Design the future: An interview with the designers at Goods.
“We can do better. Together with clients, we design brands and packaging that balance big impact with a small footprint” — This is what Goods, a newborn packaging design company from Norway, says about themselves. So, we had a coffee with them and talked about old machines, plastic and how to make more good goods in this world.
Why did you start Goods?
We wanted to challenge how packaging was done. Not only the aesthetics, but ethics and the environmental footprint. As designers we all seek to use our talent for good, and we wanted to create a culture and a studio that from day 1 had curiosity built-in, almost like a lab for physical experiments and how real-life solutions can be done in store shelves. Sustainability within design is also something that will probably never be “solved” — that’s a good place to start a company.
What does sustainable design mean to you?
By definition sustainability is defined by something that is sustainable over time and doesn’t come at a cost. Therefore, basically all consumption is by definition not sustainable in a material sense. However, sustainability is probably the one word that connects lots of challenges we focus on: waste reduction, recycling, climate, reducing footprints, etc.
What kind of clients are asking for your help?
All kinds! So far, we have been (and are) working in food & drinks, clothing, fashion, technology, beauty & pharmaceuticals. Some of these are traditionally looked upon as “good categories” and some worse. However, we feel we can work across categories as there are always new challenges in each. A common theme is that they all want to better their footprint while creating brands that matter to people, brands that stand for something.
What kind of designers want to work with you?
We get quite a lot of contact from designers from all over the globe, and most of them mention our focus on planet in addition to the traditional graphic design work. We hope to be a place young designers aspire to work, and so far it seems to be working as we also get contacted by young designers that want to use their profession for something that tangibly makes things better.
Are you a bad designer if you make something that can’t be recycled?
No! We have a mantra here at the office that is something along the lines of “We don’t know anything yet”. No-one is perfect, and from the day we started, we have learned and unlearned so many things. However, we think recycling is the best way for our planet to cope with all our consumption, all designers should aim to get more materials into a circular system. But to us, a bad designer would be a designer that doesn’t want to become better.
Is it possible to design our way out of waste?
We can do our part, but waste is such a widespread problem in many parts of today’s society that we can’t get to it all. But if you believe design = solving problems, why not?
“We believe in circularity. We have so much material in the world, we have to stop producing new virgin materials. We believe the future will be won by the brands who make the most out of the least.”
How does Goods design for recycling?
First of all we focus on designing with mono materials, while striking the right balance between under- and over-packaging. We try to avoid using plastics whenever we can, but sometimes they are needed. Often though, plastics actually are great for having a second life as a recycled material. We prioritise recycled (and to some degree bio) plastic before virgin plastic. We prefer transparent and lightly colored plastics before dark and black plastics as they have a bigger market after being recycled. Having knowledge on how the materials are treated further down in the value chain is key.
Obstacles (and surprises) when presenting a new and sustainable way of designing packaging for a client?
Obstacle: We learned early on that working on, and challenging, client’s existing production value chains is important. If a new packaging format/solution always meant the client had to buy new machinery, that’s not sustainable either. Surprise: Often the best solutions aren’t that “advanced”. Simple adjustments, often in different parts of a package often makes the biggest impact.
What is important to keep in mind when (trying) to design a better future?
Very often, the ideal solution to a packaging problem isn’t a change to the packaging itself, but a change to distribution or business model. So while we as designers often focus on materials, with small changes in other parts of the business, you can often decrease the footprint. As we mentioned before, we believe in circularity. We have so much material in the world, we have to stop producing new virgin materials. We believe the future will be won by the brands who make the most out of the least.
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