Two students hold up jeans and another holds up a poster.

VIU Graphic Design students create Earth Day window displays

April 17, 2024
Author: Rachel Stern

Students use eco-friendly and recycled materials in their designs

VIU Graphic Design students are working with businesses in the Old City Quarter to create window displays to celebrate Earth Day. The window displays showcase the businesses’ sustainable products and are made from eco-friendly or recycled materials.

Earth Day is April 22 and this year’s theme is Planet Vs Plastics, which advocates for the phase-out of all single-use plastics and a 60 per cent reduction in the production of all plastics by 2040.

“A lot of the businesses we’re working with have an eco-conscious approach,” says Melissa Watt, who is working on a window display as part of a team for Sartorial Boutique.  “Our program addresses sustainability and how designers can raise awareness and influence big-scale habits and choices within society.

She says in previous classes they dove into the lifecycle of everything involved in a design process including where the power comes from for their computers.

“There are so many aspects to be environmentally aware and conscious of for a world experiencing climate trouble,” says Melissa. “It’s sometimes overwhelming but it is also exciting to identify all the different areas you can make a difference in and how our work, not just the product, but the process, can contribute to sustainability.”

While the art project teaches students about sustainability and eco-conscious design choices it’s also giving them valuable work experience. For this project, they are working as part of a team with a client instead of as an individual designer.

“It’s a good experience on how to work with a client,” says Nancy Pagé, a VIU Graphic Design Professor. “Our students are keen on doing work that has some kind of ethical perspective and I’ve heard them say they’re so happy to be helping someone in the community.”

The window displays are up until shortly after Earth Day. The project includes six businesses from the Old City Quarter and the VIU Campus Store. The student teams each had $200 to create the displays, which included funding from the Old City Quarter Association, the businesses and the Graphic Design department. 

The Old City Quarter businesses involved in the project include:

  • Kitties & Cream
  • White Rabbit Coffee Co.
  • Vancouver Island Refillery
  • Elite Image Design & Print
  • Sartorial Boutique
  • Roden & Associates, and
  • The VIU Campus Store

“This project was executed very well! Nancy and her students were incredible to work with and I'm impressed with the end results,” says Kelly Whiteside, Owner of Kitties & Cream. “Reactions from our customers and people walking by have been positive so far, too. I hope to see similar initiatives in the future!”

Kiara White, a fourth-year Graphic Design student, is responsible for the creation of the logo for The Display Project. In addition to her logo design, Kiara manages the project's Instagram account. Kiara also heads this project as part of her directed study, under the guidance of her instructor, to earn elective credit. 

“Her diverse contributions highlight her dedication and expertise as an up-and-coming designer,” says Nancy.

James Reilly holds up an octopus made out of fabric.

James O’Reilly

James O’Reilly is creating the display for Vancouver Island Refillery, which aligns with this year’s Earth Day theme. He says the business is working to reduce plastic use because it allows people to refill their containers for personal care and household cleaning products.

“The Refillery focuses locally and they try to help educate people on how and why they should refill and they’re trying to break barriers and stigmas around the idea of refilling products being too expensive. It’s cost-effective.”


Emma sits next to a display of pens.

Emma StLaurent

Emma StLaurent is working on a display for the VIU Campus Store. This is the first time Emma is working with a client and she’s enjoying aspects of the creative process.

“This is one of the first graphic design projects I’ve ever done on this big of a scale. Working with the client and their budget, for me, I’ve found it to be an informative process. I’m enjoying the process of communicating with the client about any changes or having the freedom to do what I want because my client is quite open to anything in our process.”

Emma is making her window display from used markers. Her display brings attention to TerraCycle, which is a company that recycles hard-to-recycle materials, such as pens and markers. There are several TerraCycle pen recycle drop-off locations on campus.

“One of the most important parts of the project is to make sure everything is renewed, reusable and recyclable, so we’re not buying new things,” says Emma.

One students holds a pair of jeans with fabric cut out of it and another holds a poster.

Celia Brand

Celia Brand says working with a client has been a good learning opportunity for her. She’s working with Melissa on Sartorial Boutique’s window display. The team is using recycled denim for most of the display.

“It’s a good learning opportunity,” says Celia. “The sustainability aspect is important and combining the two ideas the brand and Earth Day theme. And Sartorial works so much on sustainability and ethical sourcing.”

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