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Building a          Sustainability            Workflow              By Joseph E. Ruiz, CPP        Most of the discussions ...
extraordinarily complex endeavor that must be viewed as a part of a larger system, withinwhich every activity has some imp...
an absolute requirement at one time, this knowledge base could create the foundation forthis sustainability consciousness....
The issue here is not whether we will save the world through a better package.The issue here is that the packaging profess...
organization that wants to transform has to change completely, including fundamentalbeliefs and practices.”5       This ma...
design itself. Aveda is an excellent example of this. Their ability to design beautifulcompelling packaging with sustainab...
Suggested Reading:Edwards, Andres R. “The Sustainability Revolution.” Canada: New Society Press, 2007Soroka, Walter “Funda...
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Building A Sustainability Workflow

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Building A Sustainability Workflow

  1. 1. Building a Sustainability Workflow By Joseph E. Ruiz, CPP Most of the discussions that center on sustainability in packaging center aroundmaterials and manufacturing. But there is a very lively discussion taking place at thedesign agency level; and that is where a design is given birth. At the agency level, many of us are still struggling with how and where we mightincorporate sustainability in our workflow. It might seem like a foregone conclusion, butthe fact is that change has truly yet to come. Unless clients are specifically requestingthis, and in many cases as part of the overall marketing of the product, there is nottremendous incentive to design for sustainability in light of tight deadlines and veryconservative budgets. I sincerely believe that designers want to design a complete package. Everycreative person worth his or her salt wants to see their concept fully realized. However,designing for sustainability is a lot more than just reducing the amount of ink coverage orselecting a recycled or wind-powered substrate. It requires an understanding of what infact happens to a package once it is produced as a physical object. “Packaging is an 1
  2. 2. extraordinarily complex endeavor that must be viewed as a part of a larger system, withinwhich every activity has some impact or demand on that package”.1 It’s obvious that it is time for the existing paradigm to change. I would not be thefirst one to say that, but I do feel that we are sometimes preaching to the choir, and that atrue outreach to the design community still remains to be seen. It should be an outreachthat not only focuses on the technical aspects of sustainability, but also encourages a newway of thinking about design. As Albert Einstein has been quoted so frequently, “we cannot solve our problemswith the same thinking we used when we created them.” The simplicity of this statementbelies the complexity of making such a change. It is time to think of new workflowalternatives that incorporate sustainability as a philosophy in the workflow so it becomesas natural to the creative esthetic as the esthetic itself. “Yet as industrialists, engineers, designers and developers of the past did notintend to bring about such devastating effects, those who perpetuate these paradigmstoday surely do not intend to damage the world. The waste, pollution, crude products,and other negative effects that we have described are not the result of corporations doingsomething morally wrong. They are the result of outdated and unintelligent design.”2 Sustainability means many things to many people, but to the designer in theagency, the intent should be clear. Creating a sustainable package from design inceptionrequires that a sustainability consciousness be present, not just a note on a brief toconsider using sustainable material. A sustainability education has to start at the school level first for the packagingdesigner. It should be an education that encompasses all the various disciplines includingan understanding of the packaging supply chain. Even the most basic course based on the concept of Cradle to Cradle and or thetext Fundamentals of Packaging Technology, would increase the knowledge of theaverage designer exponentially. Much in the same way that courses in Typography were1 Soroka, Walter “Fundamentals of Packaging Technology” Naperville, Ill: IOPP, 2002,p. 5302 McDonough, William Bruangart, Micheal “Cradle to Cradle” New York, NY: North PointPress, 2002, p. 43 2
  3. 3. an absolute requirement at one time, this knowledge base could create the foundation forthis sustainability consciousness. I am not proposing that all designers and creatives suddenly become packagingengineers. What I am proposing is that we, as designers and creatives, develop anawareness of a much larger process than just an esthetic one. This is a process that looksto the whole, not the individual bits and pieces., and we could then say that this is truly aholistic process, encompassing an awareness of all the parts. Understanding that thesame product could be just as easily and more sustainably be packed in a recyclablecarton than a metallized poly bag is a significant piece of knowledge, but not enough. “We must tap into the same expertise and intelligence that created our currentsystems and refocus on designing truly sustainable solutions.” 3 Creativity is dynamic, it responds to the stimulus around it. Designers spendhours, sometimes days in ideation sessions trying to spark the engine that will drive agreat idea. I have no doubt that if designers were given the full breadth of this concept,that it would change the esthetic of packaging at the very root level itself, much like someof the incredible sustainable architecture that is being created. The Architecture for Humanity project happened as a response to CameronSinclair’s decision to take his design in directions that would benefit the very samecountries that had given him such excellent opportunities. These countries were in direneed of designs that addressed the issue of housing in ways that not only provided cleanaffordable shelter, but could also improve quality of life through socially consciousdesign. “This experience highlighted the ways in which globalization benefited ourprofession, enabling designers to work almost anywhere in the world. The real questionwas whether we now also had an obligation to respond to some of the social concerns inthe areas where we worked.” 43 Sustainable Packaging Coalition and Green Blue “Design Guidelines for SustainablePackaging” Version 1.0- December 2006 Charlottesville, VA, 2006, p. 34 Architecture for Humanity “Design Like You Give a Damn” New York NY: D.A.P &Metropolis Books 2006, p.11 3
