AIGA San Francisco

the professional association for design


Compostmodern 08

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by Pam Williams
all photos by Alex Chrisman

What started as a way to continue the sustainability conversation that began at the AIGA Design Conference 2003 in Vancouver has now become a world-class event and a reference point for the design profession. “Compostmodern ’08,” an interdisciplinary, biennial design conference dedicated to design solutions, was presented by AIGA SF and the Center for Sustainable Design on January 19 at the Academy of Art University in Downtown San Francisco.

The speakers, the energy of the participants, the media interest—all contributed to the success of this daylong conference. Attendees, conference organizers and presenters collectively shared a sense of optimism and a renewed urgency to address sustainability as an everyday practice and mode of thinking rather than a niche way of working. By all accounts, the conference succeeded in harnessing the potential and enthusiasm of its community while reaching new audiences.

Moderator Joel Mackower, GreenBiz, set the stage with his opening remarks: “Sustainability is like teenage sex—everybody says they’re doing it but no one really is. And those who are doing it aren’t doing it very well.”

Worldchanging’s Alex Steffen described the roster of speakers as “a bright green, allstar line-up.” And it was, with each speaker contributing real success stories and fresh ideas about sustainability. Steffen also provided compelling new evidence of the urgent need for innovative, sustainable solutions. “We need to stop making stuff,” he said. “The two best things you can do are to not go so many places in your car to get ‘things’—or do not have a car, or share one. And ‘know’ the stories of how your things get to you—or share those things, too.”

Adam Werbach, former Sierra Club president, outlined groundbreaking initiatives currently underway with client Wal-Mart, which the San Francisco Chronicle revealed a week before the conference. “We need leaders,” he said, “and designers are in the sweet spot.”

Other highlights included:

• Mark Galbraith from Nau Clothing discussed the unique retail model employed by his radical new clothing venture.
• Jean-Charles Boisset discussed how climate change affects every facet of the wine industry and demonstrated the environmental savings of his innovative packaging for French Rabbit wines.
• Jeff Walker from VSA Partners reviewed GE’s Ecomagination initiative.
• Scott Stowell from Open turned the visually stimulating pages of GOOD magazine to provide insight into the editorial agenda and design vision.
• Jane Savage of Nike’s Considered platform talked of the company’s drive to use more sustainable materials and design practices in product development.
• Jacinta McCann of EDAW San Francisco addressed impact of population on urban areas by 2008.

In a unique whiteboard session, AIGA Center for Sustainable Design co-chairs Marc Alt and Phil Hamlett fleshed out specific strategic initiatives for sustainability within AIGA, with much interest from session participants.

Also on hand were a gallery of sustainable project examples, a sustainable café, a housewares store and a bookstore. Many from the crowd of more than 600 stayed after the event for conversation and uniquely packaged French Rabbit wines served in compostable glasses.

The day culminated with the announcement that AIGA would partner in the Designers Accord, a call to arms for the creative community to reduce the environmental impact caused by design, a program that was created and introduced by Valerie Casey, IDEO.

“This was exactly the conference that the community needed and I expect that it will cause the bloom of a thousand new flowers,” commented Adam Werbach after the event. “The world can’t wait.”

For additional coverage of “Compostmodern ’08,” see the blog Unbeige and reviews on TreeHugger, Inhabitat, Core77, and CNET. Podcasts of the conference will be available shortly. Check the Compostmodern website or watch this site for the latest news.

“Compostmodern ’08” was made possible by generous donations from Adobe Systems Inc., Mohawk Fine Papers Inc. and New Leaf Paper.


Follow Alissa Walker’s day-long coverage of Compostmodern.

Core 77
Adam Reineck’s review. He is currently an Industrial Designer at IDEO.

Insights into the world of marketing and sustainability: Comblogpostmodern.

Insights into the world of marketing and sustainability: Earth Day in January.

Inhabitat’s Emily Pilloton gives her highlights from the day.

Tim Leberecht of frog design writes on the possible impact of the Designers Accord.

A monkey on the roof
Family fashion designers Nina and Tom get on their blog soapbox.

The Graphic Design Forum
Mike Lenhart wastes no time…

Peace108: Patricia Royman’s Blog
Sustainability? Walmart?

The Graffik
On the scene


Conference overview by Vikash Singh.

Designer’s Accord by Collin Dunn.

All blog posts on compostmodern.

If you need special assistance to participate in this program, please contact AIGA SF at or 415-626-6008. For reasonable assistance accommodations to be provided, please RSVP for the event and notify us at least 2 weeks in advance. If we do not receive timely notification of your reasonable request, we may not be able to make the necessary arrangements by the time of the event.
More information about accessibility, public transportation and parking.

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Saturday, 19 Jan 2008
8:30am - 5:30pm

Morgan Auditorium
491 Post Street
San Francisco, California 94102 Map

Related Downloads

Opening Remarks
Listen to an MP3 of AIGA San Francisco's Gaby Brink and Phil Hamlett, National Co-chair for the Center for Sustainable Design, as they welcome over 600 attendants to our day of solutions in sustainability.
Laura Shore
from AIGA's Center for Sustainable Design
Joel Makower
Compostmodern Emcee and Chairman and Executive Editor for
Alex Steffen
Opening Keynote Speaker and Executive Editor of Worldchanging
Mark Galbraith
VP of Product Design for Nau Clothing, Inc.
Dawn Maxey
spoken word
Jean-Charles Boisset
President, DeLoach Vineyards | Boisset Family Estates
Adam Werbach
CEO, Act Now Productions


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