The Designers that Democratize Information

Five initiatives that utilize design to create innovative solutions and make an impact

Published

January 30, 2020

From biodegradable sneakers to refillable products, it seems that brands and creatives - encouraged by consumers and their demand for sustainable solutions - are having a loud response to the climate crisis. Growing concerns seem to positively fuel both creatives and the brands they work with to search for innovative solutions. Changes to our shopping habits are influenced by the push for ‘unprecedented cuts to single-use plastic’ making way for exciting opportunities to design for good.

The initiatives below all make information about ecological issues more accessible and easier to understand. Going beyond functionality, they all use ingenuity, effective messaging and innovation to raise awareness about complex issues and scattered data, calling for action by raising awareness. In the process, these examples serve as a reminder that information, data, and truth all matter, and that we - as users, individuals and designers - are not powerless. Quite far from it.


Useless.London


One major problem with restricting our usage of single-use products is their accessibility and how easy they are to use . Use Less is turning the tables by making our sustainable choices easier. It is a directory for reusable products that introduces a playful aesthetic alongside a crucial solution for our single-use woes. The resource was created by ethical creative agency Nice and Serious to help us locate products, stores and services with a wide range of uses. Use Less also added a map to streamline our purchasing process. And while the service is available only in the UK at the moment, the list of sustainable alternatives for each product exemplifies what it means to create important access to valuable information.

This resource is the perfect example for how impactful design can be. As it takes on an abstract and frightening idea such as the climate crisis, Use Less communicates the message using bright and playful colors, animations, and fun interactions that make us feel empowered, knowledgeable and equipped with real alternatives.


Shameplane.com


2017 was declared by the UN as the “International Year of Sustainable Tourism” highlighting what was then considered only a niche-market called conscious tourism. As the understanding of the concept of a carbon footprint began to sink in, travellers began to grasp the toll that fossil-fuel-based travel has taken. Yet even 2 years later it still seems as though the carbon footprint and climate crisis are concepts too abstract to comprehend.

An independent group from Stockholm, Sweden decided to turn this abstract idea into a conceivable reality by focusing on the immediate implications of a carbon footprint, such as the melting of polar ice caps. Any fuel burning process related to transportation, like cars, airplanes, or ships, or any industrial process such as electricity power plants and plastic factories, releases a quantity of CO2 that harms our arctic ice.

Shamplane is an interactive platform that calculates the damage our travel habits have on the arctic ice. Essentially, it’s a well designed calculator that enables us to convert the information of our travel plans into the actual amount of arctic ice lost.

The beautifully minimalistic design based mostly on text, graphs and dramatic black red and white colors helps us internalize the startling implications that flight-related carbon-offsetting has on our planet. But as it suggests alternative measures we can take to remedy our travel choices, it also eases anxiety - reminding us there is still much to do.


Save-whales

Rising ocean temperatures, melting icebergs, plastic waste, ocean and noise pollution, or jeopardised feeding grounds - take your pick when it comes to what puts marine life at risk. As a result, the number of whales is quickly dropping, tragically marking many species as endangered. Save Whales responds to this threat with a website designed by Red Collar that takes us underwater in all its glory (and whale sounds). Red Collar offers playful interactions and some liquid-like animations, while allowing us to dive deeper and learn more about these wondrous creatures.. Within the project there is no beautification of the harsh reality, and this resource advocate for changes that still need to be made.. The project also offers details about how to help, with tips on what can be done by each of us individually to minimize ocean damage.


Banana Story


Every single product we buy has its own carbon footprint. This means that aside from the monetary cost of each item, there is a price paid in terms of greenhouse gases emitted during the item’s production. This encompasses the labor of all elements supported in its making; the transportation from where it was manufactured or grown right to the area where it is sold. This even includes the energy put into keeping it cold or hot. The design project “Banana Story,” created by Björn Steinar Blumenstein and Johanna Seelemann, beautifully illustrates just what this footprint means as it follows the journey of one of the world’s most basic produce items.

Banana Story sheds light on the lack of transparency surrounding the products we buy on a daily basis by telling the story of a banana’s journey from Ecuador to Iceland. The project’s simple website shows various, surprising touchpoints in the banana’s journey.

In addition, the suggestion for a new, illustrated a long product label to replace the simple sticker - draws awareness to how little details, like stickers, can paint a much bigger picture.

Conceptual photography of the product in Iceland, its final destination, Iceland, along with images of food waste, question the carbon footprint invested in a single fruit; it also makes us consider the global consumerism we practice every day.


Carbon 8

Industrial farming has a somewhat controversial status in regards to the climate crisis, impacting greenhouse gases emissions, natural wildlife habitats and soil quality.

In response, Carbon8 designers are providing farmers with tips and solutions for their overused land and soil. Using a lively palette of green and light blues and optimistic illustrations in their designs, they persuade farmers that there is hope for a change.

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