Design Strategies: Activism

Beyond your professional design life, there is a lot you can do in your public and personal life to improve the world. If you live in a democracy, vote. Vote specifically to uplift your value system in combination with improving the greater good for the rest of us. 

Vote with your pocketbook as well. What you decide to purchase (or not to purchase) has an impact. Support groups and companies that align with your values and together help design the world you want to live in. (This is called the ecocene.) 

You can also vote with your pocket book by donating to a non-profit that promotes and/or is active in helping a cause, the planet, or group of people that you also support personally. These are non-profits we regularly donate to:

You can also be active through your creative skill sets as a designer by creating your own personal projects for a cause or tithing your design skills to a non-profit that is need of help. A great example of the latter is the Grant for Good program. 

Activism for Climate Action

If you aim to be involved in designing to help combat the worst case scenarios of climate change, we put together a little guide for you with some valuable links and resources as well. Your personal climate decisions matter. One person can change the world. Just look at Greta Thunberg. She’s only a teenager who decided to strike for the climate instead of going to school (on Fridays). Now she’s a leader in the climate change movement.

The key for bigger or faster action, however, is to turn your personal activism into a movement (just like Greta did). Graphic designers are perfectly suited for this as we possess finely tuned visual communication skills. Use them to bring people together over a cause and make a difference.

Collectively we need to reduce our GHG emissions by around 50% by 2030. The biggest contributors to our emissions are industry and agriculture, so it’s best to start there. Your creative advocacy and choice of vendors/materials should reflect knowledge sharing of this fact and consequent ways to find alternatives to the worst offenders of GHG emissions. At Project Drawdown, you can find ranked solutions that you could apply your skills to promote or help collaboratively solve.  

It has also been proven that working less (like a 4-day week)  has a positive impact on reducing GHG emissions. This is something we all can get behind.

Here are some tips to consider when using design to unite and uplift people to make a difference on climate change:

  • Make the story of a greener future accessible and inspiring. People will not be frightened into caring. Be careful with data and scary facts. These can be powerful and visually stunning when designed well, but aren’t as inspiring as a tips for hopeful action.
  • Make the story about local. Focus on where you live and unite your community around access to clean, air, water and clean energy. The idea of protecting our families is always one everyone supports. You can see and create change more easily in your community.
  • Make the story about possibilities. Show how beautiful a carbonless future will look like. It will be full of greener landscapes, new job opportunities, increased access to education and healthcare, and have cleaner water/air, etc. 
  • Focus the story to empower an audience who is “informed but idle” and like-minded. This group is large and wants to act on climate, but may not know how. Help educate them on what to do to grow the movement.

However, most of the time you probably spend your days (and nights) working your day job. So…

Here are some tips to consider when using design at work to be a more subtle activist on climate:

  • Share your studio’s personal social and environmental values on your website and in face-to-face meetings. Use these to connect to any successful client case studies to help pitch work
  • Help your design clients set goals to reduce carbon footprint through what you create for them and in their office space (think a paper purchasing policy). You could start small as small habit changes lead to bigger ones. Introduce them to greener ideas and then incrementally move them toward bigger solutions project-by-project to “design to renourish”
  • Connect your design clients to certified vendors that use renewable energy and feature only environmentally certified products. Share the benefits of using these vendors and how they benefit the community, air, water, and land. They also are great for your client to showcase as PR as how they are helping to improve the world as a business.
  • Make reducing greenhouse gases a competition or game. Make your progress with clients public and challenge other studios to compete. Of course, the competition could also be had between your clients as well.