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William Drenttel | Projects

Sustainability Posters

Design by Marian Bantjes: Download hi-res version here

Illustration by Bruce McCall: Download hi-res version here

Design by Christoph Niemann: Download hi-res version here

Design by Michael C. Place/Build: Download hi-res version here

Design by Paula Scher/Pentagram: Download hi-res version here

Design by Winterhouse: Download hi-res version here

Two years ago, a leading paper company charged Jessica Helfand and me with commissioning six designers to create posters inspired by the word Sustainability. The outcome was designs by Marian Bantjes, Bruce McCall, Christoph Niemann, Michael C. Place, Paula Scher and Winterhouse. The series was cancelled when the paper company sold its U.S. operations after printing and distributing only the Bantjes, Niemann and Scher works. But we we didn't consider this premature end a tragedy; making a pitch for sustainability in a thousand printed posters seemed problematic at the time, and today the issue is even more clouded.

We are pleased to provide all six posters to our readers through high-resolution download, perhaps a more appropriate mode of distribution.

Comments [20]

Awesome work!
Abhijit Shirsath

Great to see the work getting out no matter what the format! And perhaps your right about it being a more appropriate mode of distribution. Good work!

Soon after Al Gore endorsed Michael Bloomberg last month at a press conference in Queens, I received a heavy 9x12 piece of paper from the US Postal Service. It was a 4-color campaign ad with a big photo of Al Gore. As I recall it said something like “I am proud to endorse the leadership and the actions that Mayor Bloomberg has been taking on . . .” Then I noticed the word ENVIRONMENT in all caps—right before I threw out the ad.

Which leads me to the questions.
Would a paperless campaign be possible?
How can we design for Sustainability in our culture?

Thank you for this post.
The Sustainability posters are beautiful.

Carl W. Smith

I would really like to know the ideas behind the posters. To me they now look a little flat and don't give a real critical insight or comment on sustainability (whether positive or negative, funny or not)... Though they are somewhat nice in their designs.

I have to agree with Tim. Design for sustainability should find interesting ways to inform. Not to be a hater, but most of these are neither interesting nor informative.

Love them.

I did one too:

// Jeff
Jeffrey Garofalo

I have to agree too that although they are very nicely designed the only one that really seems to have an informative graphic is the one with 'sustainability' creating the infinity symbol ie. full circle, cradle to cradle kind of idea. Maybe it's because they are small jpeg's on this site and we can't really pick out all the small details. Posters are meant to be seen full size.

Who are all those people in the 1st poster? The tiny B&W pictures from the library of congress. Are they people who had some relevance to sustainability? or do they represent some idea of the past being important to the future? the past sustaining the future?

Posters using paper, ink, electricity, and other resources--to 'promote' sustainability and non-use of resources?

This is what 'design' cannot figure out when it comes to it's minimal role in world events and issues.


Style over substance ≠ Sustainability.

Would be forgivable if the posters were visually interesting or conceptually strong. They are neither.

Designers (especially the "famous" ones) when grated an opportunity like this should point out the absurdity in this kind of project and use their considerable influence to redirect the projects energies to develop better solutions to meet or improve the project goal. Yea, many of us can design a poster but I would expect those designers that are held up as leaders to do just that, not just follow through with a poster because that’s what the paper company wanted.

I would ask the students in my classes to think no less broadly for their work and they would enjoy the challenge.

Dear Editors,

Could you please explain to me when an image become a poster, I'm just confused...

Thank you for your answer.

yann legendre

This seems to be more relevant to your design career sustainability?!


I like these a lot - some more than others, naturally.

Some of the comments above seem to be confusing the concept of sustainability with the production of an image about it, to promote the concept. Obviously, producing a poster raises issues around sustainability: life is full of such ironies.

To those who can't see the links, may I suggest: 1 the pattern seems to sustain itself, changes as necessary, like we need to in life. 2 Clear image that shows what sustainability can mean in terms of energy. 3 Sustainability hides in everything we do, we have to look for it and change what we do. 4 Sorry, can't find a link here - probably being a bit dense this morning. 5 Sustainability has to permeate science and technology to enhance our lives.. 6 Again, can't see anything to comment on in this one. Perhaps others can.
Mark Cotter

Some of these posters really are beautiful.

Like other readers though, I really question the utility of this project. This would be so much more effective if these were at least seriously informational. What about a mobile campaign instead?

Unfortunately, this seems a conceptual exercise with little relation to the actual meaning of sustainability.
Peter A Jacobson

Not to go off on this issue.. I'm guessing the funding for this dictated in part the output, but I'm not sure NOT printing these is really the answer either.

Sustainability isn't about never producing anything physical again. That's the amateur mistake. We all use and need paper. Print designers really could hold their ground on this a little bit more. I would love to see design about why, how and where to use less paper. More design from reclaimed paper, handmade paper. Make a poster on 100% recycled paper that folds into a rad birdhouse.

There's a couple of paper companies doing great, inspiring work on their processes. I hope to learn more about that.
Peter A Jacobson

Utter drivel. Technically driven. Conceptually vacuous.

The fourth one looks like something out of a fashion magazine -- ironic, seeing that fashion may be one of the biggest obstacles on our way to sustainability :l

Also, the second one might be the one that's most inspiring, seeing that it's actually sort of a utopian vision -- but the craftsmanship looks so shoddy. You could cut parts of it out and they would look good on their own, but the way they're put together makes the complete panorama look like a total mess.

I guess I could go on being a jerk to the other ones as well, but I guess I'll just conclude that it's inspiring to see that everyone does crappy work now and then :)
Christer M.L. Bendixen

I think sustainability is expressed in much too exerted efforts (save one) by designers I admire. And with technology used too overtly in conveying the message. The one with the wasp nest should have been THE one reproduced by a paper company. Not only is the image made of paper for Cripe’s sake (Industry would argue), it’s made from what wasps ingest. It’s fragile, tactile which invokes a need to care. Great poster and one that works best as a small jpeg. It is the one in which the designer disappears behind the message. With great concepts, designers don't have to intervene so much with form - but still tempting. Fawning? No. I didn’t like what Winterhouse posted earlier for A Better World by Design.
John Nordyke

Well nice illustrations, although they don't really say too much about sustainability. They seem to be promoting computer graphics more than sustainability. Would have loved to have seen something done with scrap that couldn't be used for anything else.

Jobs | June 20