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Design interventions for re-conceptualising sustainable graphic design practices in Ghana
Assibey, Ginn Bonsu
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This research explored and examined graphic design practices through the lens of the Sustainability Development Analytical Grid. The exploration was meant to discover how graphic design practices are carried out - from idea inception to the delivery stage of graphic design products - in a developing nation. The essence of the exploration was to understand how graphic designers make design decisions and the effects of these design decisions in the pre-press, press and post-press activities from a sustainability perspective. In the examination, the first task was to probe the identified graphic design practices using the selected sustainability framework, to ascertain what the challenges are to sustainability in graphic design practices. The second task was to explore sustainable, emerging-design interventions and match them to the identified challenges within the same graphic design community. This served as a means for re-conceptualising sustainable graphic design for purposes of best practice in a particular developing nation. This research, thus, advances that aside from the environmental dimension, the social and economic dimensions of sustainability are also integral parts of sustainability, and thus the holistic nature of sustainability should be recognised as such in sustainable graphic design. In the research study, empathic, contextual and ethnographic human-centred approaches were deployed through the interpretivist paradigm. The selected human-centred approaches were used with the aid of an amalgamation of the Sustainability Development Analytical Grid and Activity Theory to examine graphic design practices from a graphic design production perspective. Qualitative research methods were used. The data-gathering tools used were participant observation, interviews and document reviews to interrogate the nature of graphic design practices, the challenges to sustainability and the emerging-design interventions used by some designers to counter the challenges to sustainability. The research site was Asafo, a suburb of Kumasi in Ghana. The selected samples were four graphic design firms, 30 graphic designers, 15 creative directors, 30 clients and 30 graphic design products, all were selected purposively. The results revealed several challenges to sustainability in graphic design practices such as lack of knowledge on proper disposal of printing machine chemicals, poor choice of printing paper without environmental considerations and weak ethics in the promotion of unapproved graphic design packages for food products. On the other hand, there were local, emerging-design interventions within the same graphic design community developed by the designers that countered most of the challenges to sustainability. The local design interventions supported the concept of cosmopolitan localism that gives graphic designers room to develop solutions that are local but have global essence. The study proposes that the future of holistic sustainable graphic design lies in local design interventions, implying that the developing nations have alternative solutions to their problems and must be allowed to develop their resilience through innovation.