Development of Ideas and  Concepts –  Project Proposal

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<<<  Recycling in relation to Graphic Design and Eco Fashion >>>

Society has changed since the environmental movements of the ’60s and ’70s, and it has changed even more since World War 2. The culture has become extremely sceptical of, even hostile to, sincerity, conviction and inspiration (Morris, 2011).


This paper introduces an initial proposal for the research project. The aim of this project is to examine Recycling and Waste in relation to Graphic Design and Eco Fashion. The proposal will look at initial questions, designs ideas, theories, and will commence a journey from the general subject ideas and concepts through to the research methodology employed to date. It will consider themes such as how society can encourage greater recycling and general ecological awareness. In addition how such factors could be considered in relation to Eco Fashion and Graphic Design will be discussed. Furthermore, in recent years the design industry has expanded “upcycling” practices which aim to guide textile waste back into production. The so-called upcycling method, or upward re-processing, is defined as bringing waste back into the consumption chain through design by placing it higher up in that chain than it previously was. This incorporates environmental as well as commercial and aesthetic value – while also accounting for the product’s future (McDonough and Braungart, 2002). The project will also analyse the positive and negative aspects of recycling and recycling vs. upcycling, thus considering the differences between these terms. The main focus will be on how designers can help improve the environment through recycling practices and to what extent this is evident today. The advantages and disadvantages of common interrelations between the way clothes are produced today, and how this can be environmentally damaging, will also be considered. The textile and fashion industries consume huge quantities of resources, such as water and energy, use toxic chemicals, rely heavily on transportation which uses additional resources, produces a large amount of waste, and is implicated in human rights violations in developing countries (McDonough and Braungart 2002).

Research Question (Primary)

  • What is Recycling and why is it so important for contemporary society?
  • Can Recycling be a creative act?
  • What is Upcycling?
  • Recycling vs. Upcycling: What is the difference?

Research Question (Subsidiary)

  • How does the UK Recycle in comparison to other countries?
  • What the cost of Recycling?
  • Upcycling –
 a Solution to Textile Waste?
  • How to make Upcycling Globally available and locally feasible?
  • What does “Sustainability” mean?
  • How can Graphic Design be related to Recycling?
  • What is Eco-fashion?
  • What is Fast Fashion and what has its impact been?

Research Question (Complimentary)

  • What impact sustainability in future?

Target Audience

The project would initially be aimed at different ages and gender groups of designers, to raise their knowledge about Recycling as well as Upcycling and Sustainability, and perhaps demonstrate that Recycling could be creative process. The audience as designers can potentially make changes in society, by helping change the way people think and the way they act. In this sense, designers are uniquely positioned to shift the action of many people (Dougherty, 2008).

Research Methodology to date – Primary Research – Quantitative Research: Havering College of Further and Higher Education

A questionnaire was distributed to fifty-five participants (designers) at Havering College (17/10/2012 – 18/10/2012) to gather information regarding their knowledge about Recycling and how many of them care about it. The quantitative research explored designer’s barriers to recycling at home. Recycling at home is very important. The amount of waste that comes from one neighbourhood on a daily basis is enormous (McCorquodale and Hanaor, 2006). The objective of the research was to generate a more rigorous and in-depth understanding of what prevents designers from recycling. This research has led to some important fresh thinking about how different age and gender groups might be engaged more effectively with recycling practices. The analysis of quantitative research showed that 45 percent of designers feel they have a satisfactory level of knowledge in terms of recycling and just 1.8 percent regarded their knowledge level poor. In terms of knowledge regarding upcycling 1.8 percent of participants indicated a degree of awareness, whereas 52.2 percent suggested they had no prior knowledge about the subject. However, upcycling is such an important practice in design because it reduces waste. It uses materials for the same or alternative purpose than they were first used. This term was first coined by William McDonough, a renowned architect, designer, and author of Cradle To Cradle who saw that instead of looking at things from a “cradle to grave” perspective, where things are expected to eventually end up in the dump, no longer of any use. Designers could instead design with reuse in mind, each component being a “nutrient” feeding the next use which could be made of it. Cradle to cradle, in other words, gives new life to materials once destined for a landfill (Braungart, and McDonough, 2009).

