sprouting leaves in the dirt

Designing for a Sustainable Future

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To sustain something is to hold onto it – to support it, and keep it going. How can we, as designers and communicators help us all to hold on to and support a healthy future for our planet?


You may not think that what you design and how you design it has a large impact on our carbon footprint, but it definitely does! Sustainable design prioritizes the impact that design has on our environment and on the health of our planet. Everything we design, whether graphic design, industrial design, architecture, clothing, accessories, technology etc. etc. starts off with a thought that develops into a process. This process is where you must consider what the outcome of your design will be. This is where you must consider the materials, the sourcing of the materials, the shelf life and the ultimate disposal of the materials used to create the thing you design become imperative to the carbon footprint they leave behind.

Architectural image of outdoor spiral staircase with tree in the middle.


What is the difference? When something is eco-friendly, it means that the design doesn’t harm the environment in any way. It could mean that it was produced sustainably, but not necessarily so. It also could mean that it was produced using renewable resources. When something is sustainably designed, it means that no natural resources were depleted in the creation of the product, and that the future generations’ access to the resources will not be compromised. The two terms are closely related, but not exactly the same.

Black and white image of female staring up at the sky


When talking about sustainability, we must realize that there are three major aspects of it:

– Social Sustainability

– Economic Sustainability

– Ecological Sustainability

Sustainable graphic design is not just about “being green”. It’s about considering social, cultural, economic, technical and sometimes even political structures and how they may impact the future of how we live, and the impact we have on our planet.


It’s not just about making your work look organic, earthy or granola. In fact, that could just be green-washing, as many recycled paper stocks take more energy to create them than using a virgin stock that may not send the right message to consumers. Perception can be deceiving. Sustainable graphic design considers factors such as using recycled materials, vegetable-based inks, and design that has longevity and timelessness. This will avoid having to reprint, redo and discard. Considering how to reduce waste and simplify, especially when designing packaging, is a way to contribute to the sustainability of our future.


The good news is that throughout design communities, we are sharing knowledge and educating each other on how we can be more sustainable in our design practices. Leaving behind a healthy and liveable planet is one of Hangar 18’s important missions, and we have been fortunate to have worked with clients who share common aspirations. We have branded initiatives and created Climate Emergency campaigns for the City of Vancouver and created brands for ZEBx (Zero Emissions Exchange), B2E (Building to Electric), ZEIC (Zero Emissions Innovation Centre) and Canada’s Pact for a Green New Deal. Even some of our real estate developer clients are working towards sustainable building practices and creating walkable communities to help in the movement to work towards zero emissions. As designers, we need to educate our clients on how they can make smart choices for a sustainable future, both economically and ecologically.

Let’s all work together and amplify our positive impact.

Black and white image of One World protest sign

Written by Vida Jurcic, Founder and Co-Creative Director – Vancouver, BC