Please take my "Responsible Design" survey :)

Hi everyone! I am currently completing my Master’s in Design for Visual Communication at the University of the Arts London. As part of my major project I am trying to gain a better understanding of graphic design practitioners’ knowledge about, use of, and interest in “responsible design” and I would be so appreciative if you could take this quick survey to help me with my research. Should you have any questions about the survey or my research please feel free to email me at

Thanks so much for your help :slight_smile:

Can you maybe give your definition of “responsible design?”
Because we may not be on the same page.
My idea of responsible design comes from considerations of print practices, LEED requirements (US construction points for environmental responsibility) and efficient use of materials. It may or may not include the use of recycled or recycleable materials, but does include building operations and fleet operations.

If you mean “responsible design” in the form of a political statement instead, I got nothin for you. What you believe in that arena is up to you.

Hello! Thanks for taking the time to look at my survey :slight_smile: for the purposes of the research I have left the definition intentionally unexplained as I am trying to gauge what the definition means to individual designers in order for me to better inform my outcome. However all of the things you have mentioned are things I would consider under the umbrella of responsible design, so I would be happy for you to take part in the survey if you are willing. Many thanks!

I got two or three pages into your survey before giving up due to the questions being unanswerable.

Similar to @PrintDriver’s concerns, the term “responsible design” has no inherent meaning for me. Instead, its meaning is entirely dependent upon the context in which it’s used. Your questions, however, seem to be predicated upon the assumption that the respondents have a personal definition of what “responsible design” means to them.

Hi there - thanks for your feedback. I’m sorry you found the survey difficult to fill out. As I mentioned in response to the prior comment the definition is left intentionally unexplained as I do actually want to understand what it means to each individual designer - there is no “right” answer and I purposefully did not want to lead the participants. Others have filled it out without issue and I understand that it won’t make sense to everyone. Thanks for taking the time to look at it though!

Maybe there is something inherently mystifying if two of the most experienced guys here find issue?
Or maybe we are thinking too hard…

Very well could be :slight_smile: to be honest even your comment asking whether it was about sustainability vs. politics was interesting to me. I am fundamentally curious to know what designers do think in terms of their personal understanding of the term - really looking for gut feelings, nothing to overthink!

“Responsible design” can mean anything from being environmentally responsible to being honest to one’s clients or employers to a responsibility to the target audience to portray the subject matter objectively to not ripping off other people’s work to meeting deadlines to not cutting corners to paying one’s design bills on time to declining work with possible negative social implications to, well, whatever one thinks is important.

In light of this ambiguity, your questions presuppose that the respondents are answering with a (their) specific definition in mind. For example, one of your questions asks if responsible design was taught in my design programs. Well, yes, if I assume that responsible design includes not copying other designers’ work, but the answer is no, if I assume that responsible design equates to environmental responsibility in terms of, say, using soy-based inks.

Others might have answered your questions, but it’s likely because they’re less critical about their answers being arbitrarily meaningless.

If that’s the case, you might ask respondents to choose what they feel is an important area of responsible design, ask them to define it, then ask them to proceed to answer the subsequent questions with that specific personal definition in mind.

Thanks very much for taking the time to write such a detailed response! I totally appreciate your feedback, and in fact your whole first paragraph are examples I would love to see people write as examples of what responsible design means to them (and are the types of things others have in fact put as a response to that question).

I don’t think it’s fair to criticise other respondents – “meaning” in itself is completely arbitrary and what might be meaningless to you could be extremely meaningful to someone else. Nevertheless I will certainly take your feedback on board - I like the idea of getting respondents to provide a personal area of importance. But this is exactly the type of thing I was hoping to start a conversation about by posting here so thanks for taking the time to give your views :slight_smile:

I meant the answers are arbitrarily meaningless in terms of their value in drawing conclusions or inferences because you don’t know the basis upon which the respondents answered the questions.

Yes, you’re right; a respondent might have honestly and, um, responsibly answered your questions based upon what responsible design meant to that person. Not knowing what that basis is, however, is an impediment to your ability to assume the data is anything but arbitrary.

In all fairness, one of the initial questions asks what the term means to the respondent. My answer was that it didn’t mean anything without knowing the context in which the term was used. That answer left me unable to respond to the subsequent questions.

I could have answered all your questions if you had rephrased that initial question to say, “Responsible design can be defined in many ways. Please list one definition you feel is relevant to your situation, then answer the subsequent questions with that definition in mind.”

For what it’s worth, I’m not meaning to be difficult. Years ago, I got my MFA in visual communications too (in the U.S.), so I’m sort of looking at this from the standpoint of how my graduate committee might have responded to something similar — especially in light of the data being defended in a thesis presentation.

1 Like

Didn’t take it as being difficult – I do really appreciate you taking the time to discuss this with me! I understand what you mean – I suppose from my perspective the initial question asking participants what “responsible design” means to them did in fact set the basis for which they answered the questions, but perhaps that is not clear enough, I will try to rework this.

