The term sustainable design is in use now more than ever. In the words of design  lecturer Dr Rafiq Elmansy, sustainable design refers to “the design process that integrates an environmentally friendly approach and considers nature resources as part of the design”.

Jess Patel

Each discipline interprets this in their own way depending on their specialism. Product designers will heavily examine aspects like carbon footprint and waste reduction, whereas graphic artists will specifically look at material types for printing, and UI designers are increasingly offering new alternatives in the digital space, such as producing microsites in place of a printed brand book.

As we draw nearer to COP27, it is relevant to shine a light on the latest innovations that businesses are embracing and some tips on how to be sustainably minded in design. 

  • Strive for less waste 

Exhibitions fill audiences with inspiration and spark creativity. However, these events produce a large amount of waste. The UK Parliament estimates that 5 million tons of plastic are used every year in the UK – half of which is packaging. Currently, the build-up of waste materials is causing the biggest strain on the design industry.

The Waste Age exhibition held at the London Design Museum highlighted this issue. Designers ensured the set was constructed out of natural and reusable materials. This resulted in the exhibition producing a ‘carbon footprint of 10 tonnes, which is equal to what the average UK person emits in a year’ as reported by environmental collective URGE.

  • Ensure designs are durable

As seen recently on the British TV show Dragon’s Den, (where enthusiastic entrepreneurs pitch their business plans to a panel of investors) Fussy is the new refillable deodorant brand striving to eliminate single use plastic. The product’s case is made from a durable, recycled plastic and the refillable units from sugar cane waste. 

The designers have showcased how you can create a purposeful and aesthetic product that isn’t damaging to the planet. Fussy is living proof that applying sustainable thinking to design should not hinder the quality of the product’s form and function.

  • Design planet-friendly websites 

It’s the norm for businesses to have a beautifully designed website. But is beauty doing more damage than good? According to the Carbon Calculator website, the average tested web page produces 1.76g of CO2 for every page view. It’s evident that more awareness is needed around sustainable design in the digital world. 

Here are a few ways to make your website more energy efficient:

  • Create an efficient user experience: this prevents users spending long amounts of time unnecessarily clicking and navigating their way through a site trying to find information.
  • Make the most out of fonts: having several font variations can add significant bandwidth to websites, so be sure to make purposeful design choices and limit the number of variations. 
  • Arrange a clean-up: remove any unwanted elements on the site that you don’t need such as old images, tags, and plugins.
  • New materials are the way forward 

There has been a recent spotlight on a mushroom-based leather materials in the fashion industry. Global apparel leader Adidas created a new shoe in their most iconic Stan Smith style called the “Stan Smith Mylo”. The shoe is made from materials derived from nature the main being mycelium (vegetative parts of mushrooms). Mycelium (Mylo) is a natural biomaterial that has similar properties to leather. It’s soft, flexible, and versatile since it can take on any colour. Industry giants lululemon and Stella McCartney have also adopted this latest material innovation on selected products. It’s exciting to see how brand leaders are inspiring the industry as well as giving us a glimpse into the future of fashion. 

At Brandpie we are making sustainable design choices in both our client and internal projects as well as our day-to-day activities. Our hybrid working model allows individuals to choose the best way to work, whenever they want to work. Our new Clubhouse has had sustainable design hardwired throughout the process and we have received SKA Gold Certification, which is a Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors sustainability rating for both design and build. Wherever possible, we have chosen sustainable materials for both furniture and finishes, we have an entirely paperless environment, and have also selected an energy provider that’s able to supply based on 100% renewables.

We need more purposeful design choices to enable us to protect our planet and our society. Designers need to be creative and innovative in how they approach this. If customers are going to change their behaviour, then the sustainably designed products must also be desirable, functional, and of great quality.