Modern Species Modern Species Strategic Branding & Responsible Design
Menu x


A Sustainable Design Blog

Book Report: The Green Design and Print Production Handbook

Perhaps the best way to introduce “The Green Design & Print Production Handbook” is through an excerpt from the book itself:

“The intention behind this book is to turn that feeling of alienation, of powerlessness, into one in which you feel not only connected with what is happening and why, but you understand the practical part you can play in reducing your impact on the environment through your role as a publisher, printer, or author.”

Recommended For: Design students, anyone in the publication industry interested in sustainability processes

( + ) Fun illustrations, offers a ton of insights on both a micro and macro level

( - ) Tone is a little dry and reads like a textbook, sometimes the illustrations don’t make sense with the text

This book is written through the lens of the publication industry, specifically in the UK. That said, if you are not in that industry (like ModSpec) or located in the UK (we wish), there are plenty of gold nuggets to be found throughout the book that offers great sustainability insights like...



#1: Sustainability is a global issue that requires a global response

“The Green Design and Print Production Handbook” focuses on three main resources: water, forestry, and carbon. As our global population increases, our level of consumption increases, which means that the level of pressure on those three natural resources increases as well. Chances are that if you’re reading this, you already care a bit about sustainability and the repercussions this chain will have on us and our planet. (*Internet high-five*) You’re not alone. It’s hard not to feel paralyzingly overwhelmed by the scale of this problem. But there are plenty of organizations on local and global scales that are trying to figure it out too. Look to them for guidance.

For example, since we do a lot of print and packaging work, we at ModSpec count on the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Program for Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) quite often. Both certifiers have rigorous sustainable forestry requirements. If a paper stock we’re looking at isn’t FSC or PEFC certified, we try not to use it.



#2: Sustainable design isn’t magic, it’s logistics

Sorry, there is no forest-to-table, responsibly forested, magic wand of sustainability. You don’t have to be a magician, just informed. Sustainability is in the details and touches every piece and step of the process. It crosses the office, design, production, and distribution of the product. "The Green Design & Print Production Handbook" gives us some practical tips:

Sustainability in the office:

  • Save energy!
    • Turn off the lights when no one is in the room
    • Turn off your computers at the end of the day
    • Your server uses up energy too! Optimize the way you save your files so that your server has to store less data

Sustainability in design:

  • Intentional typesetting
    • Consider the:
      • type size
      • x-height
      • leading (space between the lines of type)
      • measure (width of a line of type)
      • depth (# of lines on a page)
      • margins

It’s completely possible to optimize your typesetting for legibility and sustainability. The less paper you need to use, the better!

Sustainability in production:

  • When you can, digital printing is the most eco-friendly, although its quality is not as high as lithography
  • Always take into consideration the materials you use to print:
    • ink: waterless and vegetable-based inks are ideal bease there is no release of VOCs
    • type of paper: is the paper FSC or PEFC certified? does it contain recycled content?
    • binding method: almost all major publications require some form of glue. Reactive hot-melts (also known as warm-melts), based on solid pre-polymer polyurethanes (or PURs) are currently the most ideal for their lower melting points and degrade easily

Sustainability in distribution:

  • Cut back on distribution travel
  • When you can printers should be physically located close to the product’s distributor and market
  • Overseas printing is popular for financial reasons, but think of all the waste (in energy, natural resources) required to ship your product across the globe



#3: Prevention is the most sustainable thing you can do

The people behind the big recycling campaign has done a stellar job at convincing people to “go green”. They’ve arguably done too great of a job. In fact, according to the waste minimization hierarchy pyramid, recycling is ranked 4th out of 6.

  1. Waste Prevention - maximum resource conservation - it’s easier to prevent waste than to treat it or clear it up afterwards
  2. Waste Reduction - minimize production of waste through reducing the amount of materials used to make a product, eliminating use of substances harmful to health, and reducing the amount of energy used to make and deliver the product
  3. Waste Reuse - incorporating parts of the original product into a new product
  4. Waste Recycling - processing used or waste material into a new product
  5. Waste Recovery - reusing the energy used to dispose of the product
  6. Waste Disposal - aka the landfill - last resort method, but the most common method for waste disposal

Don’t forget, the most sustainable thing you can do is in “prevention” aka if you don’t need it, don’t use it!

Kellie Komorita is a brand designer and corgi-illustrator extraordinaire at Modern Species. For more posts from her, click here.

Some Related Articles

If you think good design is expensive, you should look at the cost of bad design.- Dr. Ralph Speth