SHIFT 5 Recap

This recap of AIGA Portland’s SHIFT 5 event was written by Jane Pellicciotto, sustainability committee member.

If SHIFT 4 had two overriding themes of collaboration and working from the heart, SHIFT 5 was a rich mix of ideas, from challenging the status quo, to shifting behaviors, to practical applied design solutions. Once again, SHIFT attendees were treated to inspiring and often humorous ideas about how designers are incorporating sustainable strategies into their work.

KEEN Exhibition Booth / Kate Zimmerman & Dan Zimmerman, Zimco Design
From concept to coordinating fabrication, the Zimmermans created a booth design that exemplified KEEN’s corporate social responsibility values and nature- and activity-loving personality. The end result was an eclectic, hip space, 85 percent of whose materials were reclaimed, repurposed and recycled. They made creative use of what they could find, like street signs and license plates as shelves. The design team said it was easy to find fabrication help in Portland because people are so eager to use sustainable materials. Going a step further than merely displaying KEEN’s products, all parts of the display were labeled to educate visitors on the previous life of materials used.

Designing for the “Perpetual Intermediate.” Making it easier for the active majority to know what to recycle. / Greg Giersch, Brand & Content Strategist at iMedia Strategy
“Don’t make me think; show me what it is and make it easy for me,” says Giersch about the pitfalls of existing recycling programs, like 28-page how-to brochures to hard-to-decipher recycling symbols. Sixty percent of household items are recyclable, but only 12 percent get recycled. Giersch calls for designing for theperpetual intermediate — those who are eager to recycle (not beginners) but who will lose interest if it’s not easy to participate. We need to keep the perpetual intermediates motivated, he says. They’re the type to engage family and friends to recycle more. If we lose them, we can’t create positive change.

Conservation & Sustainability Examples Created in the Interactive World / Kim Rees, Periscopic
Our attention is increasingly captured more by dynamic, non-linear information than flat and linear. We also expect to interact with information rather than be passive users. Lastly, this sophisticated audience is growing wary of greenwashing. This requires more of what Rees calls numerical narratives. Periscopic creates dynamic, data-driven, objective online narratives that educate audiences about habitats, species and pressing issues of the day. The inclusion of interactive elements allows users to engage with data and draw their own conclusions.

Think “Less”—Less Packaging. Less Garbage. Less Excess. Less Waste. / Jessica Cerrato, Jason Heglund, Justin Lucero
“Businesses behave as though natural resources are endless,” said this team of seniors in PSU’s design curriculum. “The average meal,” they said “travels 1300 miles to reach our plates.” And food packing was their target. Their consciousness-raising program uses a rating system, appearing on store shelves next to products as well as on grocery receipts. Going beyond concern about the contents of a food product, consumers could see the impact of a food’s packaging on the environment. This opt-in program for food producers would fit neatly into existing technology. A big plus is that the program is an added value and wouldn’t require a change in consumer behavior.

Trinkets & Trash: A Landfill Love Story / Sherry Alexis, Fixed Impressions
“I sell garbage. The more you buy, the more I make, the happier I am,” said Alexis, only slightly tongue in cheek. As a seller of personalized event swag, Alexis’ presentation was almost a confessional, saying that 90 percent of what she sells to businesses ends up in landfills. Disturbed by the billions of these trinkets being created, she is always on the search for more sustainable products, which are growing in their availability. But there’s room for improvement. She challenged designers, “If you can create more sustainable products, I’ll get them made.”

Swimming with the Oxymorons / Leo Daedalus, Co-owner and Creative Director at HELSINQI
“The people on the sustainable bandwagon are getting green fatigue,” said Daedalus. He calls for an all-hands-on-deck approach that reaches those who aren’t on board. He suggests we’re marketing too much to the already converted. What we need to do is reach out to the not converted. With a scenario that likely made the audience squirm, he argued that a Sarah Palin opting for a less gas-guzzling Hummer does more for the environment than an Al Gore upgrading from a Yarus (35 mpg) to a Prius (50 mpg). He offered six ideas for an inclusive approach to marketing sustainability: keep an open mind, question assumptions of peers, be radically inclusive, stretch empathy for those you disagree with, go deeper and make friends with ambiguity.

Outside the Studio / Elizabeth Gershenzon, Designer at Scribbletone
Inspired by examples of interesting solutions to design challenges, Gershenzon is always on the hunt for ways that other designers are solving problems. She emphasized the need for collaboration and idea sharing outside of our individual businesses, using the successful solutions of other designers as inspiration. As a recent transplant, she was impressed by the ethic in the northwest and thinks that Portland should have a welcome packet that helps the newly arrived navigate the green landscape (the other green landscape), perhaps one that challenges one’s consumption goals. A possible project for collaboration?

PerfectlyFine™: A Proposal to Rebrand Portland’s Municipal Water Supply / Stephanie Kotaniemi, Heather Noddings, Bruce Myhre
A well-conceived and executed solution combats the excess of plastic bottles purchased, elevating homely tap water to a branded experience. It was also thoroughly entertaining. This student team from PSU used humor to address a serious issue, starting with renaming the not-very-appealing Bull Run Watershed. From stickers that personalize your drinking bottle of choice, to clever advertising, this team concocted a campaign that could turn bottled water upside down. “Ergonomics of bottle design might belong to the bottled water industry,” they said, “but culture belongs to us. And we can change the culture.”

Remolding The Hippo Roller / Martha Koenig, Art Director
SHIFT Event Director Koenig took attendees through the story of one person’s passion for using smart design to improve quality of life. Project H’s Emily Pilloton, an industrial designer, looks for problems in need of a better, often more sustainable, solution. The Hippo Roller is a water-carrying mechanism used in the Third World for easier transporting of water by individuals. Emily saw a flaw in the design and set out to improve it. A clever 2-piece solution enabled shipping more rollers at once, allowed them to reach greater numbers of people. The impact of the rollers has led to increases in literacy, as well as enhanced economies, proof of the power of smart design to create positive change.

You’re Soaking In It: Don’t Act Green. Be Green. Act Pop. / Chad Rea, ecopop, llc
“The green movement has an image problem,” says Rea. Like Daedalus, Rea also called for reaching the unconverted, but not through obvious attempts to market green. It doesn’t help the cause with the “rampant eco-greening of brands.” The masses, he suggests, won’t seek out constructive brands because they’re green. In fact, they might reject them. He showed several successful products, sold in mainstream stores, that are green but don’t flaunt green. One example was Method, maker of household products like soaps, shampoos and cleaning products. Method is an eco brand but you wouldn’t know it by the cool design, and their products are sold among non-green brands at mainstream stores like Target. Compare that to green-leaf-covered Seventh Generation, usually cordoned of in the natural section of grocery stores. Green, he suggests, can be discovered slowly through word of mouth. It can be subversive. It can be sexy like a Tesla or stylish like American Apparel. It can be pop.

By Lisa Holmes
Published January 28, 2011
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