Graphic Designer's Role In The Movement for Sustainable Cities

Updated: Jul 23

Hey There. Thanks for clicking. I may be speaking about Graphic Designers, but this post can really pertain to any designer. We’re all entrenched in the fight for a better world. Interact with me on the interwebs if you enjoy the content!

I like to consider myself a multidisciplinary designer. I’m a trained interior designer. Attended school and learned how to draft, measure and create functional spaces for people. I also learned about sustainable design. Received my LEED Green Associate last year so I’m one step closer in being a professional with the experience and knowledge to create sustainable places and spaces for people to use, but a good question is what does that mean? What is Sustainability? Check out this article then come on back over here.

Sus.tain.a.bil.i.ty noun: The avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance. (in actuality the new words to use are resilience and regeneration. read the article linked above!)

So, in addition to being trained in creating sustainable spaces I also design print and digital communications. This means I create anything that can be printed: logo’s, flyers, posters, pamphlets, billboards as well as anything that can be read online: ads, blog posts, emails, instagram images, infographics. I create them for people and businesses who need them. If someone needs something advertised I design it so it works functionally for the eyes of their audience. That entails color choice, typeface, layout, photo selection and overall creative direction of that piece. Design = Aesthetics + Function. What does all of that have to do with sustainability within our cities you ask? Well Let me tell you…

It all boils down to the 3 C’s: Communication, Capitalism, and Culture.

Communication | Graphic Design is known as communications design in the education and business world. It’s all about getting the word out to people so they can understand. Everyone processes information differently and it’s up to communications designers to meet that need. In terms of cities we’re meeting the needs of the people within that city. Here’s an example:

A public art museum just opened an exhibit about the history of music. They expect people of all ages and backgrounds to attend. They hire a graphic designer to create wayfinding signage for people to navigate through the galleries. The graphic designer is in charge of making sure the signage is large enough and contrasting enough for people who can’t see very well, can be read in a variety of languages and is easy to read and understand. This means the designer has to have the basic knowledge of people and the optimal ways in which we read and understand language. This is important anywhere we go from the gas station to the grocery store. Think about traffic signs, restaurants, stores and more. If the designer doesn’t do a good job of maintaining the system in which we communicate and understand language our world would definitely be a harder place to live in. This is a great segway to the next C…

Capitalism | The political system in which trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit is what controls nearly 100% of our wellbeing. It’s not going away any time soon even in the light of the growth of sustainable, resilient and regenerative cities. Sustainability is actually currently fueling our economy, but that’s another blog post. Graphic Designers benefit greatly from capitalism. From business branding to digital communications everything you visually digest on a daily basis was created by a designer. There have been great designers, philosophers, and pyschologists in the past who have created rules for current designers to follow in order to create functional and timeless design that aids businesses in the marketing and advertising to this day. minimalism has been around for centuries and is one of the most current design trends that’s come back to dominate. Bad design breeds bad Marketing/advertising which breeds low sales. There’s a reason why Nike beats New Balance and Target beats Walmart. They do a great job of intersecting function, aesthetic and communication. Good design = a happy consumer and a thriving capitalist system.

Culture (within the media) | Good design creates culture. From The “too groovy” typography of the 70’s to the minimalist casual style of “Helvetica”; without design the world would be a pretty bland place to live. There’s a standing debate about whether designers are artists. My stance: Yes, but designers are artists that seek to solve a need. Artists tend to create art based on the times and as a reaction to their present. I believe designers seek to plan for and create the future. Sustainability and Resiliency are plans for a more functional, human and environment centered future. Communications designers are standing right along with the architects, scientists, politicians and environmentalists who are working to make these goals a reality. We’re the ones working at google creating more seamless ways to learn and navigate the world easier. We’re working on the visual coding for apps that help save energy and reduce our carbon footprint. We’re making sure you can easily digest what’s going on in the world and online.

We serve people. And we will continue to do so because communications, coin, and culture will never go extinct.

header image by Andrea De Benedetti


Kimberly Rashad is a social equity and empathy motivated designer. Her design style focuses greatly on intentionality. When she’s not working with individuals, businesses and nonprofits around

the country she’s either hosting events for her local Alumni Chapter (SU ‘16) or cooking up something good in her apartment in Atlanta, GA. Connect with her on Instagram and LinkedIn.

#career #goals #utopian #postgrad #graphicdesigner #cities #sustainability

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