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Maybe Everyone is a Designer …

I live in a small community. At times I really notice how personal this place is — how much real human contact I have with the people who live near and around me. This was one of those days. Stopping in at a local grocery/health store, The Ruddy Potato, on the way home I was greeted by the sight of some unexpected, unprofessional, and completely charming graphic design.

Today is Earth Day. And today as I came to the cash register, the clerk asked me if I wanted an Earth Day bag. How could I possibly say no? There by the cash register is a pile of brown paper bags, each individually decorated designed by one of the kids from the Bowen Island Community School.

One says, “The Earth don’t pollute the only planet we can live on.” Out of the mouths of babes. Most of them have some kind of message: “Do not pollute!” and variations on recycling themes. At the register, there is a bag filled with Earth chocolates.

The bag I got just says “Earth day” but I love it. I have no intention of ever throwing it out. (Actually, when the Ruddy Potato opened they had inaugural bags designed by the kids — I got one with a person on it saying “I’m a old fogey.” I still have it somewhere.)

I just find this incredibly compelling. The messages the kids wrote are so heartfelt, and the drawings so beautiful … it is quite simply the most effective piece of design I’ve seen in ages. They spoke to me. I responded.

We all live in a small community. Happy Earth Day, everyone.

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PUBLISHED ON Apr.22.2004 BY marian bantjes
ps’s comment is:

great story.

thanks for sharing.


On Apr.22.2004 at 03:19 PM
JonSel’s comment is:

It's so easy to get overwhelmed by the complexity of life's political and social issues. It's wonderful when a child's simple and direct point of view can remind us of where priorities should lay.

The only disappointment in this story is that the bags are preaching to the converted. If only these bags were being used at a ShopRite/Publix/Wegmans (or your local choice of mass grocer). The scale of these stores could provide a very effective platform.

On Apr.22.2004 at 03:45 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

FINALLY...someone agreeing with my stance on everyone being a designer. ;o)

And yes, happy earth day!

(Don't vote Bush ;o)

On Apr.22.2004 at 04:00 PM
erica’s comment is:

a lot of us seem pretty pessimistic about graphic designers' ability to change the world, so it's nice to see stuff every now and then by people who believe it can!

On Apr.22.2004 at 05:25 PM
Steven’s comment is:

The bags are cute. The innocent expressiveness of the kids is adorable.

And yes Marian, the Vancouver BC area is a great place, with warm, friendly people and a beautifully rugged landscape. Great sailing too!

BTW, you're patterns are awesome!

On Apr.22.2004 at 05:42 PM
Armin’s comment is:

The fact that each bag is one of a kind also holds some value, specially now that everything is mass-produced (not that this is news, of course).

> If only these bags were being used at a ShopRite/Publix/Wegmans

JonSel makes a good point, although I doubt the results would have been similar. There would have had to be more "procedure" to get a bunch of kids involved in this, whereas here it was authentic and genuine. Not that the other bigger effort would not, but the "love" can get diluted once you try to purposedly turn it into some sort of motive or agenda.

On Apr.22.2004 at 09:17 PM
jonsel’s comment is:

No denying that a larger corporation would have more procedures involved in producing something like this. What's sad is that we, perhaps rightfully so, have such a negative opinion of large marketers. Yes, a national grocer supporting Earth Day would most likely have an agenda, but "agenda" and "motive" sound dirty. I guess I'm just trying to suppress my natural cynicism in the hope that there are still a few good corporations out there willing to spend a few extra dollars to support something that doesn't translate directly to the balance sheet.

On Apr.22.2004 at 09:41 PM
Seth Werkheiser’s comment is:

This just reminded me - my wife and I have canvas bags for grocery shopping, and I don't think we've used them in like a year now. Then we keep getting those wretched clear plastic bags which are good for carrying potato chips and little else. Thanks for jogging my memory... I'll dig those out now.

On Apr.23.2004 at 09:18 AM
marian’s comment is:

The canvas bag thing is interesting. I too have several canvas bags -- some of them quite nice -- which I never use. There is only one cure for this: for stores to stop providing plastic bags to shoppers.

I remember being in a grocery store in Britain about 15 years ago, and after paying for the goods, standing like a dufus for a few seconds before realizing--that was it ... it was up to me to collect my stuff together and get it out the door. Looking behind me i realized everyone else was carrying a bag or basket of some kind.

On Apr.23.2004 at 09:45 AM
M Kingsley’s comment is:

There is only one cure for this: for stores to stop providing plastic bags to shoppers.

You may want to read this first.

Not using a bag or bringing your own is best -- then plastic -- then paper.

On Apr.23.2004 at 11:02 AM
Mark’s comment is:

great concept - beautiful designs. props to the teacher or individual who suggested it to the class.

side note: we always use canvas bags. leave 8 of them in the back seat so we never forget. you can stuff $150 worth of groceries into them and loading and unloading your car is so much faster too. our local grocery store (Sobeys) gives you back 2 cents for each bag you don't use as well - small inscentive but thoughful. (you can fit 4 of them under our double stroller if you walk or carry 4 on your bicycle handlebars too.) Most of ours are from the LCBO (liquor store) so my neighbours must think we are alcoholics when they see us unload.

On Apr.23.2004 at 01:46 PM
Kevin Lo’s comment is:

canvas bags are great and you can still get kids to draw on them with crayons!

Not to contradict Marian's comment about Britain, but most people we see here shopping still use plastic bags(maybe its just my 'hood). When my roomate and I walk in with huge Mountain Equipment Co-Op backpacks, bristling with straps, we definitely get some looks. Can always spot a canadian, eh?

On Apr.23.2004 at 08:07 PM
Jen’s comment is:

As a young designer, naive at best, I too live in a small community, not more that 5,000 at the city heart, and I find myself seeking the "design divine". The ones to teach me. The ones to follow. The ones to lead (in some self center hope of making a difference though the only thing I can do, design). Finding design at the heart of communication. Raw message, told to others in some visual way.

These kids get it. It is a raw attempt to affect their world. What better way than a box of crayons and a hope. Isn't that what we all want to do? To capture the essence of an idea and tell our neighbors.

Chocolate helps.

On Apr.23.2004 at 10:02 PM
george’s comment is:

I love the bags...and it's great to see kids starting to learn about these kinds of issues at early ages. and of course (or maybe not of course) it's essential for kids to begin creating as young as possible.

don't knock those plastic bags at grocery stores, though...I've always recycled them as pooper scoopers for my dogs. if I didn't get those bags I'd have to use some other "purpose built" method of picking up and transporting my dog's droppings. the plastic bags serve two purposes, the "other" probably more important than the intended.

On Apr.25.2004 at 01:59 PM
DesignNerd07’s comment is:

a friend of mine is a 3rd grade teacher at a private catholic school and asked me to come in one day almost a month and a half ago as the guest speaker to their weekly computer lab to discuss my career as a web designer.

the kids and i had a great time, and a few days later i received a thank you card from each student. i usually try not to be a pack rat, but there is no way i can have the heart to throw away the 30 brightly colored notes these kids took the time to make for me. just like the grocery bags marian commented on, they were all so heartfelt and beautiful.

the saddest part of it all is that no one has bothered to find a replacement for the part-time art teacher that had left SO THEY HAVE NO ART CLASSES AVAILABLE RIGHT NOW. i only found out after i made my presentation and was talking to the principal when the kids left. i'm so glad that i was able to inspire some of these kids into pursuing their interest in art and help them realize that art isn't just about painting and drawing!

On May.01.2004 at 09:02 PM