Who (or what) is setting the style for sustainable design?

Sustainability has an image problem. But change is in the air.

Today, the word ‘sustainable’ is no longer limited to the environment. Whether it’s equality, anti-racism, climate change, animal welfare or broader social impact themes, it’s become an all encompassing term that represents a drive towards a more positive world.

However, while we’ve come a long way since the days of basic, greenwashed eco-branding, it’s still the case that sustainable businesses can be perceived as ‘lesser’ in terms of quality and convenience – with a premium price tag to boot. This can make them feel less inclusive, accessible and relevant, especially in the current economic climate.

So how can we collectively shift sustainability branding from lagging behind to leading the way? Here at Nice and Serious we believe that in order to drive consistent, long-term behavioural shifts and more ethical consumer action, brands need to start shaking things up.

As a certified B Corp creative agency committed to making creative work the world needs, we’ve noticed a new breed of purpose-driven businesses that are already doing exactly that. As part of our constant research, we’ve identified six trends that are redefining the design landscape in this increasingly burgeoning area:

Climate wellness

In response to rising eco-anxiety, purpose-driven brands, designers and creators are taking influence from the wellness industry to educate, empower and calm audiences.

Beauty in waste

Zero waste is having a revival. From fashion to food and even tech, creators are pushing the boundaries of what it means to upcycle, reuse, resell and recycle.

Circularity demands timeless design

With the rise of the circular economy, brands are doing away with plastic, replacing it with functional designs and paired-back aesthetics.

Nature, but not as you know it

We’re seeing much more subtle and creative interpretations of nature in design that highlight the rituals and organic processes of the natural world.

Creativity in a crisis

Brands are taking influence from activism by creating work that is unapologetically brazen, delivering serious messages in a clear, collaborative and culturally relevant way.

Digital and scientific alternative realities

Ripping up the rule book on eco-branding, these businesses lead with culture, reframing their sustainability credentials in the mind of their consumer.

Being sustainable is no longer a differentiator, it’s an expectation. But if we want people to vote with their wallets, we need to make sustainable branding desirable and accessible. How? By balancing optimism with fact, humour with truth and education with action.

Want to learn more about who (and what) is setting the style in sustainable design? You can read our full report exploring the trailblazing array of product and branding innovations here.