Eco Aesthetics: Student Work Critique

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| May 7, 2008

Inspired by Kate Andrews’ recent related post on sustainable typography

In my typography course project at Maryland Institute College of Art, sophomore students are designing packages for eco-friendly compact fluorescent light bulbs. Not surprisingly, eco-asethetics have inspired their work and became active parts of class discussion. We debated hotly the role that design plays in creating expectations for the quality of the product.


Many “green” products are relatively under-designed with simple typography and color palettes. This tissue box for Seventh Generation downplays the use of packaging to sell the product, but rather emphasizes the integrity of the product’s manufacturing process. Other pared-down samples utilized hand generated-typography, visuals lacking uniformity, recycled paper, low-saturation colors, broken typographic rules, outdated typefaces.

My students seem to intuitively respond to the strategy of simple design as establishing credibility of the product. Likewise, my students’ own solutions seem informed by simplistic design approaches; most of their solutions utilize restrained color and typography and smaller labels, all in the name of eco-friendliness.


Emily Goldfarb hand-knit protective pouches for her bulbs, those pouches can be reused and are created of biodegradable fibers.


Nicolette Cornelius worked with recycled paper and geometric forms.


David Woo’s concept utilized repurposed drinking bottles cut apart to protect the bulbs.


Jasmine Sarp created a no-glue form the elegantly unfolds like a flower.

Students seemed skeptical of eco-chic packages, interpreting that an object of stylish design might not be faithful of the product’s concept in making the world a better place. This created an interesting dialogue in the classroom, in which the more designed a product was, the less sustainable it was perceived by my students.


Melissa Nemec’s solution was criticized for relating too much to expensive cosmetics.


Jillian Erhardt’s solution incorporates stunning typography and modernist shapes, and prominently features the affordable $1 price tag for the bulb itself. Eco-chic = greenwashing? All packages contain the same bulb.


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