GOOD

The Fact That Changed Everything: David Berman and Do Good Design

Find out how one typographer activated the design community to bring positive social impact to its work.


This post is brought to you by GOOD, with support of IBM

In 1999, the importance of sustainability and “being green” hadn’t caught on yet in mainstream pop culture. Gas guzzling SUVs were at their height and gasoline hovered at about $1 per gallon. It would be four years before Alex Steffen and Jamais Cascio would establish Worldchanging.com and Davis Guggenheim’s An Inconvenient Truth was still seven years away from premiering at Sundance.


On one Friday night dinner at the Berman household in Ottawa, Canada, designer and typographer David Berman was deep in conversation with his father, a research chemist.

“I was sitting with my father and I was talking about the idea of how social action is not optional and how to use one’s professional life to leave a legacy of goodness," says Berman. "And we figured out that 95 percent of designers that have ever lived are alive right now." So how did he arrive at such a number? His father, a true scientist, would not stop until they had a quantifiable figure in their hands and, together, they had worked out the numbers using data provided by Berman’s many professional associations.

“I realized it was entirely up to the designers that are living right now to decide what their profession was going to be about,” says Berman of that startling figure. Berman left the dinner table inspired and challenged to reach out to the estimated 2 million designers in the world to share his revelation: they were decision makers with the power to bring positive outcomes for their projects.

In the years since, Berman has successfully campaigned for more socially responsible designers. He established a Code of Ethics for Designers that has been adopted in Canada, the United States, Norway, and Indonesia. He’s come from being one lone speaker on sustainability in design conferences to moderating a whole socially responsible-themed day in Iconograda’s 2007 design congress. His 2009 book, Do Good Design: How Design Can Change the World, was translated to Chinese, Indonesian and Korean.



As part of his campaign, Berman brought together a world jury to iron out standards for judging a design project’s sustainability. Like LEED for architecture, the Icograda Sustainability Standard would attempt to measure a design project’s merits using a voluntary point system based on environmental, financial, cultural and social responsibility goals.

“One way we measure social responsibility is to what degree a project embraces universal design,” points out Berman. Once a project applies for certification, it will then receive a number, which allows anyone to track a project’s progress and performance.

The standard is still in its infancy and the jury— represented by graphic design professionals from every continent—has yet to define its precise metrics, but Berman proudly shares that all fifty Icograda member countries have agreed to adopt the proposed standard.

Straddling many roles and projects would be a heavy load for others, but to Berman it seems to be a challenge he relishes. Today, sustainability is on everybody’s lips from large architecture companies to home care companies. Driven by a sense of responsibility, Berman says he has never harbored more hope for a better future than he does now. “Once people recognize that our future is our common design project, then they get on it.”

Image via Davidberman.com

Articles
Photo by Josh Couch on Unsplash

Christopher Columbus, Alexander Hamilton, William Shakespeare, and Sir Walter Scott are getting company. Statues of the famous men are scattered across Central Park in New York City, along with 19 others. But they'll finally be joined by a few women.

Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Sojourner Truth are the subjects of a new statue that will be on display along The Mall, a walkway that runs through the park from 66th to 72nd street. It will be dedicated in August of next year, which is fittingly the 100-year anniversary of the 19th Amendment that granted women the right to vote.

Currently, just 3% of statues in New York City are dedicated to women. Out of 150 statues of historical figures across the city, only five statues are of historical women, including Joan of Arc, Golda Meir, Gertrude Stein, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Harriet Tubman.

Keep Reading Show less
promo-homepage

It's easy to become calloused to everyday headlines with messages like, "the world is ending" and "everything is going extinct." They're so prevalent, in fact, that the severity of these statements has completely diminished to the point that no one pays them any attention. This environmental negativity (coined "eco-phobia") has led us to believe that all hope is lost for wildlife. But luckily, that isn't the case.

Historically, we have waited until something is near the complete point of collapse, then fought and clawed to bring the species numbers back up. But oftentimes we wait so long that it's too late. Creatures vanish from the Earth altogether. They go extinct. And even though I don't think for a single second that we should downplay the severity of extinction, if we can flip this on its head and show that every once in a while a species we have given up on is actually still out there, hanging on by a thread against all odds, that is a story that deserves to be told. A tragic story of loss becomes one about an animal that deserves a shot at preservation and a message of hope the world deserves to hear.

As a wildlife biologist and tracker who has dedicated his life to the pursuit of animals I believe have been wrongfully deemed extinct, I spend most of my time in super remote corners of the Earth, hoping to find some shred of evidence that these incredible creatures are still out there. And to be frank, I'm pretty damn good at it!

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

For more than 20 years. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) has served the citizens of Maine in the U.S. Senate. For most of that time, she has enjoyed a hard-fought reputation as a moderate Republican who methodically builds bridges and consensus in an era of political polarization. To millions of political observers, she exemplified the best of post-partisan leadership, finding a "third way" through the static of ideological tribalism.

However, all of that has changed since the election of Donald Trump in 2016. Voters in Maine, particularly those who lean left, have run out of patience with Collins and her seeming refusal to stand up to Trump. That frustration peaked with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics
NHM Vienna/Hans Reschreiter

Wealth inequality has been a hot topic of discussion as of late, but it's something that's occurred all throughout history. Class structure is a complicated issue, especially when you consider that haves and have nots have been in existence for over 4,000 years.

A study published in Science took a look at over 100 late Neolithic and early Bronze Age skeletons found in a burial site in southern Germany. The study "shed light on the complexity of social status, inheritance rules, and mobility during the Bronze Age." Partly by looking at their teeth and the artifacts they were buried with, researchers were able to discover that wealth inequality existed almost 4,000 years ago. "Our results reveal that individual households lasting several generations consisted of a high-status core family and unrelated low-status individuals, a social organization accompanied by patrilocality and female exogamy, and the stability of this system over 700 years," the study said.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture
via Truthout.org / Flickr and Dimitri Rodriguez / Flickr

Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign looks to be getting a huge big shot in the arm after it's faced some difficulties over the past few weeks.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a leading voice in the Democratic parties progressive, Democratic Socialist wing, is expected to endorse Sanders' campaign at the "Bernie's Back" rally in Queens, New York this Saturday.

Fellow member of "the Squad," Ilhan Omar, endorsed him on Wednesday.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics