A while ago, I read a book about environmentally friendly graphic design. I picked it up on the basis that it might give me a few tips on sourcing eco-friendly materials such as sustainable, recycled or alternative papers and vegetable based inks. These are after all the things that immediately spring to mind when we discuss being Green and it’s certainly something that we feel is important when sourcing print and so on. However it did far more than just that, It highlighted an important way of approaching design projects that can ultimately help us and our clients work in a more ecologically sound manner.
By working more closely with clients and finding out more about their audience we can approach the task of marketing to people in a more targeted and considered manner. The temptation is often to produce, say, a flyer in many thousands and perform a flyer drop on every person within a 50 mile radius! We read statistics and hear from clients over and over that that the percentage return on each of those flyers is extremely low and that huge amounts need to be sent out in order to get a significant return. All those flyers cost money, so understandably anyone with sense would want to keep design and print costs as low as possible to get a good return on investment.
Let’s consider for a moment then, that rather than producing a flyer based on a loose brief via a quick email, that may grab someones attention just though the law of averages, we have talked with our client closely and already know who is most likely to respond to it. We can target them without needing to throw a net over everyone. This means that we need to produce fewer flyers, less time and resources are needed to deliver them and we waste a great deal less. And you save money in the process. Now you could treat that as a budgetary win. But let’s consider what happens if you invest the money you save in a better design, with better materials. We believe that this has a direct impact on how people engage with you. We have applied thoughtful design to client’s marketing materials and they have seen improved sales and better connection with prospective clients and customers. The little things set you apart from your competition and can help you stand out and be remembered and that’s something that is an important part of marketing your enterprise.
Another aspect of utilising better design for greener design is that of the knowledge and thought that extra investment can bring to the table. A good designer will produce what you want, a great one will go beyond that and consider what you need, finding the most appropriate way of producing it. You may find it wasn’t a 20 page brochure after all, but simply a call to action, in the form of a clever little folded leaflet perhaps, that engages the reader and invites them to find out more. Again, this means that you produce less, waste less and only provide the brochures to those who need or want them. By using creative design we can reach more effective outcomes that require less material overall to get the same effect as wasteful non-targeted blanket marketing.
Working harder to consider what is and isn’t necessary can be a great cost and material saver. There are benefits and drawbacks to various methods of production but with a little knowledge we can work to decide the best course of action for a brief and also the materials or inks used. Do you need that heavy weight gloss cover on your brochure? It needs more material to produce, weighs more in transit and is harder to recycle. Do you need to say so much in your brochure or can it be left for your website? Cutting the number of pages is a sure-fire way to reduce consumption. these are the sorts of questions that are important to consider if being green is important to you.
So it’s important to take the time to consider your audience and the ultimate goal and end of life for your design work. Working with a designer to consider these things and discuss where and whom you’re trying to target can help lay the groundwork for future projects that don’t involve a mountain of flyers at landfill.