  4. 4. The issue here is not whether we will save the world through a better package.The issue here is that the packaging professional and the packaging designer in this case,has incredible power to effect change, but first the designer has to ask the right questions.In order to ask the right questions, he or she must understand what the questions mean. At the agency level, taking a proactive part in driving this process is critical.When computers first began to change the design workflow, it took quite some timebefore the curricula changed to reflect this, even though the writing was truly on the wall.Instead, the first video based graphic systems became glorified presentation tools whilethe rest us tried to figure exactly what to do with these systems. Maybe it is time for usto stop picking a la carte and instead tell our recruiters and our schools what we need andexpect. As companies are forced to cut back budgets and keep staff to a minimum, now isthe time to begin to retrain. The costs of retraining or educating employees in the longrun, is far cheaper and more effective than hiring new employees to fill these roles; and itwill also revitalize the employee base presenting new opportunities previously thoughtunavailable. There is an old adage that says, “If you want to learn, teach”, and this iscertainly true. The fastest way to get on board with sustainability is to do it. Start theeducation process and it will drive itself. My own experience with this will bear this out. A conversation among a smallgroup of us on how to create a more sustainable work environment gradually became aninitiative to not only make serious changes in how we managed our office, but also tocreate an outreach to help our clients understand the impacts of sustainability on themarket place. Understanding the implications of any decision made at the beginning of a projectwill set the tone for whatever is to follow; from the choice of material, print process, eventhe amount of graphic coverage on a package. Can we do a better design with lesspackaging? Is it time to redefine what a package is? What we consider to be packagingis defined many different ways depending on what country you are in. Edward Deming, the man who literally changed the way the entire culture thoughtabout work, was quite clear about this in his approach to transformation. “A company or 4
  5. 5. organization that wants to transform has to change completely, including fundamentalbeliefs and practices.”5 This may involve changing the workflow permanently. No more contained cellsof activity independent of each other. By necessity, we must now work as a team with agoal that is much larger than a pretty container. While much lip service is given toworking in teams, teams are notoriously difficult to create and maintain, especially whenthere are divergent interests on the part of each player. Designers want to design;printers want to print; packers want to pack and the marketer expects an optimumpackage put on the shelf quickly, inexpensively, and successfully. While these goals arenot necessarily divergent, they all serve different masters at different times, eachhappening in it’s own space, independent of each other. It may well be that we have to change the way we think about the work. In muchthe same way that Dr. Edward Deming took on the role of changing the Japaneseworkforce to a completely different model, to emphasize quality over quantity and thinkabout the way they worked in an entirely new way. Change does not come easy. Nine years ago, as we entered the millennium,sustainability still seemed a buzzword, understood by a few and mostly considered tree-hugger terminology (my apologies to the tree-huggers) to many in the business world.“Sustainable business practices are becoming recognized as essential not only forcorporate survival but also for the long term health of the planet.” 6 And of course, the big picture is about the survival of our planet, but we don’thave to reach out so far. At ground level, right here where we are standing, it is aboutimproving the quality of life in a way that is not only sustainable for future generationsbut for ourselves here and now. Knowledge and awareness of the production process allows designers to trulyconceptualize a complete package on the shelf. The materials now become part of the5 Architecture for Humanity “Design Like You Give a Damn” New York NY: D.A.P &Metropolis Books 2006, p.1216 Edwards, Andres R. “The Sustainability Revolution.” BC, Canada: New Society Press, 2007,p.49 5
  6. 6. design itself. Aveda is an excellent example of this. Their ability to design beautifulcompelling packaging with sustainable materials and incorporate that philosophy intoextremely successful marketing should tell anyone that this is not an impossible task. Designers that have come into the fold prepared will find this to be a fullexperience. More than just a design, they will find that they are creating a full package-fully realized in three dimensions. Rather than a design process that ends at the inceptionof printing, leaving the designer to reconnect with his/her work at the shelf, this wouldtruly be “concept to printed piece” and best of all a “cradle-to-cradle” concept. This maytruly redefine the experience of design much like the architect who sees his creationthrough right to construction. Many designers are woefully ignorant of the production process. In reality, inmany cases they are kept at a distance from this part of the process and not always bychoice. The prevailing wisdom has been that production details hamper and stallcreativity, but young designers today are fueled by curiosity, social consciousness and adesire to own their work fully. Allowing them full team participation in the process canopen the doors to levels of creativity that we have not yet seen. This would be a trueholistic design, incorporating the esthetic with the technical and a closed loop, nothingwasted, to create a product that not only meets the needs of the marketplace, but also theneeds of the environment and humanity at large. “We can accomplish great and profitable things within a new conceptual framework- onethat values our legacy, honors diversity, and feeds ecosystems and societies… it is time fordesigns that are creative, abundant, prosperous, and intelligent from the start..” William McDonough and Michael Braungart. Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things 6
  7. 7. Suggested Reading:Edwards, Andres R. “The Sustainability Revolution.” Canada: New Society Press, 2007Soroka, Walter “Fundamentals of Packaging Technology” Naperville, Ill: IOPP, 2002Architecture for Humanity “Design Like You Give a Damn” New York NY: D.A.P & Metropolis Books2006Sustainable Packaging Coalition and Green Blue “Design Guidelines for Sustainable Packaging”Version 1.0- December 2006 Charlottesville, VA, 2006McDonough, William Bruangart, Micheal “Cradle to Cradle” New York, NY: North Point Press, 2002Aguayo, Edwards W. “Dr. Deming” New York: Fireside Books, 1990Copyright © 2011 by Joseph RuizFor more information please contact:Joseph E. Ruiz, CPPjruiz5@mac.comhttp://www.linkedin.com/in/josephruizcppTel- 347-524-9218 7

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