Sustainable Digital Graphic Design

Updated: Oct 28, 2019

When I think back to my last days of art school and dreaming of a design career, with the beginning of the Internet, beige computers, and the latest technology (a snail’s pace compared to now) it was a giddy, innovative time. Now I think of all the progress in the Digital Age, the great design schools with huge population of talent, and how they can and are leading the pack in a digitally sustainable way.

There are more resources and people to partner with who use renewable energy and healthier inks and materials. It's a time, as a creative, with partnerships in education, and in design business to use this power to create long-lasting impact.

What is Sustainability?

The definition (according to Webster’s dictionary) of sustainability is; the ability to be sustained, supported, upheld, or confirmed. The quality of not being harmful to the environment or depleting natural resources, and thereby supporting long-term ecological balance.

In design business terms, we think of progress moving along in a way that it continues to be productive and lasting.

As a designer, you’re constantly creating, drafting, printing and embracing new technologies, evaluating which latest apps and software work the best for your style and the end result for your client. On a larger scale, it’s finding a balance between society, economy and the environment. As an eco-friendly design pro, this means being part of the circular concept of sustainability.

Why Does Digital Design Need to Be Sustainable?

The digital tools and applications we work with, i.e. Adobe Creative Suite, smart phones, devices and email utilizes the Internet. And therein lies the problem. It runs everyday, all day. The information is stored in large data sources that heat up and more energy is needed in the form of arctic air conditioning to cool it down. If we move forward in this way, in the linear way of thinking, we would deplete energy very soon.

Only a third of the world uses the Internet and its use is growing. Fortunately, people and businesses are seeing a path to establish hosting and domain businesses to be carbon neutral. is a great choice because after using wind power for thier clients, they purchase more of the green energy back, making them carbon negative. They have datacenters in Chicago, Phoenix, Montreal, and Amsterdam, which allows them to have a geographical spread that enables faster load time. You can make a simple choice of hosting your portfolio or agency site and domains with a company like them to be sustainable and have long lasting impact. It's an easy bonus to reduce the waste by partnering with businesses like these who use renewable energy.

6 Steps to Create Your Best Work in a Way That’s Better for the Environment

1. Stay Informed

Look to innovative websites, businesses and studios that are focused on educating the design community. The more you are up to date, the more positive changes we can make for the future. Here are a few sources;

a. Design Can Change

b. The Living Principles

c. Society for Responsible Design

d. Institute for Sustainable Communication

e. Design by Nature

f. Brandville

g. Pachama Organization

2. Make Your Design Practice Green


Start projects that utilize a green host for digital and create proofs that are zero to no waste. Try Green geeks or fatcow. Our site uses Greengeeks and partner with them as an affiliate.

HOME PRINTERS Having a home office can be an economic savings and having the amenities of a printer is a luxury that can be eco-friendly too. Rather than using a home printer that has inks that cannot be recycled try these green sources;

The Green Office

Earth Hero

Toner Green

Green Planet Company

Ink Pal

PACKAGING PROJECTS Reach out to eco-friendly print supplies and printers, and packaging sources. See Brandville’s eco-print and packaging guide (Coming Oct 30th). We outline every possible packaging material from plastics to glass and board (Please contact us for further packaging sourcing queries). Learn the simple process of how to acquire sustainable symbols on packaging and physical products and collateral. See Brandville’s Sustainable Symbol guide (Coming Oct 30th).

3. Align with Eco-Friendly Causes

Do you have a brand that would drive home it's message with a partnership with a non profit, Bcorp or Business with a purpose? What are the brand values you are working to visually develop? Some well known brands already partner with causes to be sustainable. Avon Products helps breast cancer research, Whole Foods works to end hunger, Starbucks has initiatives on biodiversity conservation, agricultural education and water sanitation. Smaller companies are doing the same.

4. Adapt Healthier, Greener Lifestyle and Live it at Your Office

You may already have your insulated steel coffee cup in hand, but take a quick assessment. Think about the plastics that you can reuse and make a point to use it multiple of times before you recycle. What materials are around you and how can you have a sustainably ideal office, free of toxins, noise pollution, sleep like a champ and healthy foods. Imagine a healthier and cleaner lifestyle and how that can help you!

5. Source From Green Vendors

See our list of vetted vendors from packaging and print suppliers. Many we have worked with for years but they are not singing their sustainable praises themselves. They have established partnerships that allow them to recycle back materials at a profit! Its just not front of mind for them. Our Eco-Printer & Source Packaging guide comes out Oct. 30th.

6. Promote Your Community of Sustainable Partners

Another bonus in designing sustainably, is the opportunity to earn more money through green affiliates partnerships. Affiliate marketing arose out of the problematic costs of advertising. Working with affiliates decreases overall costs to advertise and builds community with shared earnings. This website utilizes green partnerships in this ways as well as sourcing. Here are a few we recommend; — —

Toner GreenGreen Planet CompanyInk Pal

We All Aim to Be Sustainable Whether We are Big or Small.

It starts with baby steps. At Brandville, we are here to support the arts, designers and small business to trickle up to the global goal of sustainability. Now, more than ever, designers and all people using digital media can help support a sustainable planet with simple choices.

Click here for further statistics on UN sustiainable goals.

And here on climate change; IRENA, International Renewable Energy Agency.

What are your sustainable goals and challenges? Was this article helpful? Are there any other ways we can elaborate on a topic here? Please comment below or message us.

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