D&AD’s Low Carbon Annual

Last night D&AD launched it’s most sustainably produced annual to date: its carbon footprint is an impressive 82% smaller than that of last year’s edition…

Last night D&AD launched it’s most sustainably produced annual to date. Published by Taschen and the brainchild of D&AD President and AllOfUs founder, Sanky along with Nat Hunter of Airside and graphic designer Harry Pearce of Pentagram, its carbon footprint is an impressive 82% smaller than that of last year’s edition…

Questioning every element of the processes involved in producing such a tome, the team considered not actually making a physical book. “We looked into creating a digital version of the Annual,” says Hunter, “but when you consider the huge amount of energy consumed in hosting large files on servers for decades to come – and the possibility that many people would print them out on inefficient printers, the benefits became less convincing. So we reduced the amount of materials used, made it a stunningly beautiful object so it’s not likely to ever end up in a landfill site, but if it does… it’s fully compostible.”

Instead of cheap pulp from South America, the book uses 100% recycled material from Austria (to the highest international environmental standard) where 70% of electricity comes from Hydro power. The pulp was made into wood-free, RecyStar Polar 80gsm paper. Thanks to making the paper stock as light as possible (and leaving it uncoated), this year’s Annual is almost a kilo lighter than last year’s. As well as weight, distances travelled were reduced which meant less fuel was consumed in the production and shipping of the books.

Pentagram’s Harry Pearce’s editorial design also contributed to the extra light annual: fewer images were used than in previous years – if a piece of work won in more than one category, the image/s were not duplicated. There are also no chapter dividers in the book but rather three section dividers. The limited edition D&AD member’s version delineates categories with thumbcuts in the pages – thus saving even more weight. Pearce’s layout too is lean, there is no superfluous page furniture or decoration.

The book is printed with soy-based inks and the hard cover sports a compostible laminate.

Regarding the cover, Pearce says: “Alan Fletcher was a dear friend of mine for one thing, and as a designer, all your career the D&AD logo floats around you – it’s an intriguing mark (designed in 1962 by Fletcher Forbes Gill the studio that later became Pentagram) and the use of it has become quieter and quieter each year. I thought it would be great to bring it in to the fore this year.

“Instead of just reproducing it we made models of it using white paper and card,” Pearce continues, “and worked with photographer Richard Foster who took shots of and filmed the models in his studio lit by a single source of light. Once we’d discovered where the most poignant, descriptive moment was with the shadows – that’s when we took the image. It’s an exploration of [the D&AD logo] really – showing a bit of relish for the actual mark.”

D&AD members’ special edition not only sports thumbcuts – but also Pearce’s signature:

And finally, here are the stats for this year’s annual production’s carbon footprint as compared to that of the 2010 annual:

Also see the post on Pentagram’s blog about its work on this project: pentagram.com


  • Well done for reducing the footprint dramatically, i thought the reason you chose not to create a digital copy was interesting. I have never thought of it like that. You just assume that digital is better, but as this example proves its not always the case.

  • Inspirational! We constantly have to battle to convince our clients that print is still alive and kicking! They just want everything digital and ‘on an iPad’ – One of their main reasons to use digital rather than print is to reduce their carbon footprints, however being from the old school of ‘if it feels nice in your hand to hold,it creates more impact and so the read is enjoyable and memorable’ – I still think there is a lot of opportunity for print to bounce back with a large bang. So well done D&D, you have helped us a lot with your inspirational latest annual.

  • Awesome. Form follows function, just as it should.

    (One kilo less is incredible!)

  • I’d like to see how they worked out that a digital version isn’t that different in environmental terms — I don’t mean to be overly cynical but I’m not convinced. A physical version provides a legacy, some cash for them, and a gorgeous thing that you can hold and show off.. there’s no reason to be ashamed of that or to try and fudge in a sustainability argument too. Having said that, if the numbers are correct then I’m willing to be pleasantly surprised.

  • Tom

    Absolutely love it.

    Sounds like it was meticulously planned and a beautiful piece of design is the fruits of such labor.

    Not wanting to put a negative on it but only the limited edition has the thumb die-cuts… does that mean all others have no means of chapter dividing? Sounds an odd oversight.

