Several years ago, GDUSA began to spotlight the good works of design firms active in “green” design. In the early days, the focus was well-meaning but narrow: how designers used and sourced specific products or services ‒ good examples being recycled papers or vegetable inks ‒ to reduce waste.

Then, over time, a more holistic notion of “sustainability” arose that encompassed papers, products and services, yes, but also took into account broader concerns such as energy and emissions, forest stewardship and conservation, third party certifications and sourcing, media alternatives and relative footprints, shipping and distribution, internal studio procedures ‒ all now seen as integral factors in sustainable design.

Then the circle expanded even further. Designers moved beyond asking questions about their specific area of design and production expertise, and sought to align sustainability with the client’s brand, products, mission, processes, and practices in ways that are real, verifiable, transparent, commonsensical.

Last year, we noted another expansion. In what seemed like a tipping point moment, more and more designers embraced the notion of responsibility writ large ‒ linking environmental responsibility and social responsibility, designing for good and for positive social change ‒ and in the process blurring or erasing the lines between these concepts. This showed up first in non-profit or advocacy clients but is fast becoming a staple of the for-profit sector as well.

And so, it has come to feel anachronistic to invite design firms to participate in a traditional “green” issue because sustainable design and socially responsible design are so intertwined. I struggled with how to frame this evolution but, luckily for me, the creatives we spotlight get the point. Stripped to its essence, we are talking about “responsible design.” Designing responsibly matters no matter how you label it or what you call it.

screen-shot-2016-10-19-at-9-31-31-amSonia Greteman, President and Creative Director writes:

Over our 27-year history our agency has developed an international reputation for concept-oriented creative delivered with integrity. Our niche as aviation-marketing specialists developed naturally from our base in Wichita, Kan. ‑ the Air Capital. But while we advance products and services that help us fly, we care greatly about strong communities and paying it forward. We’ve always taken on causes close to our heart ‑ animals, art, children, wellness. Donating or steeply discounting our services. We live life with passion and pour our energies into efforts to make our community and the world better. Our agency manifesto calls us to be pathfinders that connect and spur people to action. We harness technology to reach new audiences. We seek beauty in service to our efforts. And sometimes simply for beauty’s sake. We strive to be more forge than factory. To trust our instincts and protect our standards, while striving for the unexpected.

Greteman Group’s holiday gift-giving tradition works on several levels. It celebrates clients, benefits a worthy cause and provides a creative showcase. The agency makes a donation on clients’ behalf and sends symbolic gifts. For the 2015 holiday season, the agency discovered a local charity in need, one that helps injured raptors fly again. The concept, Wings in the Wind, communicated the desire to help get these birds of prey back in the air. Clients couldn’t miss the agency’s wishes for a new year distinguished by free, unfettered flight. Beautiful script font Wings in the Wind promised something special. Tucked inside they found a 10” x 12” card holding ready-to-color owl and eagle masks plus a large set of colored pencils: renewable, recyclable materials. Original illustrations play off the stress-relieving adult coloring books that are all the rage. The masks reinforce Greteman Group’s aviation market niche while communicating the agency’s choice for the nonprofit gift: Eagle Valley Raptor Center. Recipients were encouraged to bring the black-and-white creations to life with color and to share them by posting photos on social media and tagging them with #MyWings. People who didn’t receive the mailing could still join in by downloading online versions, a solution that kept printing to a minimum. Birds of prey exhibit power and grace. They inspire us to conquer the sky and soar with them. Restoring injured birds to health and returning them the wild, where they belong, puts the world in greater balance. Which manifests the season’s messages of peace and joy.

Download Masks Here.

Sonia Greteman, president and creative director
Marc Bosworth, art director
Meghan Smith, art director

Published October 18th, 2016 by GD USA magazine.