The inner workings of our research studio

October 6, 2010 | Amy Parker, BFA graphic design at NESADSU  |  Share

The following is a guest post from Re-nourish intern Amy Parker. An undergraduate student at New England School of Art and Design at Suffolk University, Amy spent the summer researching sustainable design, helping to update our Paper Finder tool, and designing a pair of desktop wallpapers for our readers. A huge Re-nourish “thanks!” to Amy for all her hard work!

Being a graphic design student is a very challenging yet extremely rewarding experience. Many of us have done it: working at school for hours upon hours, critiquing, and being critiqued, re-working concepts, researching, sketching, starting over. It gives us tough skin and sharp eyes. It helps us develop pretty efficient ways of working, too. And now, as a senior, I’m focusing my energy on improving my creative thinking and design skills at a more advanced level.

This past summer I was able to expand my design practice not just at a more advanced level, but on an entirely new one. As an intern at Re-nourish, I was introduced to a new way of thinking about graphic design: that’s right… sustainable graphic design. I began thinking about all the discarded junk mail, newspapers, fliers, packaging, etc. that some person somewhere in the world was likely paid to create. It seems so wasteful. doesn’t it? I mean, are all our efforts just going into the waste basket when someone gets sick of looking at it? It is a rather sad thought that we are simply making well-designed trash.

Since beginning my internship with Re-nourish, I have found myself educating my fellow students about sustainability. I have discussions with my professors about the design ideals Yvette, Jess and Eric have shared through I am hoping that the more we talk openly about the importance of sustainability in design, the more likely designers will listen and incorporate these theories into practice.

The goal of the wallpaper project was to create a series of desktop wallpapers aimed to encourage, educate and remind designers about ways to lessen their environmental impact. This project was very fun and informative. I found the more concepts we would come up with, the more research I would have to do to support my visual thinking.

At the beginning of my internship we discussed creating general wallpapers about the printing process, ink, and paper choices. After some refining we decided to break them apart into separate wallpapers, each aimed at the different steps in the design process, resulting in a series. The general message of the series was “Take control of your footprint.” I was responsible for designing one wallpaper with this message, and a second wallpaper focusing on paper choices. My first sketches illustrated some ideas about taking control of the paper we use:

Yvette, Jess, and Eric gave helpful and constructive feedback along the way, and we decided to try playful typography to get our message across. The following images are examples of some sketches I went through to get to what is now the final piece.

We agreed that the hand written type idea simply stating “Take Control of Your Footprint,” was a strong message by itself, so I incorporated that visual in the first few initial designs on the computer. Out of my own frustration with making compositions with type, I made the hand written type large on the page and left it at that. The Re-nourish crew seemed to like its simplicity and told me to keep it and experiment with color.

The other design idea under the same concept was focused on the choices a designer has to think about while producing work. The notion of “traveling” with many paths a designer might choose was interesting to explore. The key things to consider were post-consumer waste, ag residue fiber, chlorine-free bleaching, sustainable forestry, vegetable based inks, and renewable energy.

With many revisions, these ideas eventually lead to the final wallpaper designs.

In the end, this project taught me to think about not only what I am creating now, but how it will be created and how it will be disposed of. So if you’re new to, I highly recommend giving yourself a good chunk of time to read through it, and download the computer wallpapers I designed during my internship to remind yourself of the philosophy.

Download wallpapers here:

Free for distribution for non-commercial purposes, with attribution.

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About the Blog
The Re-nourish Blog is a showcase of our work and research, and serves as a place to explore what's going on in the world of sustainable design. Here, you'll see what we're working on in our studio, and learn about what other sustainable designers are doing.


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