Dawn Keene, Studio Change, Inc.


Dawn Keene, MA in Sustainable Design, writes:

“After reading an article about The Tennessee Tree Massacre several years ago, I had to ask myself the tough questions about some of the processes that I was engaged in as a traditional graphic designer. Suddenly, I wondered ‘How are the products I use everyday in my work made? How are communities and eco-systems put at risk by these processes?’ I had to face a tough truth: my work was contributing to the sustainability problem. Client budgets, tight deadlines, doing things cheaper and faster seemed to be the driving force in our industry. Maybe it’s time for us to take back control of the wheel and steer things in another direction ‒ a sustainable one ‒ that is good for the client, environment and the bottom line. With a new perspective and a desire to use design for good, I pursued and completed a Masters of Arts in Sustainable Design at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, and it was one of the best decisions and experiences of my life. Committed to being a force for change and empowering others to take action, I created Studio Change, a sustainable design consultancy that inspires small and forward-thinking companies to make sustainability a framework for building their businesses, serving their customers, developing their employees and contributing to the common good.”


As an entrepreneur, educator and advocate of sustainable design, it is my responsibility to educate the next generation of sustainable designers and help them understand that every decision they make has an impact on the whole system and it starts with them. I have been privileged to support my community directly by being a mentor for High Performance Healthy Schools (HPHS), US Green Building Council, Atlanta GA.

To celebrate Earth Day, Studio Change engaged 67 design students at Chapel Hill High School and challenged them to “lighten their step” by developing sustainability strategies to reduce their carbon footprint. Two key takeaways: Students should leave this workshop with 1) the understanding of a systems approach to viewing their relationship with the rest of nature, and 2) taking small steps can create big change. The day started off with a simple slide show to demonstrate to students what sustainability is and why it is important to minimize impact in their daily activities. Students then took an interactive quiz online to see the size of their footprints and developed personal strategies to reduce it. Students were given a blank “tip” card and asked to write one thing they could start doing immediately to create change. The tips and personal strategies were incorporated into an infographic.

At the end of the event, sketchbooks were created using FSC certified paper, green-e 100 renewable green electricity and carbon Neutral Plus were given out as prizes. Pages were trimmed from outdated letterhead backed with recycled chipboard and the coil was made from 100 PCW plastic. The image was silkscreened with non-toxic water based inks and glue.