Case study: Branding for a new virtual event

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Case study: Branding for a new virtual event

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.

A bright collage graphic of faces and office tools

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.

A selection of fonts

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.

A collage of t-shirts with USGBC Live branding

Will you be attending USGBC Live events this year?

Explore USGBC Live

USGBC brand refresh wins award

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USGBC brand refresh wins award

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.

Our social graphics really focused on reminding our audience that while we have a new look, we stand by the same mission.

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.

We paired Benton Sans and Benton Modern Display together. Both typefaces feature organic shapes and subtle transitions of stroke width, which creates a less severe, humanist tone of voice.

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.

We developed a full set of hand-illustrated iconography to set our brand apart from others.

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.

See more about our winning brand refresh

Designing the Greenbuild booth for a great attendee experience

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Designing the Greenbuild booth for a great attendee experience

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.

Greenbuild 2018 booth layout graphic

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.

Greenbuild 2018 booth layout graphic

USGBC booth for Greenbuild 2018 graphic

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?

Reasons to visit the Greenbuild booth in 2019

USGBC’s new LEED v4.1 advertising campaign

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USGBC’s new LEED v4.1 advertising campaign

The next generation of LEED is here, and the USGBC Studio team is celebrating with a new advertising campaign. This required us to head to the drawing board and come up with a design that would showcase the new features that LEED 4.1 has to offer.

The series is meant to showcase LEED projects, and the message focuses on how LEED helps these projects deliver on their goals. Those goals include materials, performance, energy, health and human experience, interiors, carbon and simplicity.

We focused on combining color, typography and photography to create a dynamic ad layout that walks the viewer through the story. We want viewers to feel connected and inspired by these projects and how they have used LEED to create better spaces for occupants, the community and the environment.

LEED v4.1 ad campaign

The headlines are quick, the photos are energizing, and the call to action encourages you to seek out more information about LEED v4.1 on your own time. Overall, we wanted the ad campaign to inspire and motivate.

The photography comes from various project teams and offers a realistic look at current LEED projects. These project teams are the true leaders in green building.

Continue to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to learn more about our new campaign. Let us know what you think of our new advertisements—and feel free to share your feedback in the comments below!

See other LEED ad campaigns

Creating cohesive branding for local events

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Creating cohesive branding for local events

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.

USGBC community event branding guides

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.

Learn more about how we brand USGBC events

Branded tote bags as a fun holiday party giveaway

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Branded tote bags as a fun holiday party giveaway

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.

Branded tote bags for the USGBC holiday party

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.

Screen-printed tote bags for the holiday party at USGBC

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.

See more USGBC design projects

Designing LEED print ads for international audiences

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Designing LEED print ads for international audiences

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.

Print ads for LEED in China

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

View more recent design for international projects

Design case study: The SITES AP ad campaign

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Design case study: The SITES AP ad campaign

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!

See more design case studies at USGBC