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“Sustainable doesn’t mean ugly” — the Impact Jury on the year’s best work

This year’s Impact winners tackled some of the planet’s biggest issues using collaboration, behavioural hacking, and sheer determination

Design Week Senior Writer Henry Wong hosted this Insights session with panellists from the Impact Jury. He was joined by Thomas Kolster, marketing activist, author and speaker at Goodvertising; Melissa Mbugua, Co-Director, Africa Podfest at Africa Podcast; Jiabao Li, artist and Assistant Professor at the University of Texas at Austin; and Harsh Kapadia, Chief Creative Officer at MRM.

The panel discussed everything from material innovation and behavioural hacking, through to the power of collaboration and the importance of patience.

Sustainable doesn’t mean ugly

As Thomas Kolster, marketing activist, author and speaker at Goodvertising, points out, “If you go back five or ten years, it’s almost like if you chose the sustainable option, you’d not get that desirability. It wasn’t as exciting as a design.”

Things have changed, however, and Kolster chose On AG’s fully recyclable Cloudneo running shoe as an example of this, praising its clean, minimalist aesthetic and circular design. The sneakers are made from one, recyclable material, and by signing up to the Cyclon subscription service, owners receive replacements on a six-monthly basis (they ship old pairs back for recycling). 

“It’s a really smart and clever way of showing how we can come out of what we’re used to — this consumption drive,” said Kolster. 

Brilliant design hacks existing behaviour

Melissa Mbugua, Co-Director, Africa Podfest at Africa Podcast, chose VMLY&R Mumbai’s The Killer Pack as a standout winner, praising it for the way it taps into people’s habits. Created for mosquito repellent brand Maxx Flash, The Killer Pack is a mosquito repellent coil, wrapped in biodegradable packaging lined with a substance that kills mosquito larvae. 

“This innovation jumped out because at surface level, it’s not necessarily shiny and sleek,” said Mbugua. “It’s not saying, ‘Let’s get rid of the garbage outside’, or, ‘Let’s try and change people’s existing behaviour’, because that’s much harder to do. It’s saying, ‘How do we specifically address this malaria problem or this mosquito problem within the current behaviour and behaviour model of the target population?’”

Great ideas can travel

Tough Turban is an impact-resistant turban, created by Zulu Alpha Kilo and Harley-Davidson to get Sikh motorcyclists out on the open road — without compromising on beliefs or safety. Harsh Kapadia, Chief Creative Officer at MRM, praises the idea for having an impact on a specific community, opening up a stereotype, and being bold enough to enter into a conversation related to religion. More than that, he believes it could be the start of something more. 

“I think Harley-Davidson has taken the lead in the opening of this cultural aperture, with an idea that can be adopted by almost every bike brand, and every biker out there,” he said. “It starts with bike-riding, but I could see this application expanding to other elements [related to] religious headwear, or just headwear, where it could be modified and modernised in a way without questioning religious beliefs.”

Cultural sensitivity is critical

Jiabao Li, artist and Assistant Professor at the University of Texas at Austin, chose McCann Health and McCann ParisThe Bread Exam — which used baking to show people how to check their breasts — as a favourite piece of work. Li said it handled a sensitive topic in a careful way that respected Lebanese culture. 

“Even in countries that don’t see this as taboo, there’s not proper education or enough education on how to self-check the breast,” she explained. “They take a very clever, very smart and fun take [on how to] use the action of kneading the bread to teach and educate among different generations.”

Collaboration and patience is critical

One of the running themes of this year’s winners was collaboration, and Kolster emphasises that change can only happen through team effort, and a willingness to share design and innovation rather than commercialising it. He believes that brilliant ideas need an “entrepreneurial skill set” to go forth into the world, as well as an awful lot of patience. 

“Sustainability is a journey, and it’s not being solved tomorrow,” he said. “One of the things that could maybe encourage other entrants for next year is, don’t be so impatient and enter the project as soon as you come up with the idea. Maybe have a look and you can enter in the future … but if you want to show the effectiveness and impact it’s having, just have a bit of patience. Show there’s something in this —  that’s important for our industry to get.  

This is from our series of Insight Sessions.  D&AD jurors unpack more work that captured, provoked and entertained them here

Production: 90Seconds

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