Green Challenge Showcase: Naomi Pearson

Net Impact, a group of future and current leaders who use business to create positive change invited student and professional members to compete in the annual Net Impact Green Challenge. The task: to use their business skills to reduce their organization’s environmental footprint. Graphic Designer Naomi Pearson set out to create a Green Audit for Environmental Graphic Designers. Here is her story:
The following is a breakdown of the steps I took to implement a Green Audit for Environmental Graphic Designers. The steps are organized to illustrate the process, progression, and impact of the effort as specified by Net Impact’s Green Challenge Criteria.


As an Environmental Graphic Designer and Manager of Sustainable Design, I began this project by looking for a way to distill the sustainable design research and information I had been gathering. My goal was to create an easy to use checklist guide for graphic designers based on the life cycle analysis of projects such as wayfinding signage, exhibits, information kiosks, and large scale super graphics.
By breaking down and simplifying the life cycle stages of projects, I was able to plug in the many different bits and pieces of information I’d collected. I plugged in information such as materials with recyclable content, low VOC (volatile organic compound) production processes, and by-product waste practices. Following are examples of checklist considerations: eco-conscious disposal of vapors, chemicals, scraps, maximize sheet material dimensions (minimizing scrap waste) and product shipment with minimal, eco – friendly packaging.

All of the checklist categories and suggested options were organized on a single strip of paper, 3 ¬Ω” wide, by 17″ tall, and printed on bright green recycled paper made from 30% post consumer content. The printed checklist is an easy to use reference guide best suited as a pin-up over designers’ work spaces.

As a member of the Society for Environmental Graphic Design Green Committee, I offered the Life Cycle Analysis Checklist to my peers. The checklist was adopted by the Green Committee and included in the SEGD Green Paper, released in December of 2007. The SEGD Green Paper is an introduction to sustainable design thinking, and offers practical approaches for applying green thinking to the design practice. The checklist I created evolved into the SEGD “Green Audit”, and was re-organized to accommodate the SEGD’s unique approach.
The Introduction to the Green Audit as it appears in Green Paper: “The purpose of the Green Audit, based on an audit by Naomi Pearson of Pentagram, is to articulate the green strategies employed and provide a consistent format for documenting green projects, processes, and materials for future reference. This sample audit includes a list of materials and methodologies that the SEGD Green Committee has identified as potential resources for green projects”.
The SEGD Green Audit is organized by the following categories:
Air and Environmental Quality, Properties of Finishes Used, By-Products of the Manufacturing Process, Eco-Conscious Printing Processes, Clean Air and Water Standards, Resource and Waste Management/Recycled Content, Recyclable, Natural Material, End of Usable Life, Assembly/Ease of Disassembly, Energy and Lighting Efficiency, Material Source, Modularity/Flexibility, and Education and Interpretation.
The SEGD Green Audit also included a project sample I had worked on with the Sign Fabricator Visual Graphic Systems as a demonstration of how to assess a design by using the Green Audit. The design sample is described in the Green Paper as follows:
“Bamboo Substrate with Glass Panel Sign: This demonstration sign illustrates multiple green strategies. It includes the use of a natural, rapidly renewable material with a low-VOC binder, a solvent-free direct print process, and recyclable and low-VOC modular materials. The keys to sustainability are the materials, the ease of disassembly for flexibility over time and recycling, and use of green adhesives”.
The bamboo and glass sign was one of eleven signs I had designed and presented at SEGD’s annual conference. SEGD had asked me to present my approach to sustainability and I responded with a presentation demonstrating how the Green Audit Checklist could be used to evaluate 11 designs. Each design was fabricated using different materials, methods, and sustainable strategies and accompanied by a Green Audit Checklist. The samples were made with donated materials and fabricated by Visual Graphic Systems.
The SEGD Green Paper and Green Audit were distributed to every member of SEGD, and have become part of the industry thinking. Our next step is to follow-up with a green section of the SEGD web site. The website will include green project case studies, material and method evaluations, and a method for evaluating the sustainability of a project. Currently, I am working on analyzing materials based on the Green Paper’s green audit system, and developing a standard evaluation form to audit projects submitted as case studies. The web site will serve as a dynamic resource to help designers implement sustainable strategies into their design process.
With a background in Environmental Graphic Design, Naomi Pearson is solving design problems using methods developed with a focus on sustainability. Naomi graduated with a BFA in Graphic Design from Carnegie Mellon University. Her professional experience comes from having worked on a wide range of Environmental Graphic Design and Print Projects. Design firms she has worked at include Pentagram Design, Two Twelve Associates, and Arrowstreet Graphic Design. She is based in Brooklyn, New York.
More Project Information: is a site I’ve developed to provide project examples and resources for designers interested in incorporating sustainability into their work. The site includes details and images illustrating the SEGD Green Paper, Green Audit, and sign sample mock-up project.

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