Substance 151: Modular design systems and visual vocabularies

30 04 2009

By contributing guest author Ida Cheinman, Principal and Creative Director of Substance 151, a strategic design agency for Green Printer‘s “Design Goes Green” series.

We live in a time when “sustainability” is topping the buzzword charts and a wave of greenwashing is flooding the mainstream. We live in a time of intense competition, gloomy economic forecasts and rapidly disappearing marketing budgets, but also in a time when more and more companies and organizations strive to uphold higher environmental and social values, making the shift to the triple bottom line economic model. Sustainability and social responsibility are the forces that drive many of today’s business decisions; they also change the way organizations re-think their branding and marketing strategies. As marketers and business leaders, we are faced with the challenge of finding differentiation by creating empowering and memorable brand experiences for our audiences in the increasingly crowded sustainable marketplace.

So, What are the rules?

Your commitment to sustainability has to be authentic and come from within. It has to be a part of your mission, your business strategy, your operational process and employee engagement programs before it can become a part of your brand platform and external communications. It’s not enough to simply jump on the green bandwagon by putting an environmental statement on your website and displaying FSC logos on your print collateral. It also can’t be reserved just for your company’s sustainability programs – it has to truly become a part of every decision. An inspiring example of what’s possible when a company takes this “from within” approach to heart is Interface, Inc.

What’s in it for me?

Statistically, over 40% of consumers have a strong preference, and are willing to pay more, for products and services from companies that use socially and environmentally responsible business practices. That’s a very significant market share and an opportunity to stay competitive through the economic downturn and into the future. What’s more, it’s an opportunity to build a more sustainable and economically viable future for your company or organization, even if you looked at it from the single bottom line.

Can I afford it?

Sustainable brands are not about the logo, print collateral, or the website driven by the latest technologies, they are about a powerful platform and brand experience that transforms, moves and creates a meaningful dialogue. Substance151 has recently re-branded the Maryland Chapter of USGBC – a non-profit with a limited budget.

Working with the overall concept of buildings, environment and people, and leveraging the national brand while creating a unique personality for the chapter, Substance151 developed a modular design system and a visual vocabulary of colors, imagery, typographic and graphic elements that can be configured in a number of ways for a multitude of applications.

The result: the strategic decisions we made at the onset of the project allowed us to cut costs without cutting corners, and the organization now projects a consistent, professional image that appeals to its members, attracts sponsors and makes USGBC-Maryland a sought-after strategic partner.

We live in a time when doing the right thing is also economically viable. From energy efficiency when energy prices continue to rise, to managing print jobs in ways that reduce waste AND cut costs, to becoming the preferred brand in the eyes of the consumer. Doing the right thing brings business success – just look around: Interface, Aveda, Autodesk, U.S. Green Building Council, Nike, SunEdison, Seventh Generation, and list goes on and on. Now is the time to position your brand to stay tall among these and other progressive companies.

And finally, we live in the time when the debate about whether or not a business can afford to re-invent itself and re-engineer its brand to incorporate sustainable values is largely over – the question is: Can you afford not to?


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One response to “Substance 151: Modular design systems and visual vocabularies”

26 06 2009
Substance 151: Modular design systems and visual vocabularies | India Printers (08:23:37) :

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