Boulder, Colorado-based Cast Iron Design is a two-man studio on a mission to promote environmentally-friendly graphic design through great design and a bit of humor.
As part of their environmental mission, owners Jonathan Black and Richard Roche created a small pocket notebook that promotes the benefits of using environmentally responsible paper.
The pages of each notebook proudly feature the studio’s favorite 100% post consumer recycled writing weight stock – Mohawk Loop Smooth Ivory, 24# Writing.
Designed to “aid in and promote the preservation of our planet,” and marketed through tongue-in-cheek social media posts, the notebooks were a bigger hit than the duo ever expected. We spoke with co-owner Jonathan Black about the concept behind the design.
How did the studio become interested in environmentally-friendly design?
It was really a merger of two passions—graphic design and environmentalism. This interest was initially sparked during my graduate education at the University of Arizona, specifically during an interdisciplinary course called Critical Issues in Design led by Ellen McMahon. A big component of the course was examining the role of sustainability in all fields of design (architecture, industrial design, graphic design, etc.).
When I realized what a huge impact designers can have, it immediately and permanently altered my course. Although it was myself who initially guided the studio in this direction, it was fully embraced by my business partner and we plan to practice environmentally responsible design throughout the life of the studio.
What was your inspiration behind the eco pocket-sized notebooks?
One of the major goals of our studio is to not only practice environmentally responsible design, but also to promote it among the design community, particularly to students. As far as inspiration, there are two basic ingredients that came together which led to the notebook’s creation.
First, we learned early on that specifying recycled paper is one of the easiest and most impactful things a graphic designer can do to minimize the carbon footprint of a print project. This was something that resonated with us as a sort of “gateway drug” to sustainable graphic design. We wanted to share this information and supply a quick and easy resource for specifying recycled paper, and we felt that creating a useful physical object would be more impactful than a pamphlet or some other printed matter that would be quickly and easily dismissed or thrown away.
Why do you choose Mohawk Loop for the pages of the notebook?
We purchase Mohawk paper because Mohawk is one of the industry’s leaders in sustainable paper. Recently, we’ve seen a shift in other paper mills reducing their output of sustainable papers, such as curbing the recycled content of their eco paper lines. When I asked one mill why this change had occurred, their response was that market research showed that their customer now requires a smaller percentage of recycled content. Market dynamics are important to consider, but mills that want to lead the future will need to carve a sustainable path, and part of this means creating more sustainable papers—not because market research did or did not lead them to this conclusion, but because it’s urgently necessary to do so.
What was your favorite part about creating the notebooks?
In truth, most of the information in the notebook is pretty dry and boring. In order to both inform and entertain the reader, we integrated silly jokes throughout. Richard (co-owner and chief copywriter) wrote a list of dozens of one-liners, and reading/writing them is one of the sweetest parts of our job.
Also, seeing the stacks of finished notebooks is incredibly satisfying, and so far the response has been greater than we had anticipated which is very encouraging and rewarding.
What does the future of sustainable design look like?
The future lies in education. Our studio’s aim is to try and make sustainable design something that students are proud of adopting and passionate about practicing. If students see talented studios practicing sustainable design, they will follow suit (hopefully we are good enough one day to demonstrate this effect). In addition, integrating sustainability into every design curricula is an absolute must if we are to have a shift towards sustainable graphic design in future generations. Unsustainable design needs to be the exception, not the norm. It needs to progress to the point where using unsustainable materials and processes is embarrassing in progressive-minded groups, like driving a Hummer in San Francisco or Brooklyn. That’s a weird analogy, but I think it demonstrates the permeation that needs to happen.
Want to get your hands on one of these notebooks? Comment below with your email address. Three lucky winners will be selected to win an eco-friendly notebook on February 27th. Good luck!