As we all pivoted away from in-person events in 2020, the biggest challenge, from a design perspective, was to create an immersive experience that still felt personal and engaging.
In 2021, USGBC launched an all-new platform called USGBC Live. USGBC Live combines the expertise of its large community of green building leaders with data, insights, and stories from the thousands of LEED and green building projects around the globe. The event will share insightful and engaging conversations about the future of buildings, cities and communities.
What’s unique about USGBC Live is that it will be held virtually from June 8–10—but it is also coupled with monthly touchpoints designed to further your expertise and keep you up to date on the latest and greatest in green building, year-round.
When approaching this year-round event platform as a design problem to solve, I really wanted to think about how to create an evergreen event look that felt fresh and new. It was important to ensure the platform also felt inclusive and personal to all of our audience members. I want people to log in to USGBC Live and see themselves in the branding, feel connected to the colors and be inspired by the content.
The logo combines a familiar brand font of USGBC’s with a new contemporary digital typeface that pays homage to Eric Gill’s original designs. It is designed by Monotype Studio designer George Ryan. USGBC Live’s color palette pulls bright colors from nature and features two blues—according to color psychology, blue is associated with trustworthiness and reliability. USGBC Live should feel familiar to USGBC’s audience, but introduce a new, bright, exciting palette.
The USGBC Live brand focuses on collage elements and layers of information. During 2020, we all were faced with the challenge of working and learning from home, or adjusting our routines because of the pandemic. People are digesting information differently now—we are scrolling more, sharing links, jotting down ideas and Googling everything. The USGBC Live brand look represents journal note-taking, ripped headlines, cutout photography and layers to create depth. Black-and-white photography creates the feel of newspapers and magazines.
The brand experience is immersive, and comes complete with a digital toolkit that offers web badges, social media graphics, Zoom backgrounds and merchandise to represent USGBC Live to an attendee. Virtual events can feel isolating, but I really want USGBC Live to bring the green building community together—even if we can’t be together in person.
Will you be attending USGBC Live events this year?
In February, USGBC launched a brand refresh to remain relevant and communicate how our organization is evolving. The refresh included a new font combination, clear usage guidelines for our formal USGBC seal, a staff wordmark and internal identity to unify colleagues, hand-illustrated iconography to set us apart in the industry, and a simplified color palette that communicates stability and loyalty.
We entered our brand refresh into Graphic Design USA’s (GDUSA) American Inhouse Design Awards competition and took home the award in the Branding + Identity Programs category! As a designer, it feels really great to have something received well from your internal team and colleagues, but it’s also so important to gain insight and feedback from the design community. USGBC’s project was selected from more than 6,000 entries. I am a big advocate for entering projects into competitions to see how you stack up next to winners, or other organizations with similar values.
GDUSA’s American Inhouse Design Awards are the original and premier showcase for outstanding work by in-house designers. These awards are an incredible example of how creative professionals who have a deep and intimate knowledge of institutional identity, culture and objectives are perfectly positioned to deliver effective and authentic communication. Working in-house, for a designer, can feel creatively limiting, but such designers have such a well-rounded understanding of their organization and brand, and that can be seen in award-winning work.
In-house designers are resilient, and I believe this showcase proves that. This award is an accomplishment for my whole team—a collaborative team working together to advance our organization’s goals every day.
In the Branding + Identity Programs category, we won next to other in-house groups like WebMD Health Services, Robert Half Global Creative, PenFed Credit Union Marketing, Navy Federal Credit Union, Nichols College and GAF/Creative Design Services. Check out all of the winners across all categories on GDUSA’s website.
For Greenbuild 2018 in Chicago, our creative team had the opportunity to totally redesign our presence on the expo hall floor. We designed a 70-by-60-foot (4,200 square feet) booth that showcased both the USGBC and GBCI brands. The ideal booth design needed to have a longevity of three years.
Our main goal was to build brand awareness for USGBC and LEED, as well as each of the GBCI brands (Parksmart, PEER, SITES, and TRUE) and their various products and services. We also wanted to be sure to provide an inviting space for attendees to learn about each of the brands, for staff to hold sales meetings with customers and for local USGBC community members to network. Part of this goal also included providing a designated space for our GBCI Certification Work Zone.
We started to design the booth from the basic floor plan, and then moved into the actual design of the physical space. One side of the space was devoted to our GBCI Certification Work Zone—this meant we included tables and chairs for meetings, a check-in desk and planters to clearly divide the space. We split the other space into two sections, one focused on USGBC’s merchandise, with a counter and shelving, and the other devoted to community meetings and networking.
