April 2023

What is Green Graphic Design?

6 minutes

At NU, we understand that sustainable design is not just a fleeting trend; it’s critical to the future and here to stay! This isn’t a new concept by any means; after all, we’ve been seeing companies promoting digital resources for a long time, such as digital bills, menus and even product catalogues etc. And whilst it was thought that going digital was the key to saving the planet, it seems the digital world could use a bit of a tidy-up.

And that’s where Green Graphic Design comes in. Recently, there has been a lot of conversation about sustainable design and how this can help businesses minimise their effect on the planet.

NU is on a journey to becoming a more sustainable business, and whilst we know it will be a challenging journey ahead, we want to share it with you every step of the way. The first step is to understand what a sustainable business is and what that means for a branding and design agency like us. In this article, we explore the ways that Green Graphic Design is the future of business, why it’s so important and why your business needs to start implementing it into your branding.

What is sustainable green graphic design?

As the energy demands of digital life keep increasing, incorporating green graphic design principles helps to limit the impact design has on the environment. This type of design focuses on creating visual communication that is environmentally friendly and sustainable. It’s the art of incorporating sustainable design principles and practices into the graphic design process to reduce the environmental impact of printed and digital media.

The whole process involves considering the entire lifecycle of a design project, whether sourcing materials or recycling the finished product, using sustainable materials such as recycled paper, non-toxic inks, and digital formats that minimise waste and pollution.

Accessibility is also hugely important, as it must consider the impact on society and the environment. Ensuring that the design is accessible to all users, including those with disabilities, and using design to raise awareness of environmental issues and promote sustainability.

Factors like the size, colour, shape and printing style that a designer makes all affect the ecological footprint. This is why carefully considered decisions during the process can reduce the environmental impact, resulting in a more efficient use of natural resources and less greenhouse gas emissions.

By getting on board now, businesses can differentiate themselves as being socially and environmentally responsible, while providing their clients with innovative and sustainable solutions. Green graphic design can also help reduce costs by minimising waste and optimising resources.

Why do you need sustainable graphic design? 

Incorporating green design into your branding can help your business reap many benefits. Let’s take a look at some of those: 

To connect with your eco-conscious customers 

Did you know that every action you take as a business showcases your brand values to the world? The same goes for what you don’t do. Not only will your eco-conscious customers appreciate it, but it will highlight your company as modern, ethical and progressive. Many people are becoming increasingly eco-conscious in their purchases of products and services, so this is a great way to showcase your values to them.

Be warned that people can see Greenwashing a mile away, so you need to stick to your values and showcase how you implement them. 

To save costs 

By implementing sustainable design, you create and design only what is necessary, resulting in cost savings. Moreover, businesses that adopt sustainable practices tend to receive more positive responses from both customers and employees. This, in turn, can lead to increased sales, enhanced brand loyalty, and higher employee retention rates. For consumer brands, in particular, this is massively important as consumers have and are increasingly becoming more environmentally aware.

According to Deloitte, 59% of consumers have decreased their purchases of new products and goods, while 40% intentionally seek out brands with environmentally friendly practices or values.

Social responsibility 

We have a responsibility to protect the environment as well as promote ethical business practices. By implementing sustainable designs and effectively communicating brand values and practices, your business can lead the way in sustainability. This not only educates your customers and the industry but also contributes to broader change.

The significance of sustainable graphic design not only eases the burden on the planet but also upholds ethical business practices, improving the well-being of clients and employees alike. Adopting sustainable practices can enable you to be more conscious of your graphic design choices and aid in safeguarding our planet for future generations.

How to go green with your graphics...

Here are some tips that you can implement into your green design: 

During the briefing process

  • The way you prioritise decisions during the brief as well as during the concept stages will ultimately affect the full design process as well as the environmental effect of the project. 

  • Identify the most critical factors so these can be prioritised.

During the design process

  • Designers should consider the aesthetic style, formatting and impacts during the process. For example, using the space to effectively and efficiently minimise the resources required.

  • Design with minimal offcuts as well as paper waste during the printing process.

  • Create designs that are visually impactful whilst using less colour and ink.

Did you know that many inks create something called Volatile Organic Compounds which is known to contribute to climate change and air pollution?

During the printing process

  • Work with a certified printing company or at least one that is environmentally conscious.

  • For less environmental impact, non-VOC-based inks (or low ones)  such as recycled inks, water, soy-based or even vegetable.

  • Find an eco-friendly post-press operation solution, like water-based glue for labels and binding. As many post-press processes are stopping finished results from being recyclable.

  • You could use Foilco. Foil printing is a solvent-free and dry method of printing. After being transferred onto the substrate, the foil becomes extremely thin, measuring less than 2.5 microns. This implies that it dissolves completely during the re-pulping process. As long as the substrate or material being foiled is recyclable, it can be disposed of in standard recycling bins or normal waste streams.

  • Minimise packaging.

  • Waste paper recycling and using recycled paper too.

There are many fantastic reasons for your business to embrace sustainability, but we understand it’s a journey. And you may need help with the process, whether that’s realigning your Brand Values and Mission, to redesigning your logo or packaging.
We are also on our journey to becoming a more sustainable business. Throughout the year, we will be sharing our journey to getting our B Corp accreditation and the steps we’re taking to make that goal a reality. Follow us on LinkedIn for regular updates. 

And if you’re looking to assess your values, mission statement and branding to follow a more sustainable path, get in touch today to see how NU can help you. 


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