Preface: Why sustainable graphic design?

Sustainable graphic design: utopian ideal or reality?

Is sustainability considered within current graphic design practices, what information is there for those wanting to implement it within graphic design practice and in future, how can it begin to be incorporated as a core principle?


This was written in 2012/13, so isn’t the most up to date account of sustainability approaches and practice in graphic design — yet, I receive a number of emails from students each year, asking to read and reference my dissertation as source within their own investigation. It’s quite clearly a topic of interest for many, but considering the fast pace of industry, how is it that my piece of work could even be considered still relevant?

I’m posting this online now for other designers to easily reference (I’m often awfully slow at replying to emails…) and also because I want to continue this investigation myself, 5 years later.

This is my starting point, Medium will be my platform. Let’s see how this goes!


This essay will attempt to determine if sustainable principles are being put into practice within graphic design, if there is enough information available to be able to assist integrating the principles within practice and will discuss what the potential future for sustainable graphic design, with particular reference to the importance of education. This will be done through contacting primary sources working or teaching as sustainable creatives, and researching books, websites, organisations and theoretical guides for information. To ascertain the conclusion this essay will gather material from a variety of industries, a variety of prolific designers, inventors, philosophers, to gain a holistic perspective of sustainability and graphic design.

In conclusion, this essay found that whilst there are a number of professionals and agencies practicing sustainable graphic design, the majority do not. However, this essay also found there to be a vast amount of information available to aid in the incorporation of sustainable practices, including interactive theoretical guidelines and websites with practical actions. This essay deduced that for sustainability to become inherent within the graphic design industry as a core principle, it must be addressed within design education, and whilst a small minority do include it within their programmes, many are lacking in design criticism, ethics, sustainability and responsible teaching.


At the time, considering this essay was a lesson in sustainable practice, I attempted to make it as sustainable as possible e.g. minimal draft pages printed for proof reading, using an local, environmentally aware printer and a local, book-binder…

Completed, printed and bound sustainability dissertation. Credit: Alexandra Clarke

Next: Introduction