The Goods Index Paves the Way for a More Sustainable Design Industry
by Theresa Christine Johnson on 08/30/2021 | 5 Minute Read
When you’ve spent countless hours researching a project and put the finishing touches on a design, where does all that hard work go? Obviously, there’s some shiny new branding and packaging to show for it, but the journey—and all the knowledge you picked up along the way—gets filed away somewhere in your brain, possibly to be pulled out for later use by yourself or maybe your coworkers.
Rather than mentally catalog that information, Sandro Kvernmo wanted to file it somewhere that's accessible to everyone. So Sandro, Founder and Creative Director at Norway-based design agency Goods, decided to start the Goods Index.
“It started as our own wiki in a way,” Sandro said. “We’ve been gathering this information from so many corners of the field. If we had to take down the company tomorrow and pass on information to another company, this is how we would document our work.”
The Goods Index documents various materials, types of production, and certifications—and because Goods is a sustainability-minded agency, the entries provide invaluable details about eco-friendly design. For designers, moving the design industry towards more sustainable solutions can feel like an impossible challenge. When you make that data readily available to everyone, though, people feel empowered to make design decisions that will have a lasting impact.
“What we’ve learned in our couple of years is that if you’re not putting anything on the agenda, nothing happens,” Sandro said. “So it’s our little effort to make something that can create dialogue and information sharing.”
Sandro and the Goods team have also made this knowledge base entirely free. Because their work gets financed through client projects—and since the Goods Index is basically a collection of their research while working on said client projects—nothing is hidden behind a paywall. Sandro said he believes information, especially when it comes to sustainability, should be free, and he doesn’t want Goods to hoard what they discover as they work on each project.
“There are many good resources that cost money, but if that hurdle were big enough, then maybe we wouldn’t pay for it since we’re mindful of cost as a design studio," Sandro said. "We treat people like we want to be treated, and we do that with this product."
“The Goods Index is the resource we, ourselves, would like,” Sandro added.
The valuable information found on the Index is helpful to anyone looking to design with eco-friendliness in the forefront of their minds. Goods is so dedicated to sustainability, too, that the Goods Index itself has a low footprint. When the agency started talking about creating the knowledge base, one thing they realized was the smallest footprint possible would be to simply not publish anything at all. They’ve done just about the next best thing: using a host for the files that utilize green energy, installing only a couple of fonts, and not using images. That ensures that every time a new term is searched that the page doesn’t reload. And, of course, most importantly, this database is free to everyone—so, hopefully, it inspires more sustainable designs around the world.
The Goods Index is currently in its 1.0 version—so what would Sandro want for 2.0? He’d like to offer even more options for users to explore what’s listed, from material-focused case studies of projects, interviews with experts that can speak on the differences of particular certifications, or variations in how something gets recycled in certain parts of the world. The Goods team started this project by defining things and putting a name and explanation together, but they hope to drill down and provide designers with a meaningful resource.
Sandro believes the design industry can work together and steer itself towards a more sustainable future, but there must be a willingness to share knowledge. “Case studies these days are really visual,” he said. “Very often, it’s images, and a case study has become kind of this perfect portrait of something. But it’s all the work behind those images that’s actually the most inspiring.” He envisions a future where both designers and the industry as a whole lower their guard and openly exchange information accumulated on projects.
To get there, he emphasized the importance of ignoring that desire to be perfect. Instead, celebrate efforts as steps forward for sustainability, too. Sustainability doesn’t just entail the materials that something gets made out of, but also the supply chain or how it impacts local communities. It’s a multifaceted process that involves juggling many different parts, and the best thing the packaging design industry can do is keep innovating.
“Many of our clients really focus on sustainability, and many of them don't dare to speak up either because they know they're not perfect,” Sandro said. “I think that kind of goes for both clients and studios. None of us are perfect. But the only thing you have at the end of the day is your intention and your willingness to try.”
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