Five climate and sustainability-focused creative projects
A selection of publications, research projects, fonts and campaigns that respond to the future-proofing of our industry and planet.
- Liz Gorny
- 10 November 2022
A 2022 report by UNEP finds that, currently, we are falling far short of the goals set in the Paris Agreement, the international climate treaty, with no credible pathway to reaching the 1.5°C warming limit in place. “Only an urgent system-wide transformation can avoid climate disaster,” it states. More than ever, it is vital for every industry, including the creative sector, to drastically change its practices – but also to point audience attention to the climate and ecological emergency with whatever tools we have available to us. In fact, another recent report has discussed the potential capability the creative industry has to lead the way with good practices.
There have been several impactful creative projects alerting and educating audiences about the climate crisis and working to push for more sustainable design practices. Below, we revisit five of them, seeing how typography, research projects, and material-based innovation can call for action and facilitate education.
Letters to the future
The documentary Plastic Paradise pushed agency Ki Saigon to take action upon their first watch. Hearing the fact it takes a thousand years for plastic to decompose, and so will be around when our great-great-great-grandchildren are born, the agency responded with a handmade recycled book, designed to be read 1000 years from now.
Letters to the future is a collection of notes from all over the world – with contributors all addressing letters to their great-great-great-grandchildren – that teams up with local recyclers to print words on plastic. Ki Saigon worked with Pizza 4ps to complete the work last year, ultimately aiming to create an “emotional connection between the reader and the plastic they use everyday,” the agency’s creative director Kumkum Fernando explained to us.
The Climate Crisis Font
The Climate Crisis Font is a tool that aims to bring attention to the continuing shrinkage of Arctic sea ice. It does it by shrinking itself to mimic real data on glacial melting over the last 71 years. An OpenType variable font created by Daniel Coull and Eino Korkala, the work was commissioned by the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat and agency TBWA\Helsinki, in order to bring renewed attention to an ever-present, and accelerating, issue.
Since launching in 2021, the initiative has seen even more traction. In Seoul, Eunyou Noh and Joohee Lee at NohType crowdfunded a project to design an additional 2780 Korean Hangul characters for the font, while Cooper Hewitt Design Museum acquired it to its permanent collection.
Pieces of Home
As part of a residency and pop-up by Space10 this year, material translator Seetal Solanki from Ma-tt-er and the design lab began working with designers in Mexico to explore how local biomaterials can be used to create more sustainable design. The result saw five Mexican designers reimagine how local materials might prompt regenerative design practices. As designer Fernando Laposse puts it: “Material design is about reconnecting with the land, but it’s also about reconnecting with the people who are already understanding the land.”
The research project sees designer and “soil lover” Karen Kerstin Poulain make a liquid cement from soil, water and rice husk – the former a building material long harnessed by people around the world and often devalued despite its spectacular capabilities. Meanwhile, Gabriel Calvillo creates beeswax structures to explore how design can help us improve our “relationship with nature, especially with native species”. Other projects looked at the capabilities of rambutan, tamarind, and maíz.
Climate in Colour
In its own words, Climate in Colour is an “education platform and community for the climate crisis”. It exists to make climate conversations more diverse and accessible, sitting at “the intersection of climate science and social justice”. As anyone who has studied an online course or run into infographics will know, how you present this type of information has an impact, which is what makes DXR’s work on the website facilitating this work so vital.
Danny Baragwanath and Rifke Sadleir, founders of studio DXR, completed the work to elevate the existing identity which appears across Climate in Colour’s informational infographics and visuals. The site – which features courses on the inequity produced by our current global food system and ‘The Colonial History of Climate’ – was designed following a full accessibility audit from Climate in Colour, with the option to switch off animations and particular attention paid to colour choices. The site is also powered by renewable energy, using code that’s energy and processing power-efficient. Read more about it here.
Eat Less Plastic
In 2020, How&How created a campaign centring on one climate-related detail: that we individually eat a credit card-sized amount of plastic every week – around five grams of microplastic particles.
As part of the studio’s in-house projects, titled BeHalf nodding to the projects’ ethos of being “on behalf of the planet”, Eat Less Plastic is a campaign that visually depicts this fact, drawing attention to wider climate issues in the process. Illustrating a link between ingesting credit cards and the plastic bottles in our ocean through vibrant depictions, creative director Cat How explains: “Our main design challenge was to make the objects of plastic fit within, or form part of, the credit card in order to keep the focus on the size of plastic we consume via a relatable object.”
Ki Saigon: Letters to the future (Copyright © Ki Saigon, 2021)
Karen Kerstin Poulain: Space10, Tomorrow’s Materials (Soil), photography by Almendra Isabel (Copyright © Space10 / Almendra Isabel, 2022)
Daniel Coull and Eino Korkala: The Climate Crisis Font for Helsingin Sanomat and TBWA\Helsinki
Danny Baragwanath and Rifke Sadlier: DXR. Climate in Colour (Copyright © DXR / Climate in Colour, 2021)
How&How: Eat Less Plastic (Copyright © How&How, 2020)
About the Author
Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. After graduating in Film from The University of Bristol, they worked freelance, writing for independent publications such as Little White Lies, INDIE magazine and design studio Evermade.