The Green Dot recap: Two°Creative’s Ryan McGill reflects on the campaign’s journey and response
Throughout 2021 and the early part of 2022, Two°Creative partnered with us at The Brand Identity in setting the conceptual brief to redesign the confusing Green Dot symbol. Taking the lessons from Two°Creative’s previous Recycle(d) campaign on board, we invited creatives to redesign the symbol to something that better represents its intended meaning. Through its numerous unique and innovative entries, the campaign has provided an engaging and educational platform to spark conversation on how design can make an impactful change. Reflecting on it all, Two°Creative Founder Ryan McGill talked us through the campaign, the entries, and what other current symbols are due for an update.
PT Hi Ryan, could you tell us about the origin of Two°Creative’s Green Dot campaign? Why did you select that symbol in particular?
RM This campaign came after digging into the recycling system during the first Two°Creative campaign, Recycle(d). It wasn’t necessarily something I had known for a long time before researching for the campaign. And as part of Recycle(d), we ran a survey on recycling symbols, which showed that people really didn’t understand what this symbol meant, with only 10% of participants knowing the true meaning.
People are willing to give their time to solve problems.
PT What did you learn from Recycle(d) and what did you bring forward with you into the Green Dot open brief?
RM The biggest lesson I took from Recycle(d) is that designers and creatives want to be engaged with these kinds of topics, they’re interested in making a difference and that people are willing to give their time to solve problems, but I do think they want their time to go to something useful. With Recycle(d), there were lots of people questioning what the point of it was and asking what good did it do.
With The Green Dot brief, there was a problem at hand and an opportunity to position The Green Dot as the opposition, as something to rally against. This worked well getting people engaged in a more in-depth way than the first campaign and has had very few negative responses, and instead has sparked conversation and feedback between the people who have submitted, that’s been really great to see for me.
PT What did you hope to achieve?
RM Primarily I’m hoping to change the symbol, it’s still the overall goal of the campaign but along the way educating people on this subject was a really big factor for me and I feel it has done that. This has also been an opportunity to engage designers with frankly quite a dry subject within sustainability and show that design has the power to solve some big issues.
I was genuinely surprised at how engaged people were with the brief.
PT What was the reception like from creatives and studios?
RM Really positive, I was genuinely surprised at how engaged people were with the brief and how much time and thought had been put into the submissions. I understood this wasn’t as easy a brief to get into as Recycle(d), but the amount of effort that has gone into the submissions has been amazing. Lots of people thinking about further brand systems, campaigns for awareness and all the assets that might go with an updated symbol like this have been fantastic.
PT What have been your favourite entries, and why?
RM Personally, submissions that have favoured function over form were my favourite. For example, NEW STANDARD.S’ submission, utilising the QR code stood out as possibly the best response for me as it became something very useful for the consumer and would help reduce global recycling contamination.
Goods was another submission that stood out for me, using a visual system to show how much recycled material the brand or product is using. A system like this is great for putting the responsibility on the producers and making them strive for more, acting as either a badge of honour or a bit of a mark of shame when compared to those doing more.
PT Were there any entries/responses to the brief that surprised you?
RM Without a doubt, the submission that came from Cristian Iacob (@c.icb). There was absolutely no point I expected to get a meme about the green dot submitted!
There was absolutely no point I expected to get a meme about the green dot submitted!
PT Why do you think symbols like the Green Dot haven’t been updated already?
RM There could be many reasons, one being that it was just overlooked for all these years. Being in the system for over 30 years now, it was something we were all just so used to, and the result of this symbol is rarely, if ever, noticed by the public because recycling contamination is such a behind-the-scenes problem, that pales in comparison to the big subjects of climate change, social justice and war.
But another reason frankly could be that PRO Europe and their various subsidiaries and members are profiting from it and the brands using it are benefitting from being able to use a pseudo recycle symbol on their products that are not recyclable, making them look good and essentially greenwashing unrecyclable products.
PT What would you like the lasting impact of the symbol changing to be?
RM The big goals would be a reduction in global recycling contamination and a more profitable recycled material market. This kind of impact would take a decade or so to really notice, but that’s the hope. Another would just be an easier experience for the public, right now recycling really isn’t too user-friendly.
The whole thing needs to be much more transparent and leave much less up to the public to figure out.
PT Are there any other symbols that you think are due an update?
RM There are a few problematic ones. The Triman Symbol in France feels like another slightly needless symbol that overcomplicates things and could cause problems, the fact it is allowed to be placed on recyclable products and placed on electronics and batteries (which are generally unrecyclable) sends the wrong message and just adds to the problem.
The UK’s Tidy Man – a really useless symbol that without a doubt is causing confusion. It is just a ‘reminder’ to throw away your waste responsibly, but does not communicate where to put it, so without a doubt causing problems of its own.
And finally, I feel the resin codes are quite problematic for the public. Being more of an industrial code, it definitely serves its purpose. But many of the resin codes are not recyclable by curbside and are using the three arrows of the recycle symbol again just adding to the confusion.
Overall, I feel that what really needs to happen is a huge simplification of the system. The whole thing needs to be much more transparent and leave much less up to the public to figure out.
PT Do you have any final words of wisdom?
RM This is one I always find a bit tricky. But I’d say that as designers and creatives we have much more power than we give ourselves credit for at times.