Climate Activism for the Graphic Designer 101

After The Climate Strike, how can designers keep the momentum moving and growing?

Eric Benson
Sep 23, 2019 · 5 min read
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Photo by Markus Spiske

Beyond your professional design life, there is a lot you can do in your public and personal life to improve the world. If you live in a democracy, vote. Vote specifically to uplift your value system in combination with improving the greater good for the rest of us. (If you’re not registered to vote in the US, vote.org is the place to go before you read anymore of the article!)

Vote with your pocketbook as well. What you decide to purchase (or not to purchase) has an impact. Support groups and companies that align with your values and together help design the world you want to live in. (This is called the ecocene.)

You can also vote with your pocket book by donating to a non-profit that promotes and/or is active in helping a cause, the planet, or group of people that you also support personally. You should also be active using your creative skill sets by starting your own personal projects for a cause or tithing your design skills to a non-profit that is need of help. A great example of the latter is the Grant for Good program.

Activism for Climate Action

If you aim to be involved in designing to help combat the worst case scenarios of climate change, I put together a little guide for you with some valuable links and resources as well. Your personal climate decisions matter. One person can change the world. Just look at Greta Thunberg. She’s only a teenager who decided to strike for the climate instead of going to school (on Fridays). Now she’s a leader in the climate change movement.

The key for bigger or faster action, however, is to turn your personal activism into a movement (just like Greta did). Graphic designers are perfectly suited for this as we possess finely tuned visual communication skills. Use them to bring people together over a cause and make a difference. (Join the Climate Designers who are turning individual design actions into a collective.)

Collectively we need to reduce our global GHG emissions by around 50% by 2030. The biggest contributors to our emissions are industry and agriculture, so it’s best to start there. Your creative advocacy and choice of vendors/materials should reflect knowledge sharing of this fact and consequent ways to find alternatives to the worst offenders of GHG emissions. At Project Drawdown, you can find ranked solutions that you could apply your skills to promote or help collaboratively solve.

It has also been proven that working less (like a 4-day week) has a positive impact on reducing GHG emissions. This is something we all can get behind!

Here are some tips to consider when using design to unite and uplift people to make a difference on climate change:

However, most of the time you probably spend your days (and nights) working your day job. So…

Here are some tips to consider when using design at work to be a more subtle activist on climate:

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Project Calculator from www.re-nourish.org

What about the nitty gritty greener details?

Great question! As a graphic designer, you mainly work with paper and pixels, so here are some pragmatic, effective, and tested strategies for design and material choice you can apply to the ideas above.

Practical Strategies to Create a Positive Impact (Design to Renourish)

Renourish

You can learn more about this at Re-nourish’s Systems Thinking section or through our book “Design to Renourish”.

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Strategies to Lower Your Impact (Green Design)

Reduce

Reuse & Design for Durability

Recycle

To get even more ideas and details check out Re-nourish’s tips for print/packaging or UI/UX.

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If you have further insights into how design can help advance the climate activism movement, definitely leave them in the comments below!

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Eric Benson

Written by

Associate Professor of Graphic Design at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Co-founder of Re-nourish and Fresh Press Agri-Fiber Paper Lab.

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +731K people. Follow to join our community.

Eric Benson

Written by

Associate Professor of Graphic Design at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Co-founder of Re-nourish and Fresh Press Agri-Fiber Paper Lab.

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +731K people. Follow to join our community.

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