We selected all the interior furniture and carpet. We also created a specific space to showcase Arc, and a spot to mount the plaque display. The entire booth space was framed by recycled cardboard walls.
Our next step was to design the recycled cardboard walls and focus on messaging. The interior facing walls included our USGBC logo, the LEED logo and messaging from our overall mission, such as “Better buildings are our legacy.” The goal was to create an open space showcasing the brand, without creating too much stimulation to detract from presentations or meetings. We also included mounted TVs as a way to incorporate digital signage and video within the booth.
The panels facing the exterior of the expo hall featured messaging focused on our current membership campaign. We wanted to show off that we are a diverse community of real estate leaders, governments, developers, contractors, architects, engineers, educators, innovators and companies working to build healthy, efficient and equitable buildings and communities for all.
Seeing the booth go from sketches to the final product was such a cool experience! We worked on-site at Greenbuild to interact with customers, meet with members and provide further information about all of our products. Watching the space being used as suggested, and seeing people actually experience our brand in person, was rewarding for me.
This year at Greenbuild Atlanta, we will be using our booth again—but every year, we get a chance to improve the experience. In 2019, we will have new flooring provided by Interface, new digital visuals, Arc demonstrations and information, opportunities to meet the experts, merchandise for purchase and some giveaways. Will you be attending Greenbuild this year?
As a designer, one of my biggest fears is getting tunnel vision. So how do I ensure I am up to date on current design trends? Look. At. Everything. I mean everything! I take time out of every day to read or look over at least one thing that gives me insight into current branding, design, font or logo trends in the world. It helps influence my daily design and keep me on my toes. It’s easy to fall into a rut—especially when you work in-house.
Let me share a few resources that have helped me track trends so far in 2019.
Adweek is an amazing source of news and insight across platforms including print, digital, events, podcasts, social media and so on. I have a BFA in advertising design, and I love reading about how to create meaningful brands. I need this kind of content to help me do my job better. Adweek’s recent article on branding pointed out some really key points we need to remember at USGBC for 2019:
“…brands need to accomplish three things: delivering the products and services they say they’re going to deliver, improving people’s lives and playing a role in society.”
99 Designs is a global creative platform that makes it easy for designers and clients to collaborate and connect. It’s a great resource for quick reads about current design trends. “10 Creative Branding Trends for 2019” talks about how to present yourself as a brand and effectively use branding trends. I pulled out a few main trends to remember as we take USGBC forward this year:
The branding trends for 2019 divert into two definitive and opposing paths, “futuristic” and “nostalgic,” and consumers use these trends as signals to determine which side your company falls into.
Serifs—those little tags at the end of letter strokes—have been a big “no-no” for modern, minimalist branding in the past. But they’re making a comeback in 2019, perhaps because of a return of old-fashioned styles, but mainly due to their unique ability to communicate a brand’s personality.
Minimalism: even less details, even more negative space, combined with flashy colors and bold typography, etc.
Pentagram is the world’s largest independently owned design studio. Their work includes graphics and identity, architecture and interiors, products and packaging, exhibitions and installations, websites and digital experiences, and advertising and communications. Pentagram is a fantastic source of current design, and it comes from all 23 partners. I recently looked at an environmental digital installation in Bangkok that can help influence our presence at conferences and events.
As designers, we have a responsibility to see what else is out there. It’s how we do our job better. Picasso once said that “good artists borrow, great artists steal,” and I think that’s something to remember. Looking at current trends should influence your work. You shouldn’t actually be stealing designs, but it’s important to focus on where design is moving, so you aren’t left behind.
Being a meaningful brand can seem like a daunting task, but by looking at everything around you and reading varying perspectives on trends, you can educate yourself to avoid tunnel vision.
Our local USGBC communities host events all over the country, but we know that we have three very large events each year. GreenerBuilder, Impact and Rocky Mountain Green are our highest-profile USGBC community events. Our marketing team decided that creating short style guides for these three events could help direct the development of assets such as the website, signage, on-site materials and other collateral. We wanted these events to have some cohesiveness across the board, to give them their own look and feel apart from our other national and international USGBC events.
For example, we included color swatches to direct the look and feel, as well as guidance about which logo lockups are appropriate for web and print use. There is a section that suggests photography—this is meant to be general support, so community staff know what to look for from their photo banks or stock resources.
