Green Dreams: Inspiration From Green Design Businesses

Green Design Firms

In life, as in business, it’s important to have role models. Having people to look up to and guide you along in your career is one key to success. Admiring other businesses can help you understand the market and your competition, and can give you ideas for your own business.

Now, since I need a little motivation and inspiration while starting my green design studio, I present a smattering of my business role models in the field of green graphic and web design.

My Dream Business

When I graduated and starting looking for a job in the design field, I knew that I wanted to be somewhere that allowed me to make a difference through my work. I looked for like-minded design firms, publications, and non-profit organizations where I could start my career. In the process I came across several design studios with green ideals. A few years down the road, it seems like more and more sustainable and socially conscious firms are popping up. The few that I discovered in my job search are also thriving. It’s a good time to be in the green design business!

Some of the companies mentioned below cater to a specific industry, such as non-profits or green businesses. Others operate their business in a sustainable way and hold themselves to a triple bottom line. Some of them choose projects that address a public need or a social or environmental issue. All of them are my role models, and their ideas have sparked motivation to get my own design studio started.

  • Free Range Studios: Washington, DC and Berkeley, CA. Free Range Studios is probably best known for their viral animated Flash movies, such as The Meatrix and Grocery Store Wars. They are a design firm out to change the world. In their own words: “our portfolio includes print, web and strategy materials for the planet’s most influential non-profits, political campaigns and socially responsible businesses… There’s a powerful movement building right now demanding a more just, healthy, sustainable planet. We’ve been part of it since 1999.”
  • Celery Design Collaborative: Berkeley, CA. Celery is a green graphic design firm focusing on sustainable design for all kinds of clients. They also offer designers an ecological guide to paper. They take a cradle to cradle approach to design. According to their site, “At Celery, we consider the full life cycle of every project we work on, from its concept, to its execution, to its afterlife.” Amen to that!
  • egg: Seattle, WA. egg is a design and branding firm that works with green and socially responsible businesses, those that “do well, and do good.” They help forward-thinking companies craft their brands all while helping society.
  • Design for Social Impact: Philadelphia, PA.This aptly-named design company strives to make a difference, focusing on work benefiting the public interest. Their mission pretty much sums it up: “improving lives is more important than selling products.”
  • Future Farmers: San Francisco, CA. Future Farmers is not your traditional design firm. They’re a group of interdisciplinary artists that not only produce design and art work, but they take an active role in promoting change by working on field projects. Future Farmers also has an artist in residency program that entails collaborating on socially-focused art projects.
  • Conscious Creative: Berkeley, CA. Conscious is a good way to describe this green-certified creative services company. Employing sustainable practices in the running of their business and the production of their projects, Conscious Creative claims, “Our number one goal is to help our clients communicate their message in an effective way that leaves a smaller footprint on the earth.”
  • PureVisual: Beverly, MA. This unique socially responsible communications firm works exclusively for non-profits. They are committed to support their clients in improving our world.
  • Firebelly Design: Chicago, IL. Firebelly specializes in “Good design for good reason.” They are a socially conscious design firm with a generous heart. They even donate an entire year of design services to a new non-profit or cause each year.
  • Digital Hive: San Francisco, CA. This design and marketing firm specializes in what it calls “EcoLogical design” for progressive companies. A group of nature enthusiasts focused on sustainable, smart solutions, Digital Hive is buzzing with eco-consciousness.
  • The Change: Chapel Hill, NC and elsewhere. The Change is a design and strategy firm that works for businesses and organizations committed to making the world a better place. They also maintain a very informative blog called The Tao of Change.

Now, most of these design firms are much bigger than I’m planning on making my design studio, but I admire their big-picture thinking and sustainable business models. In addition, I look up to design entrepreneurs that are solo artists with a green focus, such as my friends Dani Nordin of The Zen Kitchen and Jess Sand of Roughstock Studios. These two individuals, as well as inspiration from the companies mentioned above, have been instrumental in the planning of my new green design venture.

This article is the third in a series entitled Green Dreams about my journey planning and starting a green graphic design firm. Read the first and second articles in the series here on Ecopreneurist!

Photo: a collage of screenshots of some green design company web sites. Clockwise from top left: egg, Conscious Creative, Free Range Studios, and PureVisual.

About the Author

I grew up camping and hiking in the woods of Idaho, leading to a connection with and deep respect for nature. I recently moved to the Mendocino coast in Northern California, where I was happy to find not only beautiful redwoods and beaches, but a high level of green consciousness. I am a graphic and web designer who focuses on making the world a better place through sustainable design and communication. I specialize in green design solutions for small businesses, non-profits, and activist organizations. When I'm not designing, I'm hiking, camping, traveling, taking pictures, blogging, and spending time with my boyfriend and our "fur-kids." You can find out more about me on my sites and blogs: my personal site, volksvegan.org, or unplug magazine.
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  • Megan — Don’t know if you’ve ever run across this St. Louis-based ad firm, but I also find them inspiring: http://www.the1101experiment.org/

  • Shoot, I’m in good company! Nice collection of companies, there, Megan. I think it’s wise to look to others for inspiration in this area; the more positive reinforcement we all get, the easier it will be to grow this movement!

    —J.

  • Jeff – cool, that firm has a really interesting business model.

    Jess – there are definitely a lot of green design firms around the Bay Area. I noticed when trying to arrange them that every other one was either in Berkeley or SF! It seems like it’s definitely a central area to all things green, I guess we’re in the right place! Also, my list is loosely based on places I was interested in working right after college, hence the west coast bias. Anyway, I’d love to interview you & Dani at some point for this series if you’re interested. Thanks for reading and being so dang inspiring! 😀

  • awww! I’m honored to be one of your role models, Megan. Keep up the good work! By the way, thank you so much for your morning oatmeal recipe; I’ve been eating it for a while now and I love it!

  • John C.

    Thanks for sharing these resources and inspiring examples. I sincerely hope that green graphic design is going to develop in Europe as well. Keep it up!

    John,
    http://www.lifegle.com

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  • Awesome! I am so glad to see there are more and more designers (just like all sectors) that are thinking of their environmental and social impact. We are the only one I know of in our area (Western South Dakota), possibly even our state. Thanks for sharing!

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