The Brand Identity

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Two Degrees Creative is a collaborative platform for climate change solutions. Their first project is Recycle(d), an Instagram-based campaign that sees designers create their own version of Gary Anderson’s iconic recycling symbol. We caught up with founder Ryan McGill to find out more.

The Brand Identity: What inspired you to start Two Degrees Creative?

Ryan McGill: The inspiration for Two Degrees Creative came from a want for my work to have an impact on a subject I feel strongly about. It then developed into a way to connect the wider creative community to the issue.

And with collaboration being used as an integral tool in the fight against climate change, with actions such as the IPCC report and the Paris climate agreement, there was an opportunity to engage the creative community in the same way through open briefs.

TBI: Can you tell us about the Recycle(d) campaign you’re running on Instagram?

RM: The Recycle(d) campaign was a way to engage the design industry with the subject of recycling.

The original logo was created by Gary Anderson through an open brief, put out by the CCA (Container Corporation of America) to the creative industries and universities after the first Earth Day galvanised the green movement.

So it felt appropriate to do it the same way for the upcoming 50th anniversary of both Earth Day and the Recycle Symbol. It’s a symbol we see on a daily basis, whether it’s taken for granted or genuinely acknowledged, it has a significant history and future.

The campaign has been an incredible insight into how people view recycling and the different takes on something that is largely overlooked. It’s highlighted much more bad than good, but with a larger view of a positive future and a fixed system.

The international response has been amazing, it’s brought a wide range of views to the brief, shown some unique differences between countries and highlighted some industries more than others.

“The small changes in day to day practice can make a massive difference in the footprint produced by the creative industries.”

TBI: Do you think Anderson’s symbol is underappreciated as a piece of design?

RM: Definitely, it is rarely if ever featured in ‘most iconic symbol’ lists, even though it has one of the largest global reaches. Apart from variations on the symbol, the symbol has stood the test of time, remaining largely unchanged from the original, showing its effectiveness.

TBI: The variety between the Recycle(d) symbols submitted so far is immense. Which ones resonate the most with you?

RM: All of the posts have resonated with me in some way, it’s just been fantastic to see everyone’s interpretation of an iconic symbol.

However, there are a few embedded in such deep thought and concept that they have sparked further ideas around the subject.

Approaches from Benjamin Lee and Warriors Studio have shown the nihilistic view that surrounds recycling and the urgent need for change.

“Industrial technology is by nature exploitative and destructive of the materials that are necessary to maintain it. The structures that surround us are breaking down and the recycling industry is suffering from system failure.

A variant of the Möbius loop, the recycling symbol symbolises continuity with a finite entity. A subtle break in the form reveals a broken cycle, a broken idea, a broken system. Urging us to make the changes we so desperately need.” – Benjamin Lee

“Are we giving enough time to the most pressing issue of the century?”

“The recycling symbol indicates a closed-loop. But given the reality of systemic inconsistencies in the practice and the collapse of the global recycling industry as heralded by China refusing to import any more foreign waste, how accurate is this really? Maybe the symbol itself needs to ‘collapse’ before the bigger problem is recognised and more radical action can be taken.” – Warriors Studio

TBI: Have you thought about posting your own take on the symbol?

RM: It has definitely been a thought, it will more likely be something for the very end of the project, as a bit of a retrospective. But for now, it’s about all the great work coming from the design community.

TBI: How does the graphic design industry need to adapt in order to contribute towards combating climate change?

RM: There are many ways the design industry can adapt to contribute. From making the choice to opt for sustainable forms of travel to which paper you supply for your next print job and choosing green servers to host websites. The small changes in day to day practice can make a massive difference in the footprint produced by the creative industries. 

But the power to influence is one of the biggest contributions the industry can make. Changing the behaviours of clients, including both realist and positive language to help reinforce the importance of acting against climate change and pushing quality over quantity. 

The same applies to self-initiated work. Projects with a message of climate positivity will influence the behaviours of your peers to do the same.

An important question for all creatives and agencies would be: are we giving enough time to the most pressing issue of the century?

Are we just creating to sell unsustainable lifestyles? Or are we using our tools to influence a positive vision of the future and empower people to create a new set of cultural norms and aspirations focused on low impact and sustainable practice? 

Agencies and independent creatives can show a commitment to the cause by refusing to contribute to work that has been invested in by the fossil fuels industry and signing up to Futerra and XR’s creative climate disclosure.

TBI: Should paper companies and printers be pushing creatives to use sustainable materials and processes?

RM: Printers, suppliers and designers should all be pushing for a normalisation of sustainable materials and processes. However, due to the pre-conceptions of recycled products having a lower quality, they are still not as widely used as they should be.

As with all sustainable products, including energy and fashion, this is a leading factor in the pricing of the products, with less sustainable materials being bought, the cost is at a premium.

If you have the means to use it, then it should always be the first choice, to help push it into the mainstream.

TBI: Do you have any upcoming plans for Two Degrees beyond the Recycle(d) campaign?

RM: Currently, there are two new open briefs being developed, which will come next year. One about the destructive power of E-Waste and another on the value of water.

The main focus, for now, will be an upcoming exhibition in 2020 to celebrate the brilliant submissions from the project and reflect on 50 years of the Recycle Symbol and accompanying system.

TBI: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, Ryan.

Designers (top to bottom): Brendan Tennent, Studio PUNKT, Daan Rietbergen, Duane Dalton, Hype Type Studio, Luke D. Schaffner, Ocio Studio, David Gurr, Jon Banthorpe, Hey, Graeme Macdonald, Sergi Delgado, Gary Anderson, Benjamin Lee, Warriors Studio, Pedro Mata.

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