume in the cistern and thus less water is used when the toilet is flushed. This solution shows ingenuity, and though it seems like a little bit of water, over the course of a year ads up. In the United Kingdom there is a product called Hippo the Water Saver which appears to be a plastic bag with dimensions similar to a small brown paper bag. It is placed in the cistern with the open portion on top so that it stops water from flowing and acting as a displacer like the brick. The Hippo costs about $5 but some water suppliers give them out for free. The website records estimated savings for average homes in the UK as about $60 per year. The downside here is that it may not flush as fully as desired which results in a second flush. This conflict is at the heart of implementing minimalism in designs: can we do it but still achieve results that satisfy the user? If the end user isn't happy and won't use the product it doesn't matter how much water it could save.

The high tech solution is the dual flush toilet. Elliott explains this design uses a different shape for the bowl, less water in general, and two flush settings so the user can regulate water use. This design minimizes water use while giving the user the choice of which setting to use, though both settings use less water, only 1 gallon, than a 5-8 gallon old fashioned toilet or a new regulation 1.6 gallon cistern. This solution is more expensive than the previous entries but is the direction of the future. Here minimalism is in the reduced waste through a somewhat more complex design.

Works Cited:

Elliott, S. (Unknown). How dual flush toilets work. Retrieved from

EPA. (Unknown). WaterSense. Retrieved from

Hippo UK. (Unknown). Hippo the water saver. Retrieved from

Linson, A. (Producer), & Fincher, D. (Director). (1999). Fight Club [Motion picture]. USA: 20th Century Fox.

The Third Age- Environmental (Mo Becker)


The concept of the third age is similar to that of the concept of the 7th generation. The idea of designing with the 7th generation in mind is to design and create so that there are no negative environmental effects for at least 7 generations in the future.

Recently, there has been a huge wave of green design and green products. In the blog, Inhabit, they feature innovative new ideas for green products, architecture, interiors, technology, energy, transport, fashion and art. There are several creative solutions for enhancing sustainability, efficiency, and interactivity. Inhabitat emphasizes ways to recycle everyday items as well. In this example, they show how to make a xylophone made from beer bottles. Sure, having a xylophone made from beer bottles may not be exactly what you are looking for, but you get my drift. There are many simple ways to reduce our own personal carbon footprint.

As designers, it is our responsibility to design a product that is not only green, but is also made in a way that is also not hurtful to the environment or wasteful of our resources. One example is the ethanol gas made from corn that came out a few years ago. Although the gas itself greatly reduced the amount of carbon monoxide emissions from the vehicles, it was not a sustainable solution. Corn does not grow at a fast enough rate to sustain the amount of gas we consume. An example of an underutilized resource is bamboo. The popularity of bamboo has grown in the past few years; however, the complete versatility of bamboo has yet to be taken advantage of. This article goes over the many uses to bamboo including hardwood floors, to fabric.

My overall point is that it may be difficult to look at the big picture of design and sustainability and ask ourselves what kind of impact will our designs have 100 years from now, but if we each do our part in small pieces, the results will be enormous.

Feasibility | Environmental | Cindy Sargent

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With environmental issues coming to a forefront in society lately, it is becoming more and more important to be "green," even in design. But is it really feasible to be environmentally friendly in design, or any other field for that matter? As we were discussing the first blog posts in class last week, a number of people who had topics in the Environmental category or who wrote about their topic with regards to the Environmental Agenda found through their research that recycling was actually more expensive--both financially AND environmentally, as it were--than simply using raw materials. So this process that was intended to be less expensive financially and environmentally is actually more expensive in those respects. That seems quite ironic.

Financially speaking, "the amount of money actually saved through recycling depends on the efficiency of the recycling program used to do it," ("Recycling," n.d.). Unfortunately, however, many recycling programs are not efficient enough to actually save money. Environmentally speaking, "there is controversy on just how much energy is saved through recycling...Critics often argue that in the overall processes, it can take more energy to produce recycled products than it does to dispose of them in traditional landfill methods," ("Recycling," n.d.). Not only that but, "in many cases, the cost of recyclable materials also exceeds the cost of raw materials," ("Recycling," n.d.). So if it costs more money and resources to create recycled materials and then those recycled items cost more to buy, how is it feasible to be "green"?

Even if these questions as to whether or not recycling is actually cost-efficient were not present, there would still be the issue of whether or not it is feasible for us as designers to get our clients to adopt environmentally friendly materials and processes of production and distribution. A friend of mine, Kristian Bjornard, was a graduate student at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) where he did his masters thesis on sustainable graphic design. As part of his thesis, he was working with a client who was having him design a catalog or menu or something like that to print. To make his design more sustainable, he was trying to convince this client to use the color ink and paper that was already on the printer, which in turn would also save his client money. Despite this, he was still hard-pressed to convince his client to do this. The interesting part about it was that when he asked his client if he had a particular color of ink or paper in mind for the project, his client did NOT. So any decision regarding color of ink or paper would in effect be arbitrary anyway, so why did it matter? I don't know how that story ended, but it poses the question of even when actual "green" materials and processes are available, can we as designers actually get our clients to adopt them and how?

Recycling. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia:

Bjornard, Kristian. (n.d.) Retrieved from

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