Marc O’Brien and Sarah Harrison know that while designers are crucial actors in the fight against climate change, finding the right footing for action can sometimes be challenging. Having founded the design strategy and creative consulting studio The Determined, the business partners worked in the climate space for a few years when they launched Climate Designers in 2019 as an ‘experiment.’ They were convinced that there had to be more designers out there working on climate, or at least interested in it and got to work.
What started out as a modest landing page collecting email addresses has now grown into an online community of more than 1200 designers and creative professionals of all backgrounds, learning to leverage their skills towards climate action. Marc and Sarah are not here to inspire us, but to provide climate-focused tools and advice that can be implemented in less than 24h. Indeed, simply showing up and being part of this community is all the inspiration one needs.
Launched in the United States, the Climate Designers’ network now boasts nine chapters around the world, and they are always looking for passionate individuals to start their own community chapter. The group’s activations, which include a climate-focused podcast and a variety of virtual events, aim to support designers on their climate journey. At the beginning of March 2021, the group will be hosting their first ever two-week virtual summit called Climate Designers Party Program, which will feature sessions on regenerative practices, environmental justice and behaviour change.
Climate Designers aims to focus on ‘the how’ – how to take climate action, how to incorporate environmental considerations into professional practices and how to support climate solutions. Open to anyone, potential members are asked to submit two projects that are climate-related. Once approved, their profiles are published on the site and they are able to network, learn, benefit and contribute to the community.
The group operates with the understanding that climate activism can take many forms, and that not all of them are direct. The founders are not asking people to quit their regular design jobs to pursue climate full time. Instead, the key is to recognize the power of collective action, and the role that designers can play in supporting those on the front lines of the climate crisis. By staying persistent, finding allies and speaking from the heart, anyone in any sector can pursue bold action.
In this sense, both Marc and Sarah see activism as “the act of challenging passivity, by actively asserting one’s values and knowledge at every step of creation and collaboration.” Designers are a special group, and by building and sharing climate-related resources, knowledge and experiences, Climate Designers aims to equip designers with the right tools to deliver more authentic, meaningful outputs that influence society for the better.
To that end, the group encourages all those still struggling to find their path towards climate action to keep the momentum going. “Working on system challenges is no small feat. It’s hard and it’s demanding,” but by cultivating a sense of curiosity, optimism for a more compassionate world and a strong network of collaborators, a better future is possible.
Interested in becoming involved with Climate Designers? Check out their three-part Get Started guide to kick-start your climate journey or learn more about climate policy and social justice with their Act on Climate group.