This research is intended to be qualitative, not a comparative data analysis. I am moreso trying to get a gauge on the area generally – what is important to designers today, where there are gaps in knowledge, etc. so that I can inform my final outcome (which I purposefully have not given more information about at this stage as I want the survey results to inform the outcome, not vice versa). Thanks again for taking the time to chat with me about it!

There’s tonnes of decisions made in the background that the client doesn’t even need to know about.

Chemicals are disposed of ethically and not just put down the drain - that’s environmental law.

Had a customer only about 2 years ago that wanted sustainable printing for wall graphics - and we sourced recyclable material for the wall graphics.

When they found the price of it - they backtracked and decided to use normal materials but less of it.

People always want to be ‘seen’ to be doing the right thing - but when it comes to the brass tax - they’ll settle and not say anything.

And about 20 years ago had a client that wanted their books printed using Soy Inks - this was also priced - including cleaning of the litho press to take on this ink - and once they got the price of the Soy Ink and the extra for cleaning (before and after) - they quickly backtracked.

The books were still printed with ‘Printed Using Soy Inks’ - as they didn’t have time to remove that line from the copy. So it went to print with it in it.

To this day they are printed with normal ink - and nobody has ever checked up on this.

Totally! These are the types of stories I’m really interested in hearing – thanks very much for sharing! I guess the only hope is that with the mounting pressure to be “seen” to be doing the right thing, hopefully some of the time the outcome will be the right thing … or along the way! But the fact the books are still printed with the “using soy inks” messaging isn’t very encouraging on that front is it!? Thanks again for sharing :slight_smile:

Most of the time the solution will be down to money. There might be a hybrid solution of cost vs sustainability - but it would be rare and make no business sense to create something that costs more to make than it costs to sell it.

At the end of the day most people are in business to make money.
Products at higher price points due to sustainability factors tend not to sell too well due to their high price points.

You’re hitting a really niche market of people who are buying and spending more on sustainable products.

Where most households are struggling and usually opting for the cheapest option off the shelf.

Sadly that’s the way things are.

Have you thought that maybe your questionnaire is biased? It presupposes that designers actually think responsibility is a thing. I can guarantee you many if not most of the crowdsource type designers don’t even give responsible design a thought and at this point they probably far outnumber the ‘responsible’ designers. LOL!

I looked at your questionnaire. Maybe later tonight.

Every job, I have to remind designers that my sheet goods are limited to 48" x 96". Because cutting tools have a blade kerf dimension or bit diameter, I have to remind them that to get a full 24" x 48" graphic out of a board, you get only one, not four. The rest is waste. It’s a struggle sometimes to get them to think in terms of 23" x 47"

Other items like vinyl banner material that ‘breaks down’ in landfills gives absolutely no information on what it breaks down into. A lot of the early ones were still PVC held together with a plant based cellulose type thing. It broke down alright. Into those microplastics your reading about now. We never used it cuz it printed like crap.

The fun stuff was the honeycomb board. When you cut that stuff the edges look like absolute crap cuz you aren’t cutting all four sides with the same amount of honeycomb (and it tends to be furry.) We have the means to cap the edges, but the clients don’t want it. They want their end demographic to see they are using post-consumer boards for their wall art and booth prints. LOL!

Acrylic, PVC, or other plastic sheet stock is not recyclable if it has adhesive on it. How do printers mount prints to the board? With adhesive…

We once used some plastic that was made from recycled milk containers. It cost $800 for each 36" x 60" sheet. It had tooling problems that I can’t really get into, but suffice to say it was many times that when we got done with it.

For a while that kind of product was novel and used quite a bit. Most of the time it didn’t behave properly or printing on it was a challenge that added more to the cost of the material. It was a fad that has since sort of died away unfortunately. If you’ve checked recently into the recycling market, you’ll find that plastics are no longer being collected in any meaningful way. China stopped taking our plastic a few years ago. Too dirty. Americans can’t be trusted to recycle correctly.

Environmental Graphics (in the meaning where the graphics enhance a living or working space, or a venue like a restaurant or science museum) have their own category in LEED requirements. Sourcing of product is a major consideration. IE was in manufactured within 500 miles of the facility? Or was it manufactured in China and travel thousands of miles by diesel-powered container ship? Was any paper sourced sustainably? What is the wall life of the product (does it have to be replaced often or does it have a 10 year expected life span?) If it has to be replaced, what happens to the old pieces? Can they be recycled?

I can go on and on. For a while it was my job to know all this stuff and what was available. I can still source stuff if you want it (if it’s in the supply chain and don’t get me started on THAT right now) but if it is an odd material, hard to source or difficult to work with, the client has to pay that premium and sometimes they are, I won’t say unwilling, but simply just unable to make the cost. So while the designer may have been consciously responsible, they also have to remain within their clients’ budgets. It’s a tightrope walk for sure.