On 31 July, we announced the winner of the inaugural 2009 Greenpeace Design Awards – Sam Dickson. Here's an interview with the designer
1. How did you come about the idea for your entry to the awards – can you explain the process step by step?
This is always a tough question for me to answer, because most of the time my ideas just come out of the blue and I play around with them in my mind for a while until I get to a computer. Then I just sit down and start trying to re-create what I see in my head. I don't usually sketch or plan anything, which irritates my lecturers to no end when it comes to folio time at uni.
I think the idea for this poster came while I was listening to yet another climate change expert on Radio National preaching about the impending doom of the planet. I consider myself a pretty environmentally aware person but when I heard them listing all those big scary statistics and facts all I thought was ‘wow, someone should probably get onto that’, and continued to enjoy my breakfast.
Later, I thought about how many people must have exactly the same reaction when the state of our planet and its future is discussed, and that those are the people I should be trying to reach. People who think it’s not their problem, or it’s too hard, or if they just ignore it the problem will resolve itself. I wanted to tell them that there is no superhero that’s going to swoop down from above and rescue us from it all.
2. What challenges did you come across, if any?
The toughest part of this project was probably taking the photo. I don't own a good camera or a tripod. So, I ended up using the digital camera that came free with my parents’ TV and an Eski sitting on top of an old speakerbox as a tripod. I stood in my backyard with the auto-timer on, my shirt ripped open and a Superman 'S' painted on my chest in jungle green oil paint – all while tradies working on the two-storey house next door stared at me like I was an escaped mental patient. That’s how I took that photograph you see in the poster.
3. What message are you hoping to convey through your design?
When it comes to the environment, there is no Superman – it’s just us. It doesn't matter who you are because these problems affect everyone. The problems are not insurmountable, we just have to start doing something … now.
4. What made you decide to enter?
I had an assignment for uni that was based on the Greenpeace Design Awards brief, and the lecturer told us that, on completion, it was optional to enter. I thought that after bearing my nips in front of about 10 builders on a 5 degree Melbourne day just to get the damn photo, there was no way in hell I was not going to enter.
5. Do you have an opinion on cause-related posters? How effective do you think they can be? Can you give one or two examples of any that have influenced you?
Cause-related posters are a real toughie. You've only got about two or three seconds to impart the entire weight of your cause on the viewer, and then hope that they don't forget it in the following two or three seconds after they walk away. One of the best I've seen was created by The Foundry. It was an anti-racism campaign that depicted three brains, two of which were the same size and one tiny one marked ‘racist’ – great poster.
6. Do you have any design influences? If so, who?
One of my biggest influences is probably the other design kids at uni. We all bounce ideas off each other, try stuff out and learn and grow as a big group. Mostly I just thieve all my ideas from them, I'm actually lucky they didn't enter as well.
7. Where do you hope to go in future with your design career?
Well, if becoming a rockstar doesn't work out, I would just like to do fun stuff like this – things that push your creativity and allow you to think outside the box. I just want to skip that part where I spend all my time laying out annual reports for conservative superannuation funds – although there is a certain sick, designer-y pleasure you can get when you do it right. I also hope when I graduate I'll get thick-framed glasses and a black turtleneck jumper instead of a mortarboard and gown.
8. What environmental issues are of most concern to you personally? Why?
As a member of the generation that will probably bear the brunt of global warming, I would urge everybody to actually start doing all the little things that you tell your neighbours you do while you’re at dinner parties: get energy saving bulbs, have shorter showers, get on the green power grid, take public transport, recycle, use grey water, use recycled paper and timber products … get sustainable. My biggest concern is that people aren't making these simple changes in their lifestyle because it doesn’t affect them right now and they figure somebody else will do it for them.