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Journey to Zero

The carbon crisis may end up as the defining struggle of our time. But so far the discourse has been a decidedly wonky mix of policy and engineering. As part of its preparations for the 2011 launch of the Leaf, its all-electric vehicle, Nissan asked TBWA to craft a campaign that would express an artier, more reflective side of the shift to a non-carbon future.

The digital division of TBWA, in turn, recruited Richard Saul Wurman, founder of the TED Conference and author of 81 books to help create Journey to Zero, a Web site where graphic designers, architects and other creative types reflect on the nature and meaning of post-carbon mobility.

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Journey to Zero launched last week with six contributors, including an opening statement from Wurman:
"The challenge posed by resource depletion, pollution and climate change cannot be solved by technical innovation alone. Breakthroughs in zero emission vehicles are only part of the solution. We need a cultural shift to accompany the technological shift. This is a challenge that can only be solved by fundamentally changing the way we think about mobility. It is a shift that needs to be addressed at city hall, at the local mall, in our own garage, and in our own minds. It's a conversation that will demand the best thinking from artists, activists, designers, teachers, students and anyone else who recognizes this tipping point in history."

Wurman will post a series of contributions—text, graphic, and video—over the coming few years, with the next installment arriving before the end of March. One can only imagine how much money Nissan put on the table for such an extended adventure.

Journey to Zero contains a special cursive typeface, called Type Zero, created by the Swedish graphic designer Markus Eriksson "to give the conversation and the cause a unique look with identifiable visual glue." In other words, he has given the carbon struggle its own graphic identity. He invites readers to download the typeface and use it.

Universal Everything, a British filmmaker, contributed an animated music video in which a ball rolls its way through a metaphorical journey "to a zero emission world without noise, inefficiency and waste."

How do we adapt city spaces for the electrical vehicle era? Ferda Kolatan and Erich Schoenenberger, a pair of Swiss architects who started the Brooklyn design firm su11 created a canopy-like art installation where visitors can plug cars and other devices into a structure for a zero emission charge. "It's a positive, exciting environment that promotes the zero emission vehicle and makes it a desirable object," Schoenenberger said.