The Canary Project, an environmental nonprofit, tapped Pentagram’s Michael Bierut to design an ad campaign that raises awareness about green jobs and climate change in Cleveland.

The campaign, called Green Patriot Posters, used bold graphics and simple language to bill environmental advocacy as an act of patriotism--an attempt to appeal to folks across the political spectrum. The ads were placed on 80 buses in 2008.

Graphic design graduate students Mark Alcasabas and Virginia Sasser designed promotional materials to attract funding for UMAR, an after-school boxing program in West Baltimore.

Taking inspiration from the visuals of the boxing gym and West Baltimore in general, the designers created a 32-page tabloid newspaper that features big black-and-white photographs and text set, appropriately, in Jonathan Hoefler’s Knockout typeface.

The tabloid was called "No Hooks before Books."

The graphic design studio MTWTF teamed up with the Urban Landscape Lab at Columbia University to develop Safari 7, a self-guided tour of urban wildlife on the 7 subway line. The "safari" is aimed at teaching city dwellers about the environment they live in.

The project included making a physical map of the 7 and its diverse surroundings.

Midtown Manhattan’s Garment District is the heart of the fashion industry. But in 2007, the Bloomberg administration threatened to lift zoning laws that protect the district’s manufacturing hubs. This promotional campaign, commissioned by the Council of Fashion Designers of America, was designed to spotlight why the Garment District is worth preserving.

The campaign included a visual identity, a website, a newspaper, and a tote bag. The goal was to tell the story of the fashion industry, using clear graphics and compelling data visualizations, in hopes of convincing city officials, developers, and others to ditch the rezoning proposal.

The campaign also featured a pop-up exhibit.

Interboro Partners and Sarah Wiliams of Columbia University produced 75 infographics illustrating the fashion industry’s impact on the local economy.

The campaign was successful: The city dropped its rezoning efforts.

Public Architecture connects design-starved nonprofits with architects who’ve pledged 1% of their time to pro bono work. To promote the program’s mission, MendeDesign created "The 1% User Manual."

The manual cleverly consists of two volumes bound together inversely. One side is written for architects; the other for nonprofits.

Mende also designed Public Architecture’s visual identity.


World-Changing Brand Design That Works: 5 Case Studies

The new book Designing for Social Change is an inspiring collection of projects that prove graphic design isn’t all corporate logos and glossy page layouts.

So you want to change the world. But all you’ve got is a graphic design degree and an exquisite knack for frothy page layouts. No problem. In Designing for Social Change: Strategies for Community-Based Graphic Design, author Andrew Shea ticks off 10 strategies for navigating your own socially relevant design project.

Some of these are common sense (identify the community’s strengths, promise only what you can deliver). Others perhaps less so. For instance, Shea calls on designers to "confront controversy," which at first might sound too, well, confrontational. People don’t want some outsider to sweep in and start howling about what’s wrong with them. But Shea insists that tackling sensitive issues—misinformation about predatory lending in poor neighborhoods, say—is the designer’s job and will ultimately help generate better ideas. Here are some of the strategies that the projects above use:

  1. Build Trust. No Hooks Before Books was a promotional campaign for an after-school boxing program in West Baltimore. At first, graduate graphic design students Mark Alcasabas and Virginia Sasser volunteered to do a quick redesign of the program’s flyer. Then they started to bond with the kids, teachers, and trainers. Soon, they’d earned enough trust to whip up other promo materials, including a crisp 32-page tabloid newspaper aimed at attracting donors.

  2. Promise Only What You Can Deliver. "Avoid trying to solve all of the community’s needs," Shea writes. The narrower your scope, the better. The creators of Safari 7 wanted to teach city dwellers about the natural environment they live in—which could’ve been a huge undertaking. Instead, they whittled down their idea to something they could manage with limited time and money: a self-guided tour of urban wildlife on the 7 subway line in New York. By MTWTF and Columbia University’s Urban Landscape Lab.

  3. Prioritize Process. Shea urges designers to follow a standardized design process no matter how messy the project gets. For Made in Midtown, a campaign to preserve midtown Manhattan’s declining Garment District, the Design Trust for Public Space laid out a scope, budget, and timeline for the project, and stuck to it. This was crucial because city officials were threatening to lift key zoning laws that protect the Garment District’s manufacturing hubs; the Design Trust and its assorted partners had to disseminate their message fast. They created a website, filled it with vibrant data visualizations, and mounted a pop-up exhibit. The strategy worked. The city eventually dropped its rezoning proposal.

  4. Design With The Community’s Voice. Public Architecture tapped MendeDesign to create The 1% User Manual, a guide that encourages collaboration between architects and nonprofit organizations. How do you design one manual for two very different communities? Jeremy Mende’s clever solution was to take two volumes and bound them together inversely. One side is written for architects; the other for nonprofits.

  5. Immerse Yourself. Green Patriot Posters was a bus ad campaign in Cleveland that positioned environmental advocacy as an act of patriotism. The designers’ original vision was to extensively research what sustainability themes resonated with people around the city. Unfortunately, they never secured enough funding, and in the end, the ads—which went up on 80 buses—didn’t have much of an impact. Edward Morris, the project leader, says the campaign would’ve been more successful had he and his team immersed themselves in the community.

Check out our slideshow for more details. And may InDesign drones everywhere be inspired to venture out into the world and help others prosper!

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