Rice’s Joshua Breidenbach on how long-lasting relationships will shape a more sustainable future
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 five, we spoke to Joshua Breidenbach – the Executive Creative Director and Founding Partner of Ho Chi Minh City-based design agency Rice Studios.
EM Can you tell us about Rice and your role there?
JB Rice Studios. We are a company that designs new futures. We propel brands, places and people into opportunities for growth and success through a practice of purposeful design. We believe that anything is possible. We break barriers by continuously seeking better solutions. We work with purpose and integrity – promising excellence. We aim to inspire our community and beyond. We foster collaboration with the world’s brightest minds in order to create solutions that have a positive impact. We have a unique and thriving studio culture that inspires our team to lead with commitment, passion and pride.
This is Rice.
My Name is Joshua Breidenbach, I am the Executive Creative Director, and Founding Partner.
EM As a creative, do you think you have a role in the fight against climate change, and if so, what is that role?
JB Everyone has a role! A designer’s role can be as simple as having criteria around who they work with and how. We tend to use our ‘powers’ to support projects or businesses we find positive. We partner with our clients by plugging in as their own creative team. Our work can inspire the team to take on new strategies, re-think products. Of course, if we collectively find opportunity to make something more sustainable, we’ll be the first to support.
Environmental considerations are often opportunities to run more efficiently.
EM How do you incorporate environmental considerations into your design process?
JB It begins from the start – while learning about what our clients do, and what they can do. Environmental considerations are often opportunities to run more efficiently, be prepared for the future, or to be more loved by audiences. Environmental considerations need not add cost to business. We can help our clients be more frugal through a thoughtful design process, and we can discover this well before anyone talks about fonts and colours.
Strategy seeks better ways of doing things, then design goes further – and the more we can save our clients’ money, the more attention we can bring to their way of doing things, the better partner we are. This often highlights sustainable efforts. Finally, If we’re making something physically with our clients, be it in print or packaging, the environmental considerations become very physical indeed.
EM Can you give us an example from your practice in which climate considerations impacted or changed a project?
JB When creating the branding for the 4P’s company in Vietnam, a sizeable restaurant chain with growing product lines, we began some initial discussions about packaging as a next phase of collaboration. The client wanted to move away from plastics and create sustainable solutions. What began as a storm of energy and inspiration met substantial challenges. Their ambition meant having to completely rethink their process, packaging and supply chain. Only recently have sustainable packaging options become viable in Vietnam. Our second phase of collaboration never happened! It took them years of innovation and retooling – but 4P’s have been able to innovate, introduce huge improvements and be a leader in sustainability. Rice is not responsible for this work but we’re proud of what 4P’s is achieving and we all learned what it takes to make the heavy changes necessary to truly make an impact.
EM When did you first start being environmentally conscious in relation to your work?
JB Our first client was Marou Chocolate (a decade ago!). As the inaugural rice client, they embodied the reason we started the company. A well-intended, vision-led, Vietnam-based company, was who we knew we could work together to make an impact. The first project was packaging for their chocolate bars. Clearly, a lot of paper would be used, we sought recycled paper. Later we were able to seek soy inks. Small but integral changes pushed things ever forward. We connected Marou to PLASTICPeople, a maker of upcycled plastic building materials to be a key supplier to Marou’s growing retail outlets. Today, Marou is a likely candidate for B Certification, and they have set some groundbreaking sustainability commitments for their future. This is their doing of course, but we’ve always been there to offer solutions and to collaborate from strategy to design, to production, to support Marou in realising their sustainable dreams.
EM What could the design industry do more of or be better at in the fight against climate change?
JB Our contemporaries don’t find it very sexy to be supporting companies that are part of the problem. More sharing about how better design companies offer integral change-making solutions would be good. Our work is all about ensuring success and growth for our clients. We are all selective about who we want to work with in the first place, and partnering with clients that we are true fans of means everyone is in to win. We see a future working for fewer companies but forming stronger, longer-lasting relationships, as integral transformation partners. To sum that up, a new definition for partnerships between design companies and their clients
Our logo is: being aware of the global issue, keeping an eye on it, working together on it.
EM What is the thinking behind your submission to our brief to redesign the Green Dot symbol?
JB Our logo is: being aware of the global issue, keeping an eye on it, working together on it. The priority was to move it away from the recycle symbol, and to keep it simple for reproduction. The design began by wanting to combine a globe, for ‘global alliance’ and an eye for ‘keeping watch.’ It wants to be a kind of ‘world-eye.’ The rest we hope comes through by usually being presented in green.
EM Prior to tackling the brief, how aware were you of the meaning of the symbol?
JB We were a little fuzzy on the meaning for sure. It looks like the other recycling symbol.