Beyond being a simple object, a product is the result of a design or is contained in a designed packaging. At Cannes Lions, Graphic Design, Digital Design, Environmental Design, Packaging Design and 360 Brand Experience is rewarded under the Grand Prix Design. Here, design is rewarded as “an aid in communication and experience to inform brand ethos and product messages”. Let’s have a look at how design and artists use their talents to convey sustainability messages.

Design at Cannes
Over the two last years, Serviceplan Munich won consecutively the Grand Prix Design of Cannes Lions for designs of sustainability reports. In 2012 the Grand Prix Design was given to the Austria Solar 2011 annual report, which could be read under sunlight only. In 2013, the Prix was awarded to “The selfscan report” of Auchan.

Change packaging = change brand image?
In 2011, with Ecohols the designer Jörn Beyer has redefined the packaging of famous spirit brands: from glass bottles to cartons. Here, the designer points out a very important question: is the brand’s perception towards its consumers change, and in which manners? Decision to go for more sustainable packaging is a real challenge for brands; the customer’s experience is changed and consequently the brand’s perception. Who are ready to take such challenges? Maybe reconsideration of packaging as mere container is a possible solution?

Source: Ecohol

Source: Ecohols by Jorn

Rethinking the packaging as an entertaining media
Have you ever experienced lonely meals? Or maybe avoided them? A simple tête-à-tête between you and your sandwich or meal… The most courageous of us may use their smartphones or tablets with the risk of pouring any kind of sauce or beverage on it. Jonathan Safran Foer has launched the lonely meal saver, without any risk for our electronic devices! All Chipotle cups and bags are now filled in with drawings and original texts from famous authors: Toni Morrison, Malcolm Gladwell, Sarah Silverman, Michael Lewis, Bill Hader, Judd Apatow, George Saunders, Steven Pinker, Sheri Fink and Jonathan Safran Foer himself. The packaging itself becomes a nice story support that can be whether shared with family and friends or enjoyed alone. Besides, “Cultivating Thoughts” give us another perspective of what we thought was just a container or the packaging of a sustainable fast food; it is also a media for entertainment.

Source: Chipotle Cultivating Thought
Source: Chipotle Cultivating Thought

Trendy design = upcycling design!
Today’s designers seem to follow more and more the path of upcycling, using waste to create amazing things. Reuse waste material enables to reduce the use of new raw materials, and thus reduce the impacts on the environment and in some cases – such as mining activities – social impacts.  Here are some examples that have been presented on The Guardian.

Source: The Guardian

Source: The Guardian

Source: The Guardian

Source: The Guardian

Source: The Guardian

Source: The Guardian

What about other artists?
Beyond artist designers, other artists have used in many occasions their talents to convey sustainability messages by showing how our current world is and push us to step back and think about it. The work of the Chinese artist Yao Lu, exhibited in 2011 at Istanbul Modern, denounced the ongoing-overwhelming pollution. He used his mounds of garbage photographs and reworked them by computer to re-create Chinese painting aesthetics.

Facing the reality is also the best way to convey and raise awareness about what surround us. What better than photos to do so? Created in 2008, the Prix Pictet is the global award in photography and sustainability covering the themes of consumption, power, growth, earth and water. The purpose is to uncover and reveal the biggest social and environmental challenges of today. To have a look to winners and shortlisted photographs, you can visit

Art is great to raise awareness about sustainability issues; from design to art exhibition, a way to communicate our today’s challenges to people.  Brands’ role might be to reconsider all these talents to rethink packaging, design and communication?


“How much is it? Is it trendy? Is it very caloric?” are now “old-school” questions. Consumers – especially Millenials – are caring about “where does a product come from? Is it local? How was it processed? “. Some brands understood it well and strive to create campaigns living up consumers’ expectations – more or less (clumsily) creatively.

Although sustainability is embedded in their strategy, the claim over the products sold of some organisations is not made to target traditional green consumers – often caricatured as hippies – but simply for people who care about what they consume and their impact on their direct environment.

Today’s consumers are even more concerned about what they are eating… Even more when they enter a fast food chain. And thus, being transparent about how products and food are made, explaining the effects an organisation has on its commodity chain, have become critical issues for brand strategy.

McDonald’s: From clumsiness to listener?

In 2010 with its advertisement “Where does breakfast come from?” McDonald’s tried to illustrate through a tale, where the products served in their restaurant are coming from: a beautiful farm, which products are – apparently – delivered every morning and cooked upon arrival by a “breakfast wizard”. Such spot highlighted two very important issues: First, young people are questioning products origins; Second, nobody really knows where products are coming from. Even the spot does not say much. Since then, the famous fast food chain seems to listen more to its consumers. Francesca DeBiase, McDonald’s’ Vice President for strategic sourcing and worldwide supply chain management, said in The Guardian that “[consumers] want to know where their food comes from… We need to understand what consumers mean and talk to them in the same language.” Although consumers do not use the key word “sustainability”, the issues underneath actually matter. What is being consumed contribute to the development of local farmers or products are cultivated without harmful chemicals are information that more and more consumers are willing to know and understand.

Where Does Breakfast Come From? from DBL DRAGON on Vimeo.

Chipotle: the commodity chain, main actor of its campaigns

Since its first campaign, the famous Mexican grill has been using its commodity chain to talk about its business model. After “Back to the Start” and “The Scarecrow”- campaigns that mainly denounced food production practices – Chipotle has pushed its originality and creativity even further by launching a mini web series: “Farmed and Dangerous”. Farmed and Dangerous appears to be mixing a Dallas plot, with some touch of humour/sarcasm taken from The Mentalist or NCIS, and a classical love story in the background between “impossible” lovers… A typical US series! The packaging is quasi perfect: the series website is available, where information related to the characters is presented. Even a fictitious corporate website of Animoil has been created. Through this campaign, Chipotle not only denounces the current food production system – like in the past – but also points out communication tricks used on the food market; in other words greenwashing practices.

1. “These people are dying from eating, not starving. That’s progress”, such punch line from the trailer depicts you the vision of the system as seen by Buck Marshall, the main face of the Industrial Food Image Bureau (I.F.I.B), a PR agency that works on the image of food companies, using greenwashing tricks. The mission of the I.F.I.B is “to protect our freedom. Freedom to choose what we wanna read no matter what the studies prove.”

2. Animoil is the perfect incarnation of a polluting company, concerned by its… higher profits. The fictitious Animoil corporate website is designed in such a way that it appears to be real. There is even a rubric dedicated to the Corporate Responsibility of the company; the four tenets mocking openly greenwashing wording tricks.


3. Chip Randolph is the heroic activist who struggles in the system and fights for better and more sustainable farming practices. The nice-handsome guy.

Even if the system is not perfect, consumers will tend to trust a brand, which is honest about how it works, the challenges encountered, presenting all the actors of a system, and the impacts on each actor when a change is made; an organisation that is transparent about its commodity chain.


Watch “The Scarecrow,” the companion film for Chipotle’s new app-based game. Then download the free app at and join the quest for wholesome, sustainable food.The song “Pure Imagination” performed by Grammy Award®–winning artist Fiona Apple, is available for download on iTunes.