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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Let the image do the talking

Last week I was at I Heart Studios in Amsterdam to photograph a project that has been in the works since April: a series of design prototypes for the Food industry using sustainable packaging.

From the outset I was really impressed with I Heart’s professionalism. In particular, their proposal outlined responsibilities (ours and theirs) throughout the process (clarity on a platter! 🙌🏻 ). We met in person to discuss the detailed brief I’d developed, which was followed by a half-day test shoot to determine final shot list, camera positions, lighting and background colour. Curiously, their standard practice is to insert a background colour in post, rather than shoot with a paper background, as it provides control of colour reproduction and better consistency between shots. Meanwhile, my colleague MP and I shared responsibility for sourcing all of the necessary props – from vessels to fresh food to blank label sheets and rolls to representative source material.

Over the last few years, a number of ‘envelope’ collections have been made by Avery Dennison for the Wine and Spirits segment. The materials featured are typically premium with strong aesthetic qualities. Hence, the photography focused on design, texture and print finishing.

In approaching this shoot, I wanted the images to play a pivotal role in telling the story of the sustainable materials featured – in relation to their material composition and performance capability. For example, rMC, made from FSC-certified paper and 30% post consumer waste, was propped with shredded newspaper and office copy paper. While rCrush resists rupture or significant change in appearance when wet, so was sprayed to show water droplets on its surface.

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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.).