The Sustainable Design Office: Leed-Type Certification for Graphic Design

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)



Date of Award

Summer 2012


Environmentally responsible practices in the graphic design profession are critical today with the current emphasis on waste accumulation, resource depletion, and global-warming trends. Graphic designers, and graphic design firms in particular, often espouse themselves as agents of change. However, as an unaccredited profession, unlike architecture and interior design, accountability to the global environment has remained mostly an individual pursuit. Graphic design is often called upon to address cultural issues, cause-related interests, environmental concerns, and corporate social responsibilities, and yet designers and design firms are not held accountable for the artifacts they produce or the environmental impact of their production. This study attempts to define parameters and guidelines for 'green,' sustainable graphic design practices by 1) employing current graphic-arts-industry environmental practices, 2) overlaying select architectural Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification criteria, and 3) creating a holistic approach to best practices in the graphic design profession. A baseline of current practices and awareness will be established to provide an informational foundation with which to merge these identified architectural criteria. This framework will be used to develop a certification-program methodology tailored for designers and design firms. Ultimately, a governing body would administer and ensure compliance for a national as well as international environmental-accreditation process. Furthermore, this certification and these tenets have the potential of being developed and incorporated into the design-education curriculum at the university level. Applying this new methodology to graphic design and its principles, products, and place will be crucial to shifting the status quo and creating a new level of professionalism for graphic design.


James Ewald

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities