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July 17, 2020

Eco-friendly Branding made easy - part 1, colors

Constraints, or the designer's best allies in solving problems.

Architect, Designer, and Film-Maker Charles Eames said:

"Here is one of the few effective keys to the design problem: the ability of the designer to recognize as many of the constraints as possibles — his willingness and enthusiasm for working within these constraints. Constraints of price, of size, of strength, of balance, of surface, of time and so forth."

As one of the key constraints of our time, we can acknowledge sustainability. Our solutions must take into account the environment.

That's precisely what Sylvain Boyer started in 2017, with the Ecobranding, a graphic design process of creating brands while limiting its environmental impact.

Picking eco-friendly colors

Today's feature that I wanted to introduce you concerns the selection of colors.

To give a few numbers, we estimate that there are 1.1 billion ink cartridges used every year in the world.


Keen for more?

  • One laser cartridge needs 3.5L of oil, and 90mL for an inkjet. All the while using compounds highly toxic for the environment such as aluminum, iron oxyde, plastic, and  of course remains of the ink itself.
  • 1 standard cartridge can take up to a 1000 years to decompose.

Sylvain's approach offers part of the solution. By choosing colors that do not use more than 100% ink coverage, we can drastically reduce ink consumption. The best part? He kindly put all his research on the topic in Open Source, right here.

A quick example:

🟥 To print red, the ink proportion in CMYK is as such: 0% Cyan + 100% Magenta + 100% Yellow + 0% Key (Black) = 200%
⬛ This is twice as much as printing only black (0, 0, 0, 100)

Another solution can be found in Pantone colors, which not only uses only 100% ink by definition, but is also available using vegetable inks. The issue is that it is mostly fitted for large amount of the same print because expensive.

Less ink, less paper, less energy

Furthermore, printing with the full potential of ink coverage has its own consequences. For colors that uses more than 270%, recyclable paper is no longer an option. You also have to use thicker paper to avoid tearing, which means more energy and wood to produce a single sheet. When using only 100%, you can go for thin sheets of paper safely. A brilliant choice that's better for the planet.

I find it fascinating how a simple tweak can make a huge difference.

Thanks for reading!

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