AIGA, the professional association for design, last week unveiled “The Living Principles for Design”, touted as “the first quadruple bottom line” sustainability credo. The Principles bring together the well-known aspects of triple bottom-line sustainability – environmental stewardship, economic value and social responsibility – and add to them a fourth element: cultural vitality, the way in which communities cultivate traditions and develop commonly accepted values.
Reading this, I was reminded of the power of design to inspire change, to affect attitudes and to alter behavior.
Think about it. Design has been used to sell a lot of products. (Think Nike “swoosh”.) Design has been used to do a lot of bad things. (Think Nazi swastika.) Throughout the ages, design has changed culture, be it corporate culture or social culture. That’s because design connects people with ideas, motivates behavior change and shifts mindsets. Likewise, design has the same power to affect sustainable behavior, bringing about cultural change that impacts our planet and our future.
Our “War on Waste” campaign created for tissue manufacturer Kruger Inc. is a perfect example. Developed to help stem losses due to workplace carelessness and indifference, “War on Waste” involves simple, iconic messages that influence employees to develop more sustainable work habits.
Another example is the naming and brand identity developed for HopeWorks Wonders, an apprenticeship and retail store offering home furnishings made and refurbished by chronically unemployed, helping them to find and keep jobs. The work we did affected cultural change for both the people being served by this great organization and the people serving.
We believe the best design not only gets noticed but gets results. Design for the sake of design is not sustainable. Design must serve a higher purpose or it is a waste of time, money and resources.