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A Sustainable Design Blog

GDUSA’s Green People Feature

by Jennifer Stewart | Nov 14, 2012 | Studio News

The October 2012 issue of GDUSA Magazine featured profiles on green design studios, including yours truly! We were thrilled to be a part of the 4th annual look at green design studios among several other stellar examples of design companies fighting the good fight. The following is our snippet of the spotlight.

[Photo by Geo Rittenmyer]

It took one year, ten countries, a Vietnamese factory worker, countless piles of burning garbage, and one case of dengue fever for Gage Mitchell and Jennifer Stewart to start a sustainable design studio. After that year spent in countries without the infrastructure for pollution and waste control, it seemed more like a duty than a desire. So they created Modern Species, a Seattle design studio whose goal it would be to make the sustainable into the aspirational.

Ignoring the cliché of where not to find your soul mate, the couple met in a nightclub outside of Colorado State University, where Gage studied graphic design and Jennifer studied creative writing. After graduation they drove cross country to Charlotte NC where they lived for four years while Gage designed at a boutique branding studio and Jen tried to figure out what one does with a writing degree.

Countless long nights at work led to a serious need for vacation, which eventually led to a desire not to come back from that vacation. Throwing rationality to the wind, they sold their home and all they owned, with the thought that going overseas might mean not coming back. It was an unforgettable experience that shaped the way they live and work today. The decision to follow their passion and market Modern Species as a sustainable design studio turned out to be great timing. The American public’s demand for recyclability, responsible sourcing, and renewable materials have left companies looking for exactly the solutions that Modern Species offers.

“Sustainable design doesn’t help companies look responsible, it helps them be responsible. Any designer can pick out earthtones and slap on a recycling symbol. We think about the whole lifecycle, call the recycling centers, examine the supply chain, research materials, maximize the press sheet.”
— Jennifer Stewart

An event guide for Madison Craft Beer Week exemplifies the firm’s lifecycle approach. Figuring that an easy-to-carry guide is more likely to be used and kept, they determined the layout based on the width of a back pocket and size of the press sheet. With a quarter of a press sheet remaining, Gage decided to forgo cover stock and instead fold the remaining text-weight paper down into a sturdy cover that would hold a surprise poster. The rest of the guide was designed like a keepsake with unique typography, interesting beer facts, tips on tasting, and a notes section. By making the most of unused space on the press sheet instead of adding cover stock, Modern Species was able to reduce waste and save the client money. And best of all, attendees raved about it and Gage says he “had an awesome excuse to design a poster about beer!”


Check out other amazing studios featured in GDUSA's Green People feature here.

Jennifer Stewart is the Office Manager and wanna-be organizational psychologist at Modern Species. For more posts from her, click here.

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To be good is to be noble; but to show others how to be good is nobler and no trouble.- Mark Twain