« Closed for two weeks | Main | Get some Z at the Design Museum by Henrietta Thompson »

Oct 03, 2007



This should be essential reading for business decision makers and designers alike. I think it's brilliant.

From your point about air travel, if you've read 'The Cloudspotter's Guide', it discusses air travel, especially contrails (the condensation trails behind planes that can form at altitude) - what becomes apparent is that the vapour trails can cause more environmental concern than emissions. The book suggests that aircraft fly at lower altitudes to prevent this - this would increase the emisssions but prevent contrails. I've only ever seen this argument in the book - the media concentrate solely on emission problems, but it appears that they are only part of the problem.

I thought the Porsche 60% is a wonderful argument - I've always been fascinated with the way companies measure carbon footprints - and there seems to be sketchy lines about where the footprint starts (ie transportation and manufacturing processes). Surely Porsche have it right - the longevity of the product is key.


Nicely said Ben. Encore!


Just a small comment on the Swede example - from an environmental standpoint this actually make sense because the product (cucumbers are the same) has a dramatically improved shelf life as a result, which means that fewer are thrown away by the store, fewer are shipped by the distributor, less fuel used, etc.

Counterintuitive as it sounds overall environmental impact is often reduced by increasing the amount of packaging used. Another example is the TV manufacturer who by increasing the strength of his boxes was able to stack them higher, reduce warehouse space required and number of shipping containers, etc.

The main goal when it comes to packaging is, sure, to remove it when not needed, but more importantly to make sure that what is used it either recyclable or biodegradable.




I guess what I meant when I asked you to design some stationery was that I wanted you to design something that meant that we wouldn't need designers. What I suppose I meant that what I wanted was something that meant that we would use less energy (partially).

Redesign THAT sentence.

Rob Mortimer

I hope that was filmed as I'd like to see just how passionate you are when saying it. As its a great bit of work, and with some brilliant examples.

henry lambert

Really smart and thought provoking.


You were never away for 2 weeks 'though, were you ?


i like this talk alot ben, i've been reading and commenting for over a year now, and i think this is one of the best reads i have had on here.

i run a small record label, and i have started thinking about these things, even though our footprint is pretty small, and budgets constrain every aspect of what we do. I think its a vital thing that should drill down to every organization. its just so hard using that dusty old brain... hah


Well said...


"My brother lives in America and so I go over there quite a lot. Am I going to stop flying out to see him? Well, yeah, I might"

... what fu*k is that brother?


Bang on. Just this week I was trying to convince a client to preprint his stationery (letterheads, faxes, invoices) because they would look nicer than Word template equivalents. Now I've realised that InDesign+Acrobat can convert them into forms that will look as unique/distinctive, and use LESS resources. Subconscious sustainability; it's a start.


A remarkable piece, thank you.



John Dodds

Brilliant. Now get the video up on youtube.


Is that your yellow sweater? You're such a dandy.
Nice work, by the way. Impressed you actually spoke to some air-traffic controllers.

Jason Robb

Amazing article, Ben! That was just what I needed to hear. Everyone could use a little more designer instinct, especially the ones that make the big decisions. Cheers, great ideas.

dan at innocent

Excellent Ben. Really very excellent. I hope it went down as well at the conference as it did when I just read it. For your information, I stood up and clapped at the end, and then went to get a coffee afterwards, almost as if I was really there.


yay! bloody brilliant ben. i'm sure it got a fantastic response at the conference. now, time for a few key decision makers to give it some bloody thought.


This is one of the best articles I've read in awhile. Thanks so much for sharing.



That's the kind of thinking I appreciate.



Great article

and you should definatly start selling t-shirts, badges and other sustainably produced merchandise with "use me better on it"

I'd love to go into a briefing wearing that!


That's really good, that is. Solutions rather than hand-wringing.


Spot on. One of the most concise and inspiring explanations of the issues we've all been trying to get clear I've read for ages.



lainie liberti

Great article/ thoughts! Thank you. I would recommend to every designer to understand more about reducing their eco-footprint (and clients) to read the book: Cradle to Cradle


I'm stealing all of this from you. Not really, but kind of. Outstanding.


Mr Ben Terrett, applause from Sweden. Excellent!
We are right now doing something similar to this, aiming at the top and redisigning some iconic thinking. I hope that you can use it as an example by the end of next year.


Great article, thanks.

On a similar note, it always amazes me that the government want to get people 'off the road and into trains' Why? Trains are so 19th century. What needs to be addressed is why on earth, in the 21st century, do people need to travel from home to their place of work. They can just as easily sit at a computer and use a phone from home. Tax incentives to encourage home working could have a tremendous impact on traffic (yes, I know not everyone can work from home, but many can, even for part of the week).


Fan-bloody-tastic article!!

Am a Graphic Design student and this has been the first article about sustainable design i could actually pay attention and relate to. You've hammered in some valuable points into my young impressionable designer mind! thanks!

