Cat How on how How&How are reducing their environmental impact, and how everyone could do more
Between March 2021 and April 2022, in collaboration with Two°Creative, we invited designers to redesign the confusing Green Dot symbol to better represent its original meaning. Continuing on from this open brief, The Change We Need is an interview series exploring the design industry’s role in the fight against climate change. For part three, we caught up with Cat How – the Co-founder of London and Lisbon-based design agency How&How.
EM Can you tell us about How&How and your role there?
CH I’m Co-founder and Creative Director at branding and design agency How&How – a studio I set up with my husband a couple of years ago with two outposts in London and Lisbon. A premise of our agency is the idea of left-right thinking, using strategic methodologies and creative flair to try to solve design problems in an original way.
It sounds wanky, but we fundamentally believe that smashing two different ways of thinking (and working) together can give you the foundation for producing the most interesting stuff.
Everyone has a role in the fight against climate change, whether they’re a creative or not.
EM As a creative, do you think you have a role in the fight against climate change, and if so, what is that role?
CH Everyone has a role in the fight against climate change, whether they’re a creative or not. Essentially ‘we need everyone to do anything’ so any action will always have a positive impact and be useful, no matter what you ‘work’ as.
Design has been pilloried for being too fluffy and not something that can tangibly produce effective and measurable change. But design is about visual communication. And communication in this fight is key. People may think that you can’t solve the world’s physical problems with Photoshop – but used in the right way, visual communication can be one of the most powerful tools at our disposal.
People who understand that media can be used as a force for good are on the right track... exciting production companies like Exposure Labs (who produced the Chasing Ice and Chasing Coral documentaries), are acutely aware that communicating a message in a visually engaging way, will get in front of more eyeballs and spread the word. It is an essential part of our armoury in the fight against climate change, alongside political reform, etc.
EM How do you incorporate environmental considerations into your design process?
CH We sell ideas and make digital products (and due to COVID I don’t think we’ve had anyone ask for a printed business card in about two years!) so in terms of our physical output we have a relatively low impact. We’ve also made sure we work from a co-working office (Second Home both in London and Lisbon) with great environmental credentials – their new outpost in Hollywood saw them plant 6,500 trees in a parking lot in LA.
But I suppose the biggest environmental consideration in our design process is that with our BeHalf initiatives (a series of self-initiated projects we’ve been creating with Mother Earth as our client) we are literally using our own agency time to work on projects which actively aim to educate and enlighten – through design – as a way of driving environmental change.
Every little helps.
EM Can you give us an example from your practice in which climate considerations impacted or changed a project?
CH We’re fortunate enough now to be able to decide if a project is something we’d like to take on due to its environmental credentials. We always ask that question before starting a job – what proposition does it have in helping the world to become a better place? So I suppose it’s not even an impact on a project, it’s a deciding factor in whether we even take on that project in the first place.
Through BeHalf, we now also conceive and ‘create’ new environmental campaigns; and on a more granular level, we are now building all our new websites with light mode as well as dark mode functionality. The jury is out as to how much measurable impact this does have, but there is some evidence to suggest that dark mode uses less power. Even if it’s just a little... Every little helps.
EM When did you first start being environmentally conscious in relation to your work?
CH In Lisbon, we live and work by the sea. It’s such a huge part of our lives, that very soon after founding the company we realised that campaigning for cleaner oceans had to be part of the business fabric of our agency moving forward. We spun up a quick studio project (Eat Less Plastic) as a way for the team to feel like they could work on some climate-conscious work alongside client work. But it spiralled from there, and we’re now working with clients in this area as a result.
EM What could the design industry do more of or be better at in the fight against climate change?
CH Ouf. Well I think it’s our responsibility to use our creativity for the common good – so choosing to work with clients who you believe are going to help in the fight against climate change in some sort of way is a good place to start...