    Also, I accept the argument for not having it digitally but would still love for the annuals to be available for ipad via an app of some sorts.

  • Comparing it against last year’s annual is a little misleading. The 2010 edition came with an extra thick cover containing a speaker device and a battery! Simply by removing them, the 2011 edition is already going to be considerably more environmentally-friendly. I’d be intrigued to know if that component is included in the above stats?

    Having said that – it looks fantastic! As a D&AD member, I’m a bit miffed that I now have to pay extra to get it, but I can imagine it’s a rather costly time to produce.

  • Looks like the first D&AD Annual I would actually like to take a real good look at. Refreshing to see that it has not become a self indulgent plaything for the designer. D&AD Annuals are about celebrating and showcasing the best of design and advertising. In my opinion the annual itself should merely facilitate the showcase of this work rather than trying to grab the attention itself. Great job.

  • Rob

    How much is it?

  • The saving in paper and transport in comparison to previous years is great. Can I ask about the saving in cost to produce overall (if any). I only ask because as a member you have to pay an additional £60 on top of the £120 membership fees to get hold of the limited edition book. Taschen sell the book for £34.99, but for the added expense of thumbcuts for section dividers and Harry Pearce’s signature the limited edition costs double. Maybe an added expense we could have done without. Surely we only need one book.

  • Rob

    Cheers John :)

  • I share Borrodell’s scepticism over whether it’s carbon footprint is really on a par with a digital version and that they don’t have to justify producing a nice and tangible object worthy of reflecting the work inside it. Good print is always worthwhile and I will look forward to having a look through it.

  • Hi everyone.

    Thanks to Gavin for posting this piece. Good to see the positive response to this year’s Annual. I just wanted to respond to the questions in the comments trail.

    Daniel, this year’s Annual took last year’s retail edition as its starting point, which didn’t include the battery-powered radio in it. So it’s 82% more sustainable than the standard hardback that was produced last year. Given this, I imagine the 2011 Annual is probably about 820% more sustainable than last year’s lithium-munching limited edition.

    There’s been a ‘Carbon Audit’ produced by Julie’s Bicycle, which will be posted to the D&AD site tomorrow. This also provides a more in-depth comparison between a digital and print edition.

    Regarding fees, membership with the Annual thrown in used to be £160, but the model’s been tweaked slightly, so you can now pay £100 for membership without an Annual, or £160 with it.

    John, your question about the cost of production is valid. Physical production costs themselves would be lower, but obviously an awful lot of work went into ensuring the Annual lived up to its aim of being as sustainable as possible. We’re working on a survey for D&AD members at the moment, and one of the questions on it will be whether there is a genuine desire to retain the limited edition, or whether members are happy with the general edition produced by Taschen.

    And Tom, yes only the limited edition has the thumb cuts. There are no section dividers in the general edition, but there is a contents section and page numbers.

  • Cheers Neil, thanks for taking time out to address all the issues raised in the above post.

    Am I right in thinking therefore that the overall cost to produce this years annual is more than previous years?

    Just to confirm the breakdown of costs for D&AD membership: awarded membership £120 inc VAT; limited edition annual £60; postage £8.50 — Total £188.50.

    Looking forward to finding out the result of the survey to see if there is still a genuine desire to retain the limited edition book.

  • Following on from my last comment, you can now view the Carbon Audit here:


    John, no worries. Your breakdown of costs is correct. Materials I’m sure aren’t any more expensive this year, it’s more the value of the level of involvement needed from the various parties involved in putting the book together, although obviously now this work has been done, the benefit should also be passed on to future Annuals.

  • Neil

    Thanks for clearing that up! The speaker thingy in last year’s was a bit naff, so it’s good to see the annual looking classy again.

    I’m with John on the different costs and the seemingly extortionate thumbcuts – it seems odd that members have to pay significantly more than the general public.

  • Tom

    Thanks Neil for responding to my query.

    I was going to write a long rant but I simply can’t be bothered.

    Think it’s pretty naff that ‘top designers’ failed to nail such a basic principle of a reference book just so their design could embrace a gimmick. But hey who am I to complain.