Back in 2015 when the United Nations rolled out the sustainable development goals, sustainability in design was on everybody’s lips. Now, two years on, people are still buzzing about sustainable design – but what exactly does it mean for graphic designers like myself, and what we can offer our clients?

In a society where everything is constantly changing and in demand, and where people expect instant gratification, it’s difficult to believe how anything can be sustainable. But it should be. It should be quality over quantity and making things that last. When I design, this is always my ultimate goal – to create something timeless. But it can’t start with me, and it certainly can’t stop with me. Sustainable design involves function, material and packaging choices. It is so much more than just sticking a green label on existing products as Art Director Philippe Intraligi puts it.

As consumers, we throw away more now than we ever have but with companies like H&M and Marks & Spencer offering rewards for recycled clothing and fabrics, I think it’s safe to say the UN’s hope of changing the world by 2030 are well within our grasps.

But how can we as graphic designers change the world, one design at a time? One of the biggest challenges we face is making sure that we educate our clients about sustainable practices. Even though I am a huge lover of print, it’s important to raise the question as to whether a final product does in fact need to be printed. Can it be done using standard paper sizes and diecutting options? Consider everything, from the final product to how it’s being delivered, and then ultimately discarded. During discussions with the client, ask whether they do actually need that many copies of their printed product? Do they have budget to go with an eco-friendly printer? Have discussions with the printer about the type of ink and paper that is used, what the maximum of colours on a single press run are, and whether they do have totally chlorine free paper and ‘green-ink’ such as non-toxic, non-metallic, vegetable based or soy based?Do they use process-less printing plates? This cuts down on those pesky photosensitive toxins, and replaces them with inert carbon and tap water.

Small changes, makes one big change for the better.