Sustainable + Socially Responsible Design

Sponsored by Rolland Enterprises, Inc.

Several years ago, GDUSA began to spotlight the good works of design firms active in “green” design. In the early days, the focus was well-meaning but narrow: how designers used and sourced specific products or services — good examples being recycled papers or vegetable inks — to reduce waste.

Then, over time, a more holistic notion of “sustainability” arose that encompassed papers, products and services, yes, but also took into account broader concerns such as energy and emissions, forest stewardship and conservation, third party certifications and sourcing, media alternatives and relative footprints, shipping and distribution, internal studio procedures — all now seen as integral factors in sustainable design.

Then the circle expanded even further. Designers moved beyond asking questions about their specific area of design and production expertise, and sought to align sustainability with the client’s brand, products, mission, processes, and practices in ways that are real, verifiable, transparent, commonsensical.

In 2015, we note yet another widening of perspective. In what seems like a tipping point moment, more and more designers are embracing the notion of responsibility writ large — linking environmental responsibility and social responsibility, designing for good and for positive social change — and in the process blurring or erasing the lines between these concepts.

Frankly, this time around it felt anachronistic to invite design firms to participate in our traditional “green” issue because sustainable design and socially responsible design are so intertwined. I struggled with how to frame this special report but, luckily for me, the creatives we spotlight this year got the point. Designing responsibly matters no matter how you label it.

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