The questionnaire previously mentioned was also designed to answer the subsidiary questions, which could inform the project further in terms of other people’s views and opinions.

Qualitative Research

Further questions were intended to gather knowledge about the awareness of designers in relation to Recycling and if there was anything that they thought needed to be improved upon to aid the way recycling works. A questionnaire was distributed to fifty-five participants of different ages and gender, again at Havering College (17/10/2012 – 18/10/2012).

Analysing the results of the questionnaire, it was interesting how from fifty-five designers, who were questioned ‘Why do you recycle?” 64.8 percent said – “To help the environment”, 9 percent – “For fun”, 12.6 percentage – “To save money” and 9 percent said – “Because we have recycling bins”.

Literature Review (Secondary Research)

As part of this project there will be consideration of ecological fashion, organic fabrics and issues of sustainability. The book Eco Fashion by Sass Brown was used to explore such issues. The book Sustainable by Design by Stuart Walker provided a greater understanding of the design process in terms of sustainability, and challenges to conventional ways of defining, designing and producing functional objects. In addition it considered Fashion and Sustainability in relation to the attraction of opposites which relate back to the project. “Fashion is merely a form of ugliness so unbearable that we are compelled to alter it every six months.” Oscar Wilde, (Walker, 2006, p. 71)

The book Sustain Able by Aaris Sherin was used to a review practical frameworks for approaching sustainable graphic design, whereas the Green Guide for Artists by Kristen Hampshire encourages artists of all types to be more eco-conscious. The book You Can Save The Planet, published by The Guardian newspaper, explains step by step how to be more ecologically minded and what people need to know, and what they can do to help, with all the facts on important issues. The book Recycle: The Essential Guide by Duncan McCorquodale and Cigalle Hanaor (introduction by Lucy Siegle) explains the hows, whats and wheres of the recycling process and considers interesting approaches to recycling in various countries around the world. In addition to books, online resources have further contributed to the development of key ideas. Articles such as ‘The World’s Largest “Landfill” is in the Middle of the Ocean’ suggests seas have become landfill for rubbish and how contemporary societies have allowed this to happen. This underpinned the findings of the primary questionnaire research gathered to date, that only 5.4 percent out of 55 participants are very concerned about the environment.

Futher Research

Further research will be based on Green Patriot Posters Book by Edward Morris and Dmitri Siegel, which influenced the project to look further into propaganda posters in relation to recycling and sustainability. This book brings together contemporary graphic design promoting sustainability and the fight against climate change. Green Patriot posters display an image of strength, optimism and unity and have a strong graphic design presence never resting on the tired slogans of the past “Save the Earth”, etc.  Therefore next step will consider experimenting with graphic posters in relation to eco-fashion, waste and recycling which will be underpinned with qualitative or quantitative research, to gather information of people’s opinions and understanding about the concept of the posters. Diverse ranges of creative approaches need to be tested with a range of different age and gender groups.



Brown, S. (2010) Eco Fashion, London, Laurence King Publishing Ltd.

Doughert, B. (2008) Green Graphic Design, New York, Allworth Press.

Fairs, M.  (2009) Green Design, London, Carlton Books Ltd.

McCorquodale, D., Hanaor, C. (2006) Recycle: The Essential Guide, London, Black Dog Publishing.

McDonough, W., Braungart, M. (2008) Cradle to Cradle, New York, North Point Press.

Sherin, A. (2008) Sustaiin Able, Massachusetts, Rockport Publishers, Inc.

Walker, S. (2006) Sustainable by Design: Explorations in Theory and Practice, London, Earthscan.

Online Sources

BBC. (2005). Recycling around the world, Available:

Last accessed 27th August 2012.

Edvardsen, E. (2012). M&S unveils first Shwop Coat made from customers’ unwanted clothes. Available:

Last accessed 10th October 2012.

James D. Watts J. (2011). One Man’s Trash Becomes Art. Available:

Last accessed 18th October 2012.

Ninna, K. (2009). A Brief Introduction to Recycling. Available:

Last accessed 25th September 2012.

Urbanist. (2006-2012). 7 Innovative Artists Who Create Art from Trash: Projected, Recycled and Other Amazing Art. Available:

Last accessed 3th September 2012.



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