On blogs, this log, and growth

How can designers be truly sustainable? A question of oceanic proportion, that I am unqualified to answer. Nonetheless, Creative Boom offered me the chance to reflect on things I’ve learned over the past year at Avery Dennison. As per usual, it took a long time to chisel and hammer my thoughts into a coherent form, but when I eventually pulled back from my labour most things held in place.

Writing revealed just how unique an opportunity it has been to learn how to design for sustainability in practice, gaining specialised knowledge directly from my colleagues. It also reiterated the value of this log as a reference to return to. And, plot twist, through conversation a possibility has emerged for me to become more of a specialist in this field. It’s an interesting proposition which could pass by if I don’t take the initiative to carry it forward. The first step is to map out the deficits in my knowledge so I can work toward closing the gap.

Interview posted below for archival purposes.

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The afterlife of packaging in the Wild, Wild West

I am currently designing a series of food labels using materials from our sustainable portfolio. The process has been a significant learning curve. I’ve gained in-depth knowledge of specific Avery Dennison products, but also a broader understanding of how to design for sustainability.

Early on I critically assessed every grocery delivery and hoarded the gems of waste packaging like a magpie. An oddity I’d never previously registered is that communicating the afterlife of packaging seems to be something of a Wild, Wild, West. Investigation proves that there are actually considerable regulations governing the information on a food label, though these mostly pertain to human safety and cover usage, storage and consumption.

Environmental health ultimately impacts human health, so it is bewildering that there are no legal standards in place. An example of best practice that does exist, on quite a few of the groceries in my kitchen actually, belongs to Recycle Now – a national campaign supported and funded by the UK Government. This system is clear, consistent and specific, indicating the packaging element (tray, bottle, lid, sleeve, film etc.), substrate (card, plastic, glass, etc.), required action (rinse, remove, separate, etc.) and availability (widely recycled, check local recycling, not yet recycled, etc.).


This not That

Redistribution of power

[ not perpetuation of power ]

work together

[ not in isolation ]

foster constructive collaborator dialogue

[ not hostile client monologue ]

support the public interest

[ not private interests ]

embrace multiplicity

[ not singularity]


[ don’t simplify ]

produce critical reflections

[ not narrative descriptions ]

Quality of process

[ not quantity of outcome ]

holistic labour

[ not division of labour ]

fenced work week

[ not overtime ]

scheduled responding to emails

[ not a perpetual flow ]

permit unstructured time

[ reduce billable projects ]

daily walks

[ less sustained screen-time ]

more primary research

[ less secondary/online research ]

After Rosalie Schweiker‘s Rules for Work


Toward a Common Practice—Chapter 3: Digression (or) A portrait of the artist as a young man

This chapter considers how digression might manifest in design practice; it briefly considers the historical role of design in society; it offers examples of designers exploring alternative modes of practice; it provides definitions of digression and association; and outlines how this might inform a positioning of practice – fields of interest, research methods, disciplines, process and organisation.

The Rietveld Chair, captured here in Red, Yellow, Blue is an exemplar of De Stijl aims – to create a universal visual language from asymmetrical planes of primary colour (1).

In the first half of the twentieth century the Constructivists, De Stijl and Bauhaus made attempts to improve everyday life through design. In the second half, the discipline became entwined with commerce – fostering the prevailing misconception that this is its sole function (2). Design as an economic service is, most often, consistent with the view of it being a problem-solving activity. Ana Paula Pais of Slow Research Lab takes a divergent position. She writes, ‘design(ing) entails locating, and challenging the conditions of our current realities while creating alternative conditions that allow for new realities to happen’ (3). Here, we see design defined as a problem-setting activity, one that questions existing power structures, rather than perpetuating them. Jack Self expands, ‘Kant says that ethics and aesthetics are one. When you make an aesthetic proposition, you’re also making a moral and an ethical proposition, and you’re expressing your ideas about the world through that form’ (4). How might a commercial practice be ethically responsible? And how might a research practice remain economically viable?

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So I’ve been thinking about further study for awhile, but I don’t know where to do it. Here’s my tally of interesting graduates and/or institutions they have been associated with:

Sara de Bondt – St Lukas / Jan Van Eyck
Paul Bailey – Central Saint Martins
Fraser Muggeridge – University of Reading
Stuart Bailey – University of Reading / Werkplaats Typografie
James Goggin – RCA / Werkplaats Typografie
Karel Martens – Jan Van Eyck / Werkplaats Typografie
Paulus Dreibholz – Central Saint Martins
Armand Mevis – Gerrit Rietveld / Werkplaats Typografie / Yale
Paul Elliman – Werkplaats Typografie  / Yale
Na Kim – Werkplaats Typografie 
Anthony Froshaug – Central Saint Martins / Royal College of Art

Who wins? Yet to be decided.