Work experience?..........................................


Thanks Becky. Email tom at thedesignconspiracy dot com if you're interested in doing a plaement.

Nick Schoon

The longevity of the product is not key in the case of the Porsche (first respones from Simon). If you buy a Porsche and are remotely serious about reducing your carbon footprint, either never drive it or scrap it at once and buy a Smart car or some other much lower emitting motor. Cars are responsible for vastly more carbon dioxide in their driving than they are in their manufacture and final disposal.


Very nice. This is a great piece.

Graphic Designers Perth

I think your initial point should not be over looked, all people doing talks, in any industry, if you have a website write your speach in long hand and you can post it on your site and share it with the world not just the audience on the day.

By the way I like the balance of speach and slides, it came together nicely, well done.

chav asbovour

brilliant. i'd like to see alan sugars answer to those points!

Jon Ashby


everyone says "they don't make them like they used to"...
Its like somehow from industrial revolution, mass production, global economy and the proliferation of visual communication, design has not only become about quantity over quality, but actually regressed.

I wish I had read this when I was writing my thesis a few years ago, (called Graphic Design and Utopia) about how designers - specifically graphic designers - have an enormous responsibility to society.

Depressing and inspiring.


Hey Ben,
great article. I also like this subject. In fact there is a great designer that have been working hard on that same subject. This guy is Bruce Mau, a canadian design, based in Toronto. He has written a book about this stuff, called Massive Change. He even crafted a nice slogan for the book.

"It's not about the world of design. It's about the design of the world."

It is worth stopping by his website, to read some of his ideas.

That guy went deep into this subject, with a professionals from a variety of fields to help him think about these issues.

In my opinion he is the best designer I know. Not only trying to save the world, but also doing great looking graphic material.

Some links mentioned above:
Bruce Mau Website - www.brucemaudesign.com/
Massive Change at amazon - www.amazon.com/Massive-Change-Bruce-Mau/dp/0714844012
Massive CHange website - www.massivechange.com/


Great article, I really enjoyed reading this. Agree completely.

Mihir Pathare

This is a brilliant post.


estoy feliz de ser diseñador!!!!!!!!

si no damos, no somos felices, demos. :)


Time and again we need some of these talks to shake us up, make us realise - heck, yeah I am a designer why didn't I do/think any of that, point being we need design thinking/thinkers, and change the reality that time and again there are just a few who take this initiative to remind us to start thinking!


Fantastic work Ben- A great thought provoking article. Brings to mind the crazy habit of putting bananaa on a polystyrene dish and wrapping them in clingfilm. C'est fou! http://www.craftyfish.com/blog/2010/05/03/banana-to-go/


Time and again we need some of these talks to shake us up, make us realise - heck, yeah I am a designer why didn't I do/think any of that,


ing! I like the eyes on the garage doors


The greeting card is a good idea too. Something you can do yourself.


Brilliant. Very thought-provoking. Thanks for sharing, and inspiring people to think outside the box.

Account Deleted

This is a timely eye-opener to designers and other professions in almost all industries since all of us need to conserve on something. Though it is important for a product to be in use for a very long time, it is also important for it to be efficient in its role. For example, newer models of Porsche cars must have adapted to innovation which should make them more efficient and environment-friendly compared to their older models. The point is to make a middle ground between the length of time to use a product and the time when it needs to be replaced by a better one. So, instead of designers becoming CEOs, I'd say let's have a post everywhere to contribute to solving design problems.


Hey Ben,

This has got to be one of the best reads for me in a long time.

I am in my first year of tertiary study in New Zealand and this is the information I need in order to make my future actions a lot more focused and more powerful. I google so much, trying to better my knowledge of everything to do with creativity in general but rarely come across such gold.

I wish I could have seen your presentation in real life, would have been powerful stuff.

Cheers for the good read Ben and keep up the sweet work!

Sandhya Ragoowansi

Ben. Hats off to you for even thinking to write on something as important and relevant to our times like this. These things used to always hit me. 'Isn't it unneccesary? Why does something have to be done in a certain way?'

Today being a designer, for the first time I've realised how important we are or rather how important each one of our roles is when it comes to designing. Will always be inspired by what you have written and as far as possible will spread this message to most designers.

Also would make a conscious effort to design things more wisely.

One more thing comes to my mind when you mention these things. Many of our design institutes, and I'm talking of some very reputed, world famous ones, make it a pre-requisite to send them a portfolio or send them prints of actual artworks as just mailing them isn't enough. I find that a real waste of time, effort and also waste of paper. It is discouraging to see that people don't realise these things and even when they do prefer to stick to old norms.

I hope changes happen soon because climate change is something that is going to and is affecting not one, but each one of us personally.

Thankyou once again for this amazing article. Keep writing great stuff!

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)