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Taking a hard line on sustainability

A reflection on 2020 and our contribution to the world.

Posted on 30th November 2020 in Product Design

It’s at this stage in the year that we look back on the last 12 months and start to plan where we go next. For obvious reasons it hasn’t been the year that we expected, but nonetheless we’ve luckily been able to take a lot of positives out of 2020.

Two years ago we decided that we were going to take a different direction and focus less on profit and more on making a difference in the world.  We wrongly believed that we should support any and all new clients that came to us with their ideas, with little consideration for the long term effects of the product.  We decided that we needed to take more responsibility for what we, as designers, were putting out into the world, rather than contributing to a growing ‘throwaway culture’.

So we began to say “no” and to turn down projects that, in our opinion, didn’t need to exist.  It was liberating.

Over a period of a few months, the atmosphere in the studio started to change.  We were getting more emotionally involved in our projects because we were only accepting those that we were passionate about and that moved society forward in a positive way.  We were (and still are) a happy team.  If the client was not interested in creating a product that elevated user experience and was focused on sustainability, we told them that we weren’t right for each other.  This wasn’t about us being arrogant, but standing by our principles and actually being down-to-earth and humble in our approach.

Designing products with purpose

Fast forward to 2020 and so far this year we have had 61% more project enquiries compared to 2019.  Of those projects, we have actively pitched for just 36%. The rest were non-starters, or we just said no (politely!).

When COVID-19 came along, we resisted the temptation to lower our standards in order to guarantee revenue and we are pleased to say this has worked for us so far.  We won’t be changing our approach moving forward as we firmly believe that as product designers, it is our social responsibility to be a barrier to the prevention of unnecessary products being released to the world.  For us, it’s about creating great products with purpose.

We don’t have visibility on what became of the projects we turned away, but what we do know is that the projects we took on have, and will, have a positive impact on the world.

To add to that we have regained a real working passion for every project and client we work with, which only goes to improve the happiness of everyone involved.  We have formed closer and stronger relationships with our clients during this period as they believe in what we are doing.

Our journey to become a B Corporation accredited product design company

We also wanted a way to openly quantify this new way of thinking and so we have started on the path to becoming a B Corporation accredited business.  We have a long journey ahead of us to reach this goal, but we are committed to making a difference for our clients, their brands, our staff as well as the planet.  We’ll be posting more about this over the next few weeks.

As a message to the wider design community, we are proof that the traditional service model for design agencies can adapt and still result in profitable business with sustainable growth.

Adopting a hard line on sustainability can and does work, but we cannot do this alone.  It is going to take all of us to really make a significant difference.

Images by Kelly Sikkema, Guillaume de Germain, Bernard Hermant and Mark Adriane on Unsplash.

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