O.O.O. for the Planet

As next Friday’s Global Climate Strike approaches, Pentagram’s Naresh Ramchandani explains why he and his team are taking part, and why the rest of the design and advertising community should be too

On Friday September 20, our five-person Pentagram and Do The Green Thing team will be adding our hearts, feet and voices to the millions around the world who are coming out for the Global Climate Strike.

Yes, it’s a strike. Children and students are missing school and college, and workers are not working. We’re trading our education and income for moral and economic power, and using that power to call for change.

What sort of change?

We’re calling the media to stop making climate change a story, and turn it into the story, and translate it into truthful news and inspirational culture. We’re telling our political leaders to stop their domestic policy next-election myopia, and to emerge from the upcoming year of climate superconferences with policy that assures a collective future. We’re demanding that industry widens its KPIs beyond shareholder value (aka making rich white men richer and more tanned), and works towards a broader sense of prosperity.

And in the case of our team, and the 60 creative organisations and publications in the Create and Strike action group, we’re making a call to our industry, the creative industry.

It’s a call to understand the alchemy we have in our hands. To realise we have the ability to make unattractive brands attractive and undesirable products desirable, and to deploy that ability judiciously. In other words, not for fossil fuels, fast fashion, meat, plastics, petrol- or diesel-engined cars, flights and anything else that irrefutably harms the environment. These clients may have great visibility, and may want great work and pay well, but so did tobacco companies.

It’s a call to go further, and not only resist these environmental offenders but to do some of our best work against them. To volunteer for the brave NGOs that stand up to the carbon villains, and equip them with unignorable, eviscerating campaigns to shame companies we would never want to work for.

It’s a call to find ways past the clichéd sustainability aesthetics that stop brilliant initiatives from being seen as such. Past the overused groan-lexicon of green, sustainability and generation. Past the cold hard science of CO2, ppm and graphs. Past the faux-bucolic look and feel of trees, petals and forestry. To get out of the knowing, moralising, over-caring Lord of the Rings burrow and present a sustainable life as an attractive one.

It’s a call to see that great and profitable work can be done for organisations that don’t harm our future – and actually make the present pretty great. I give you veggie burgers, biodegradable fashion, bikes, bikewear, walking shoes, every fantastic holiday you don’t need to fly to, reusable coffee cups, hi-speed trains, electric cars (but not those made by emission fraudsters Volkswagen) and many many more.

PS. none of them want hemp typography. They all want sharp, modern, outstanding creativity.

It’s a call to get past the simplicity of stuff and get fluent in the more complex language of systems. Bike-share systems, book-share systems, food-efficiency systems, circular models of design and production, circular models of rental not ownership, coffee-cup clubs, upcycled anything. All ingenious, all needing something less leaden than explanation, all needing to be as simple and irresistible as the thing you can wastefully buy and own.

It’s a call to change not just the work we do, but how we do it. How we get to work. How much energy we use at work. How much waste we create at work. How and what we eat at work. How we decrease our carbon footprint to increase our environmental literacy and to give us some environmental credibility.

It’s a call to attune to the next generation, and to what they want and don’t want. As increasingly conscious consumers, they don’t want products that harm their future. As increasingly conscious consumers and clients, they won’t think well of creative people and creative agencies agnostic to that harm.

And most of all, it’s a call to get busy. To put aside self-indulgent projects that raise personal profile (God, I’ve been guilty of those), and invest that effort and more if you can towards a selfless end, a united cause.

Invent those products. Think up those initiatives. Design those graphics. Write those pieces. Produce those films. Make those campaigns. Deploy your much-needed ingenuity and imagination on a self-initiated, pro-bono or for-profit basis to make some hope and noise for the world.

Just like Studio Moross, who gifted their brilliant design skills to Do The Green Thing to create this perfect email auto-reply graphic for any global striker (shown top). It’s the perfect piece of sassy fist-pumping design to tell your contacts you’re not working next Friday, to let them know you’re busy re-orientating your work to the future, and to suggest they should do the same.

Load it up, join the strike and go O.O.O for the planet on September 20.

Naresh Ramchandani and seven other creative and advertising leaders are debating the industry’s response to the climate crisis at D&AD’s sold out ‘Our toughest brief yet’ event tonight, as part of D&AD Impact, dandad.org