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A Sustainable Design Blog

Sustainable Design Degree Alternatives

I once heard a UX designer say, “Colleges didn’t even teach what I now do every day.” My hope is that sustainable graphic designers will be able to say that one day, too. Right now sustainable design is a profession for only a few self-educated designers, but is generally ignored in the average graphic design curricula. Much like UX design, though, schools often lag in keeping up with the ever-changing world of design, so for those interested in making “sustainable designer” their title, here are the options available to you in schools now.

There are a number of universities that offer a single sustainable design course within their graphic design curricula. In other words, in a four year degree, you will get some 40+ hours of sustainability education. Not great, but not bad considering the majority of your education really should be focused on the principles of design. The schools with sustainable graphic design courses are:

For a serious course of in-depth sustainable design study, though, you really have to go for the masters degrees. Several schools offer good options for the dedicated designer.

Sometimes the best way to pursue sustainable design is to have a great teacher. There are several teachers who have been working very hard to bring sustainability into the curricula of design education, but for a host of reasons, has yet to convince the tenured folks of its worthiness. Nonetheless they would be great to study under.

  • The aforementioned Scott Boylston at SCAD’s Savannah campus is one. He wrote the book on sustainable package design and runs a very cool program called Emergent Structures.
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has a serious gem in Eric Benson who runs the well-loved sustainable design resource,, and has started making alternative fiber paper on campus through Fresh Press.
  • Rumor has it that Arizona State University also has a great professor in Michelle Fehler, though the abominable state of their website makes it rather impossible to tell which courses she teaches...or what courses the school offers. Amazing how often a design schools website sucks. 

So for those of you looking for a sustainable design education, the pickings are indeed slim, but at least there’s something. The only way for these programs to succeed is if they have student interest, so I encourage everyone to look into them. Regardless of whether or not your education included sustainable design, there are many resources available including books and websites to create a curriculum of your own. Progress never stops and neither should your education.

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