Naomi Pearson wasn’t always a sustainable design consultant. For a while, she was just a person who was concerned about the environment. “Back in those early days, my passion for the health of the environment was mostly limited to supporting organizations such as The Nature Conservancy, and making personal choices such as using natural cleaning products,” Pearson says.
At the beginning of her career, more than 15 years ago, “there was little interest in environmentally friendly graphic design. Eco-friendly alternatives or concerns tended to be quickly shot down or not considered at all, sadly,” she says.
But now, with a growing global concern for the environment sustainable graphic design has become more marketable and clients are asking for alternatives. “Finally, green has gone mainstream, which has opened many doors and eyes,” Pearson says. “I’ve come up with the slogan, ‘An Opportunity to Evolve,’ meant to suggest this shift in priorities has created an opportunity for designers to evolve the way we think about design and change the impact we have on the environment.”
For Pearson, who also hosts the weekly radio show “Design Evolution” on Voice America’s Green Talk Network, sustainable design is an aspiration. Something that designers are working toward but have not actually accomplished. “For the earth to sustain itself indefinitely, nature’s resources would have to be depleted at a rate they can be replenished, she says. “Obviously, we are not even close to this ideal today. Even the environmental impact of the computers we use is negative. ”
But that doesn’t mean that “going green” isn’t marketable or worth the effort. As a designer making the switch to green practices understanding a client’s motivation will help with pitching an alternative rather than the standard.
Pitching a Sustainable Design Alternative
Person says that different clients have different motivations, and “a client who is only interested in the bottom line may respond to the idea that a sustainable design is a good option because the design is less harmful to the environment, allowing the planet to rebound easily.”
Less harm to the environment is instant marketability because “it’s something we can all feel good about,” Pearson says.
However, a client who is already concerned about the environment won’t need the marketability pitch. They may be more interested to know that, “design materials made from rapidly renewable resources are a more sustainable option because the planet can replenish an sustain the resource over time.”
Essentially, pitching a green alternative doesn’t have to be labeled an alternative. It is simply another option. One that a client may enjoy more than the standard if it truly fits with their product and marketing.
For example, a client who already is concerned with the environmental impact of the products it makes may decide to go with a recyclable product. An offer a designer can make is: “A design made with easily removable, recyclable parts encourages recycling in the future. Recycling instead of using raw resources to create new material in the future is a more sustainable option. This strategy helps the planet to sustain the amount of natural resources we all depend on.” Pearson says.
Baby steps is all it takes. No one can be completely sustainable right now. So the focus should not be on the now. “Think positive, and think long term. No one is really there yet, but the more we chip away at the issue, the further we will all be. It’s up to us to get the ball rolling,” she says.
Passion is key and a designer pitching sustainable concepts is not doing it for the money. “Make a good case for green alternatives, whether it be marketability, the importance of a healthy planet or simply because it’s the right thing to do,” Pearson says.