2017 AIGA St. Louis Student Conference: Lecturers with a Conscience

| February 26, 2017

This year’s student conference was an especially thoughtful one. Set in what one could call one of the more earnest parts of town, This year’s conference chairs Audra Hubbell and Anna Heinze lined up a number of nice surprises for us.

There was an inspiring talk about time and making sure to use it wisely by Dawn Hancock, of Firebelly Design in Chicago. This was just the kind of talk that students walking out long nights in studio need to hear about overcoming one’s demons and being brave.

But I was particularly moved by Jonny Black and Richard Roche’s presentation. Black and Roche, who had traveled from Cast Iron Design in Boulder, Colorado, may have started with some jokes, but quickly it became clear that they were here to impart an important message about how to start and scale an environmental design practice.

I had to admire how they approached the problem of getting designers first to care and second to adopt even a slightly greener lifestyle. The problem here is that any time someone starts talking about the environment, we tend to all get so overwhelmed that we aren’t listening.

Jonny and Richard very clearly told us that we could be good without being perfect, and they gave us two easy first ways to start: two takeaways that would be simple for almost every designer, young or old, to adopt.

A surprise fact I recently learned that Cast Iron Design underlined in their presentation is how large the effect is of passing on meat in a single day. Kathy Freston of the Huffington Post quotes this staggering statistic:

“According to Environmental Defense, if every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetarian foods instead, the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off of U.S. roads. See how easy it is to make an impact?”

For the full article see here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kathy-freston/the-breathtaking-effects_b_181716.html

From the point of view of a St. Louisan this feels like good news. It’s something I really would consider adopting without very much of a pinch. St Louis is a city whose infrastructure prevents me from commuting in other ways, and if I have to drive, it’s nice to hear there is another way to help.

Jonny and Richard’s second point was a message-in-a-bottle to young designers about to go out and start spec’ing papers for print jobs. The message was simple: start with spec’ing papers with higher recycled content. They pointed to New Leaf papers, http://newleafpaper.com/ and specifically, to checking out a paper’s percentage of recycled post-consumer waste. They called it the gateway drug to being an environmental designer.

Cast Iron also designed a great tool for designers trying to adopt better practices to keep going. Their company blog explains how else we can consider the environment in our decisions, making small changes that make big impacts. I appreciated all the small ways this company chose to spread their message, and also the reminder that for many clients, this is a reason to choose their company, that sometimes doing good is also just good business.

Cast Iron’s two easy-to-adopt ideas combat what my student Mary describes as the “we’re all gonna die” sinking feeling that ends every discussion of the environment these days. Instead rocking in a corner we can commit to making micro-adjustments that could really help our planet.

Photos by Erich Vieth

Dawn of Firebelly Design

Jonny and Richard of Cast Iron Design


Category: Essays, Graphic Design, St. Louis

About the Author ()

Jen McKnight is an associate professor of art and art history at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. Jennifer McKnight earned her BFA at Washington University in Printmaking and her Masters in Graphic Design at California Institute of Arts (CalArts). Her work is recognized in publications such as Print Magazine, :Output, and “Becoming a Graphic Designer: A guide to Careers in Design” by Steven Heller and Theresa Fernandes. Her design writing is published in the AIGA National Education Archives, Redaction Magazine, No Tasarim, as well as in Means by Which we Find our Way, edited by David Gardner and Andrea Wilkinson and Robin Landa’s Graphic Design Solutions 4th ed.

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