The AIGA and The Living Principles: What’s in a Number?

If you’re regularly reading these posts, then you are by now used to seeing reference codes popping up in the bodies of several articles which look like this: (EN.01). These codes reference The American Institute of Graphic Arts’ (AIGA) Living Principles Scorecard.

Created in 2010, the Living Principles was created for the sole purpose of giving graphic designers a means of creating and measuring integrated sustainability-oriented design. The old business adage goes, “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it” and with the Living Principles framework, designers can now measure and therefore manage their sustainability-oriented work.

Why not just make a punch list or point people to specific vendors? The simplest reason is variety. There are many different places in the world with different climates, infrastructures, ruling parties, and access to resources. Each designer or design team has to be able to work with what they have on hand. This not only gives everyone a fighting chance, it also drives innovation.

The reference codes are straightforward. The two letters before the period (.) refer to one of four “streams.”

EN = Environment
PE = People
EC = Economy
CU = Culture

The two numbers after the period (.) specify a “principle” within each stream (principles for “Environment” stream shown).

EN.01 = Behaviors
EN.02 = Creation
EN.03 = Durability
EN.04 = Disassembly
EN.05 = Supply Chain
EN.06 = Waste

On the actual scorecard, each principle gets a 0 to 4 rating (4 being the highest). The designer filling out the scorecard then tallies the results of each stream, and the results are interpreted together. The system is simple enough to get on the first try, yet complex enough to allow for some advanced projects.

Despite promotion from the AIGA and funding from several sources, the Living Principles has not been widely adopted. In 2015, a large scale restructuring of the AIGA, left the Living Principles volunteer support group disbanded and the LP website taken down. At the time this post was written, the future of the Living Principles within the greater AIGA was “being assessed.”

For a comprehensive look at the Living Principles, go to the reference page on the AIGA site here. To see how the Living Principles work with a variety of projects, check out the AIGA’s bi-yearly (Re)Design Awards here.

If you want to download a copy of the Living Principles Framework, Roadmap and Scorecard, you can get it from us (LivingPrinciples_Framework). We have posted it without permission, but it is doubtful the AIGA will object. Everyone like good PR.