Simplifying sustainable design principles

Eighteen sustainability design icons with blue, purple green and coral backgrounds
Icons designed by Sebastian Abboud

As defined by DesCan, “Sustainable communication design is the application of sustainability principles to communication design practice. Practitioners consider the full life cycle of products and services, and commit to strategies, processes and materials that value social, cultural, economic and environmental responsibility.”

Communication design challenge

Collaborators Sebastian Abboud and iilo co-owner Lisa Hemingway volunteered time with the DesCan (formerly Graphics Designers of Canada) National Sustainability Committee (NSC) to create an infographic answering, “What is sustainable graphic design?”

Over the course of nearly a year (!) we debated, designed, and refined this infographic together. As with many volunteer projects, it was an awesome learning experience, and an opportunity to hear from a variety of voices within the NSC. Lisa has been a volunteer with DesCan for many years, and this project really shone the light on a depth of understanding that she’s not usually given space to discuss.

We designed this poster for designers who might not know a lot about what sustainability means — sharing why we believe good design is sustainable design. Our goal was to make sustainability feel more tangible by suggesting things in each of the four pillars that designers can focus on to create change within the context of their work. Sustainability is often discussed in broad strokes (because it is broad and all-encompassing) so we kept the infographic simple and attractive, and provided one or two new ideas to build curiosity to learn more. We worked to extend our icons and colour palette beyond the blue/greens usually associated with eco-friendly design, which gave this content a current vibe.

The infographic for DesCan about sustainable communications design


We truly enjoyed leading this self-directed volunteer project, which aligned well with the NSC’s goal for 2017/2018 of making sustainability visible. It also allowed Lisa to discover how talented an illustrator Sebastian is! After thinking about starting this project for years, we’re happy to have something to share when students and designers alike ask, “What is sustainable graphic design?”

We’re also grateful for Sebastian’s time and patience, and all the NSC committee members who contributed their energy and ideas to this highly collaborative project: Steven Cretney, Valerie Elliott, Erika Rathje, and Elise Cheetham.

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