The AIGA (Re)Design awards celebrate the best in sustainable design.
On Thursday night, the winners of the AIGA (Re)Design Awards, a competition celebrating the best in sustainable design, were presented at the (Re)Design Extravaganza at the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles. Underneath a handsome Stegosaurus specimen in the museum’s new Dinosaur Hall, guests could admire the winning work up close.
The (Re)Design Awards were started by the Colorado chapter of the AIGA in 2009, and was from the beginning, designed to be a traveling competition. This year, the L.A. chapter got their chance to represent. Stan Evenson, who co-chaired the competition with his wife Tricia, told me how far he thinks we have come: “As long as 15 years ago or so I remember speaking to our clients about sustainability practices and feeling I was considered slightly left of Communism when I would bring the subject up. Today, it’s very different since designers are more conscious than ever, understanding that our planet is headed on a collision course with nature if we continue wearing ‘design blinders.’ There is no room in our landfills to handle this oversight. It’s a great opportunity to encourage sustainability and social responsibility in our design solutions.”
The competition had two main categories: Environmental Sustainability and Social Responsibility. Within those two, each had subcategories for Individual/Agency, Student, For Profit Corporation and Non Profit Corporation.
Interestingly, two firms sweeped their categories, Method in Environmental Responsibility, For Profit, and SoftFirm Studios in Social Responsibility, For Profit. A handful of the winning entries were clients with “living” in their name (Living Principles, Living Cities, Living Buildings and Living Light), perhaps this is the new buzz word in the environmental field?
Environmental Sustainability: Individual/Agency: 1st Place: University of Hawaii, School of Architecture, Identity System by Design Workshop, University of Hawaii at Manoa.
Environmental Sustainability: Student: 1st Place: Chinese Character Practice Book—No Print Book by Li Xu.
Environmental Sustainability: For Profit: 1st Place: Method Refills by Method Products Inc.—In-House Creative.
Environmental Sustainability: For Profit: 2nd Place: Method Greenskeeping Tool Kit by Method Products Inc.—In-House Creative.
Environmental Sustainability: For Profit: 3rd Place: Method Laundry Detergent by Method Products Inc.—In-House Creative.
Environmental Sustainability: Non Profit: 2nd Place: A Zero Carbon, Handmade Stationery by Luce Beaulieu.
Environmental Sustainability: Non Profit: 3rd Place: GreenBlue Brand Identity by GreenBlue In-House Creative.
The range of entries was extremely diverse, from design students to seasoned designers and agencies. Entries included everything from the design of an undersea monitoring unit that studies decaying coral reefs, to a non-printed book with die-cutting and embossing that teaches the blind Chinese characters, to underwear products and packaging that gives 10% of profit back to charities, uses 100% organic, locally farmed cotton and sources packaging entirely within a 100 mile radius. Other projects that were entered included detergent packaging, a portable and reusable homeless shelter, an identity system for the University of Hawaii School of Architecture and a website for the creative community to share and showcase best practices, tools, stories and ideas for sustainability thinking. There was a fine line dividing sustainability and social responsibility and many times it just truly blended perfectly which made the judging challenging.
“I was impressed by the range of sustainable and socially innovative strategies shown by many of the entries,” says Naomi Pearson, one of five judges faced with the task of selecting winners from a strong set of submissions. “Especially impressive were entries that tackled both environmental (and human) health and social responsibility, given that these two issues are so closely linked.”
As an active practitioner in the field of graphic design, it is indeed nice to see that designers are starting to look beyond recycled paper and water-based inks, and instead looking carefully at the bigger picture. Sometimes sustainable design can be about coming up with smarter solutions and producing less stuff for the same amount of impact. And you don’t have to work for big-name clients like Method to do great, sustainable design.
Social Responsibility: Student: 1st Place: Fresh Fest New Orleans Poster by Azu Romá.
Social Responsibility: Student: 3rd Place: Cupcaked by Derek Maxfield.
Social Responsibility: Non Profit: 1st Place: cause/affect: Make Your Mark poster by Kristen Bouvier and Arvi Raquel-Santos.
Social Responsibility: Non Profit: 2nd Place: Cardborigami, Inc. by Tina Hovsepian (who I got to assist putting up her clever cardboard shelter).
“The (Re)design Awards competition encourages inclusivity for every level of designer, from student to professional, and from non-profit organizations to for-profit corporations in all disciplines of design including Graphic and Product Design, Multi-Media, Urban Planning, Interior Design, and Architecture, and we believe our mission was successful,” says Stan Evenson. “Bringing this competition from national to worldwide, we were thrilled to have entries from 14 different countries and throughout the U.S., that featured great design thinking with purpose and substance in the categories of environmental sustainability and social responsibility.”
“I decided I wanted to do something to help the homeless,” says Tina Hovsepian about her school project Cardborigami. “It boiled down to the basic human necessity of shelter. I played with materials, ended up with cardboard, played with origami and picked this form that became the shell.” Hovsepian’s school project has since evolved to a non-profit, in the stages of funding. “I really believe that design can do a lot,” she says. “Everything we learn through our rigorous training can be used for good. Green design is definitely the way to go.”
“Thursday’s gala event was all about celebrating sustainability and social responsibility,” says Evenson. “We need to have the wiliness and conviction to make a difference on this planet by doing well, by doing good. And while doing that… take time to celebrate great design thinking for these two critical issues of our lifetime.”
Maybe design can’t save the world, but it can facilitate a great deal of important change, and that power should never be underestimated.