Design Can Change Campaign

"If Anyone Here is in Marketing or Advertising ... Kill Yourself."

Those are the words of late comic—and social critic—Bill Hicks. They may seem rash to some, but we think there's some real sense to Bill's thinking. Fact is, we marketing folks are leaving a less-than-positive legacy, as we work to get people to buy things they don't need, and even sanitize bad companies. In our desire to behave more responsibly, we at smashLAB started to explore ways to mitigate our environmental impact. We soon noticed there were few resources related to sustainable graphic design—particularly online.more

Obsession Leads to Interesting Things

At smashLAB, we have a costly tendency to become fully absorbed in a topic and forget all other concerns. In this case, we immersed ourselves into learning everything we could about sustainable design for nearly a year. This resulted in the Design Can Change campaign.

At its core was a website that outlined the steps designers could take to make sustainable choices, using vivid photographs and concise infographics, as well as a buyer's resource for locating environmentally-sensitive designers.

Maybe Contributing Something Good

Design Can Change started and continued as a grassroots effort. To spread our message, we spent months reaching out to media outlets, influential individuals, and like-minded blogs. As a result, hundreds of thousands have visited the site, while designers from around the world have taken the pledge. Additionally, we've done public speaking events for groups as large as 6,000, and have even received recognition in TIME magazine's annual Design 100 for the campaign.


Design Can Change primarily functions as a website that presents the environmental challenges caused—and potentially mitigated—by graphic design. In crafting this presentation, we worked to organize the information in clear, logical, and highly visual parcels, in order to engage folks who rarely have much time to spare.

To help spread the word around Design Can Change, and sustainability issues in general, we visited designers throughout North and South America. At talks for audiences ranging from 100 to 6000 people, we presented the problem, talked about solutions, and asked them to commit to making positive change.

Design Can Change slideshow
Design Can Change slideshow
Design Can Change slideshow
Design Can Change slideshow

The first part of the Design Can Change website uses striking images, coupled with animated illustrations and information graphics to help visualize the problem. Site visitors can click through these like a simple slide show, or navigate directly to information they’re interested in.

Digital information booklets (for both designers and buyers of design) help articulate the situation alongside explaining why the Design Can Change initiative exists. These are offered to designers for free, in order to help them convey the key messages and facilitate engagement.

Design Can Change slideshow
Design Can Change slideshow
Design Can Change slideshow
Design Can Change slideshow

As users make their way through the website, they are presented with an increasing number of possibilities and resources. These range from a pledge for concerned designers, to a designer directory that helps buyers of design find these studios/individuals.

In order to make things easier for sustainability focused communication designers, a number of resources are made available for use. These include sustainable design checklists, paper guides, and a number of reading lists. While far from exhaustive, these serve as a means of getting designers started on their journeys.


  • Research and information assessment
  • Content creation and information design
  • Development of content managed Flash website
  • Establish partnerships and publicize effort
  • Public speaking and events

Key Benefits

  • Succinctly iterates the problem and possibilities
  • Walks visitors through a large amount of content
  • Enables designers with actionable suggestions
  • Uses the web to rapidly disseminate the message
  • Downloadable booklets and tools facilitate action


  • Member directory of eco-friendly designers
  • In-depth resources, including green design examples
  • Project gallery showcasing real work from designers
  • Downloadable documents and guides
  • The Design Can Change Pledge


"smashLAB has done some hard work in creating a vital site with some good slide shows that serve to educate on the issues and give real, meaningful solutions for designers."