Another element we like to focus on is social media graphics. Since these events are high-profile for our communities, we want them to be able to promote the events on social media, when appropriate. We usually generate a handful of graphics and guidance about which platforms to share on. We also provide some presentation slide templates and examples. Given that each event will always have presentations, we want to equip the community with all the tools they will need to create a cohesive event.
While each community event has its own style guide, we designed these as a cohesive trio of suggestions to ensure these events felt connected.
For the USGBC office holiday party in 2017, we booked a screen printer to be live on-site printing tote bags for staff. To go along with that, the events team needed the design team to create the designs for printing.
We wanted to keep these playful and fun, and brainstormed some cute phrases related to our green building mission to use in our designs. We went with “totes sustainable” and “we’ve got green building in the bag” on two of our designs. Our entire creative team played a part in this project, and all three of our designers contributed final designs.
We were able to select the ink color used for printing, and then the screen printers took it from there! They were on-site all afternoon and able to print the totes right there for staff at the party. This was a really fun project to see come to life—a different take on branding and a nice way to take our mission in a playful direction.
If you have a party, fundraiser, or team-building event coming up, think about doing a custom project like this to give attendees something cool to take home. Also, the bonus: reusable tote bags for everyone! View the entire project.
Last year, the USGBC design team was tasked with creating a new print ad series for both China and India. We had a goal to make LEED feel more localized, indigenous to China and India, and integrated with the issues the country is facing.
The ads would focus on various issues that LEED addresses, including energy, indoor environmental quality and water/waste issues. The key audiences we wanted to reach included building facility managers, LEED clients, manufacturers of building materials and LEED APs, just to mention a few.
As I designed these pieces, I wanted to focus primarily on photography, with typography as a secondary design element. We had statistics that covered issues about water, air quality and energy use, so I wanted to use these a typographical elements rather than just supporting copy on the ad.
First, I had to source photos that felt relevant to the locations, as well as to our audience. I chose a bright and bold color palette to complement the photography and help the copy stand out as an overlaid design feature.
In our final designs, I really wanted people to take away the line “a better future for India” or “a better future for China.” The goal I focused on was showing that LEED-certified buildings can help address some of the main issues both locations are facing daily.
The final ads we have been running show off high-quality photography and bold typography and create a dynamic layout for viewers. If you want to read more about our efforts in both India and China, visit gbci.org.
This spring, our USGBC design and marketing team decided to switch gears with our current SITES advertising campaign. SITES is used by landscape architects, designers, engineers, planners, ecologists, architects, developers, policymakers and others to align land development and management with innovative sustainable design.
Because SITES touches so many different people, we decided to focus on people themselves, to drive home the connection to the professional. Currently, the SITES team is highly focused on growing the credentialing program. They are interested in driving registration for the SITES AP exam, and the new print ad needed to support that goal.
The SITES AP establishes a common framework to define the profession of sustainable landscape design and development and provides landscape professionals with the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge, expertise and commitment to the profession.
When designing, I always start by pulling as many photography options as I can before moving into layout. I pulled 16 different photos, and then started laying out the ad with the given copy. I went through three design rounds before landing on two final layouts that connect with the SITES audience.
Next, I decided the photos and typography could stand alone, without any additional design elements to tell the SITES AP story. The ads are simple and concise, and the message is clear. Check out the project over on our Work page!
USGBC’s LEED logo has become an iconic symbol of achievement in sustainability across the world. So, you may ask, why would we need to create a supplemental wordmark design? We set out to create a wordmark that could serve as a visual reference to the LEED rating system that we could share freely with our community, collaborators and others. Our intent is for them to be able to use our distinctive wordmark when referencing LEED in presentations, educational content and other applications.
We went through a design process, and covered a few rounds of possible designs. The main goal was to have the wordmark remain easily recognizable as the LEED brand, but not look too similar to our existing program logo. We wanted to make a departure from our standard colors associated with LEED, and also create a slightly more playful mark that didn’t feel as formal as the existing program logo.
The final design we landed on mimics the beveled font that our program logo uses for LEED. We wanted to maintain that clean, simple feel, but also introduce a new palette of colors that felt less formal. The three colors we used are Pantone 7416 C, Pantone 7751 C and Pantone 7690 C. The LEED wordmark must always appear in its standard colors or in one color.
Two versions of the wordmark are available. The full version of the wordmark includes “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design” below the acronym “LEED.”
This project almost felt like a rebrand, because we had such an established personality for LEED already. We really had to tackle what this wordmark should mean, and how we wanted people to use it.