A toolkit for creative activism in 2023

The 2023 Change WithPrint calendar. A toolkit for creative activism

Sustainability is not a trend, a USP or an angle, it’s the only reasonable way forward for all industries. The design industry – especially – included.

Everything we create has an impact. In fact, it is estimated that 80% of environmental impact is decided at the design stage. The choices we make have the potential to radically influence the social and environmental impact of a product, service or campaign.

That gives our industry a powerful opportunity to effect change. And it’s up to us to create that change from the inside.

However, climate breakdown and social injustice are big hairy scary subjects, and we’ve already switched to reusable water bottles, so where do you even start?

Well, the short answer is – somewhere. Just start somewhere. You’re not gonna fix it by yourself but by doing something, you will gain momentum and inspire others to join you.

“Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.” ~ Margaret Mead 

We have used our positive impact know-how and teamed up with progressive print wizards WithPrint and rock star organisations like Creative Conscience, Design Declares, Clean Creatives , The Sustainable Creative Charter and the World Land Trust to create a 2023 Change WithPrint Calendar which doubles as a creative change-making and activism toolkit for designers and agencies.



Creative activism calendar Change WithPrint 2023 Creative activism in the Change WithPrint calendar. Prompts from Creative Conscience and Design Declares!

A few takeouts from the toolkit:

  1. Acknowledge the problem and decide to do something about it.
  2. Educate yourself about the issues we face.
  3. Collaborate. Find others who care. Work with the ‘competition’.
  4. Take lots of small positive steps (and maybe a few giant leaps too).
  5. Scream from the rooftops.
  6. Be human. Look after yourself and those around you too.

Plus heaps of concrete actionable steps.

Sustainable print in action

We wanted this calendar to be a glowing A* example of sustainable print design – it can be done. For every aspect of the design, we considered the impact and explored the latest in innovative materials. The calendar is printed on a selection of paper stocks made from recycled coffee cups, hemp fibre, spent brewers grain and features the recently Earthshot prize awarded Notpla seaweed paper. These paper materials have a lower footprint than virgin wood and for some of them, allow waste material to stay in circulation for longer. 

“Completely thrilled to be asked by WithPrint to collaborate on their annual calendar, a showcase of amazing print meeting wonderful materials. Working together to #changewithprint we were able to bring in creative activists from across the industry that are enabling ‘design for change’ at every level. Creativity is one of the key areas for rapid transition to a regenerative economy and this calendar acts as a mini bridge, addressing problems and actions from – challenging the brief (as we did), to creating clean, to wellbeing and declaring a climate emergency.

I applaud WithPrint for their bravery and technical abilities.”

Matt Hocking, Leap Founder

Change WithPrint 2023 quote by Kate Raworth "If you're not designing for planet, what planet are you on?"

Designing smarter

Both the illustrations and type are designed with minimal ink use in mind, while still being clear, readable and if we may say so – beautiful. Like Patagonia said ‘The most sustainable product is the one you don’t buy’. The same goes for reusing existing resources rather than creating new ones for the sake of it. Rather than letting perfectly good dies go to waste, we decided to creatively reuse existing ones from a previous design for this calendar. The Smile Plastics recycled yoghurt pot bases are designed to be reused year after year, ready to slot a fresh calendar into each January.

I think that creativity shares a common thread with finding solutions for the challenges we are faced with today. This common thread is one of interconnectedness, of collaboration, and this is what inspired me in creating this illustration. 

To communicate this visually, the elements are woven together. The symbols of creativity, the pencil, the critical eye and the sparks of inspiration are used alongside the symbols of the earth and the hearts, filling the same space, coexisting and trying to keep each other in balance.

In order to help keep the resources used for the project to a minimum, I developed the illustration as a simple line drawing to use less ink.”

– Ioana Sabau, Illustrator

Illustration by Ioana Sabau on Notpla seaweed paper wrap for 2023 ChangeWithPrint calendar Detail of sustainable print from the 2023 Change WithPrint calendar

Collaboration is the key

Stronger collaboration was pulled out as the key to climate progress in 2023 by Economist Impact, The Sustainability Project and we couldn’t agree more. Collaboration is crucial on every level, from person to person all the way to national level.

The front of the monthly cards feature dates – like any good calendar should – and on the back, we have invited some of our favourite change making organisations to share their creative activism tips. We have Design Declares sharing advice on what it takes to declare an emergency of climate and nature, and committing to do something about it. Creative Conscience takes us from ‘becoming conscious’, through small steps, to big impact actions. Clean Creatives provide a how-to guide for becoming an agency activist. The Sustainable Creative Charter is a co-created resource and pledge for creatives, by creatives, with five pillars to creating sustainably.

Whether you just need a good looking new calendar, want to check out some top notch print, materials and techniques or are curious about creating positive change in 2023, you can grab your calendar here

We would love to hear what you’re changing in 2023, use #ChangeWithPrint and tag @madebyleap

Photos by Matt Jessop