Algae offset ink replaces petroleum-based pigments in Patagonia’s printed city guide

Designed by studio Cast Iron as a guide to its home city – Boulder in Colorado – the booklet was printed using the renewable substitute ink, created as a byproduct of spirulina production.

13 December 2019


Colorado-based design studio Cast Iron has created a printed city guide for outdoor clothing brand Patagonia, using Algae Offset Ink – a renewable substitute for petroleum-based inks. Developed by bioscience researchers Living Ink, the product is coined the “world’s first algae offset ink” and is made as a byproduct from algae grown for spirulina production. While a water-based version of the ink has been used for flexography print in packaging, this is the first time an oil-based version has been used on a publication.

Patagonia commissioned the studio to design a city guide to its home town of Boulder, which collates the highlights of its locality – from hiking trails to a “creature compendium” – into a beautifully put together pocket-sized booklet. At the crux of the project were its all-important eco credentials, but the team didn’t want to stop at simply using a responsible paper source (which is uncoated Kraft-Tone from French Paper Company, by the way, giving the booklet “a distinctive texture that mirrors the natural, outdoorsy vibes shared by Patagonia and Boulder” says the Cast Iron team.)

Hence they turned to Living Ink, a specialist in biomaterials which has been working on environmentally safe and sustainable ink products since 2013. Currently, the majority of pigments used in industry (for example carbon black) are derived from petroleum. In contrast, Living Ink’s products use black algae as a colourant, giving it a negative carbon footprint. The company is working towards commercialising the product, collaborating with brands to “help build the circular economy”.

At the time of printing the booklet, the ink is not yet available commercially but Cast Iron says this trial run “takes it one step closer to market viability”.

GalleryCast Iron Design: Boulder city guide for Patagonia

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Jenny Brewer

Jenny oversees our editorial output across work, news and features. She was previously It’s Nice That's news editor. Get in touch with any big creative stories, tips, pitches, news and opinions, or questions about all things editorial.

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