Cast Iron Designs for Good

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.


To serve as a resource, the studio included step-by-step instructions to guide designers toward specifying environmental paper. The guide is interwoven with ample amounts of humor to reward reader for paying close attention to the information-dense subject matter.

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!


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Comments (20)

  1. Posted by Christian Kopocz on 02.7.15 at 5:22 am

    Great to see a good idea, good design and a good cause coming together. The market and buyers need steady information and pushing motivational hints to understand sustainability, daily. Well done. How was the production process. Green Energy etc. to make it even more powerful?

  2. Posted by batman jacket shared on 02.9.15 at 1:30 am

    Fantastic. Love the topic and I love what I read.

  3. Posted by Samantha on 02.9.15 at 10:44 am

    The course in which they met (Critical Issues in Design) sounds very interesting. I hope that more schools are incorporating education on sustainability into the curriculum!

  4. Posted by Matthew Shaffer on 02.10.15 at 12:47 pm

    Love looking forward to the future of more eco friendly design!

  5. Posted by Tyler Wilson on 02.12.15 at 4:03 pm

    A great idea and resource. And just a fantastic mission on the studio’s part. Interested to hear what they do next.

  6. Posted by Kristin on 02.12.15 at 4:26 pm

    Love the copy!!

  7. Posted by Tana Frie on 02.12.15 at 4:29 pm

    I’d fancy breaking the spacetime continuum.

  8. Posted by Doug Lane on 02.12.15 at 4:32 pm

    Very cool design and mission.

  9. Posted by Tatyana on 02.12.15 at 4:32 pm

    Designing, you go through a lot of paper. It’s definitely important to stay aware of our impact on the earth. This is a fantastic product!

    [email protected]

  10. Posted by Nicholas on 02.12.15 at 4:38 pm

    I think when it comes to sustainable design, quality comes from simplicity and innovation. Quality often focuses on the product that allows the user to show more and use less materials. Beautiful eco-friendly notebooks!

  11. Posted by Laura on 02.12.15 at 4:38 pm

    Great idea and name for a design firm — evokes a sense of lasting quality.

  12. Posted by [email protected] on 02.12.15 at 4:55 pm

    Looks awesome!

    [email protected]

  13. Posted by Michele V on 02.19.15 at 8:27 am

    Great article! As a paper sales rep, sourcing sustainable product is discussed everyday. Love your notebook.

  14. Posted by Rich R on 02.26.15 at 7:31 pm

    My doodles need a home.

  15. Posted by Michelle on 02.26.15 at 7:35 pm

    I could really use this around the house.

  16. Posted by Penny Woods on 02.27.15 at 6:45 am

    Perfect to toss in a purse.

  17. Posted by megan Crabtree on 02.27.15 at 11:05 am

    So beautiful

  18. Posted by Jennifer Owen on 02.27.15 at 11:49 am

    Mohawk paper is my favorite, and I’m super impressed by their commitment to the environment.

  19. Posted by Mohawk Fine Papers on 02.27.15 at 1:43 pm

    —————–GIVE-AWAY CLOSED—————–

    We’ve selected our winners! Congratulations to Christian Kopocz, Tyler Wilson and Nicholas Navarro on winning the eco-friendly notebooks designed by Cast Iron Design!

    Thank you to everyone who participated and stay tuned for future giveaways featured on Felt & Wire.

  20. Posted by Mike on 09.6.15 at 12:50 pm

    Awesome idea! In a digital era, I’m finding myself more and more attracted to pencil & paper, and knowing that there are environmentally-friendly options gives me a happy.

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