Behind the Scenes: T-Shirt Design

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Behind the Scenes: T-Shirt Design

When you design projects, it’s generally easy to get behind a simple process: you make a draft, send off the PDF, wait for some comments, and eventually it’s done. Designing clothing can be a little different. We recently needed to produce a t-shirt for our Green Apple initiative.

There were a few requirements: it needed to be timeless, needed to use as few colors as possible, and needed to include the logo. Otherwise we had creative freedom to produce anything we wanted.

I started by searching for inspiration. I went through some blogs, illustrations, band t-shirts, popular clothing lines, etc. I focused on Green Apple’s slogan, “Where we learn matters”, and the fact that they care about healthy, safe and efficient schools. I pulled all of these visual inspirations into my project notebook in Evernote, that way it was easy for me to locate later.


After gathering some inspiration, I moved onto some mockups. One thing that is really important when designing clothing, is to mockup your design on a template that is very similar to your final product. Sometimes a design looks really awesome on your white computer screen… but when you lay it out on the front of a t-shirt you realize it just doesn’t work. I always like to provide real life mockups!

We got some feedback on the mockups, and the result was a printed t-shirt that turned out great! Take a look at the final product:


Photos thanks to Ana Ka’ahanui.

What’s on Your Desk?

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What’s on Your Desk?

What’s on your desk directly influences your work habits and creativity. What does your workspace look like? Are you neat or are you messy?

As a designer, what’s on my desk is pretty important to my daily workflow. I’ll skip the boring stuff like my laptop (duh), or my monitor for larger scale projects. I’ll move right into the top 5 things I have to have on my desk to have my workday be a success:

  • Water bottle — Hydration is a pretty big deal in my daily workflow. I sit at my desk for hours sometimes, and if I don’t have a water bottle, I end up super dehydrated! The water bottle is a good reminder to take a break, and take a sip.
  • Inspirational art — I mean, I think this is a given as a designer. Looking at other art is always inspirational, and can get the creative juices flowing. But for me, I have had one piece of art on my desk for a few years straight now: my “Focus” print. I bought it a while back because the colors are calming and the typography is inspiring.
  • Lip balm — This goes hand in hand with my hydration obsession. My lips are always chapped, and without lip balm at the ready I’d forget lip balm even existed.
  • Headphones — Between blog posts, infographics, presentations, podcasts, and Instagram videos, my day involves a lot of moving pieces. Which also means I’m switching mediums constantly! I always need my headphones to listen to sound bites real quick, or edit a video and get it posted ASAP. Plus, listening to music in between those projects doesn’t hurt.
  • Sticky notes — I know I wrote a post a while ago about using Evernote to digitally take notes… But that doesn’t mean I have totally abandoned my love for handwritten lists. I am always writing stuff down: inspiration, hex color codes, quotes, grocery lists, recipes — you name it.

Are there things you keep on your desk to help make your workflow successful?

Top Design Resources for Non-Designers

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Top Design Resources for Non-Designers

So. Your boss asked you to create some graphics. And you thought, “Awesome! This is just the creative outlet I have been searching for.”

One problem: you are not a designer. And have never been a designer. In fact, you have never designed anything in your life! Unless your 4th grade diorama counts as “design”…

Never fear. Thanks to all the other people out there in your same situation, and the growing number of real, live designers out there, tons of resources exist. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Lynda — An awesome online learning resource for anyone. They offer online tutorials about how to learn graphic design, video production, photography, and so much more. Some courses require a paid membership, but lots of them offer a handful of free tutorials to get started!
  • 99u — Making ideas happen. A great resource for taking what ideas you have, and making them come to life. When you aren’t in a design role, but need to make designed projects happen, sometimes you need a little help. They also provide local resources in case you need to bounce ideas off someone!
  • Creative Market — Awesome resource for fonts, graphics, illustrations, and pre-made designs. Everything found on the site is designed by independent creatives around the world. Most items are pretty cheap, but some are free! Make sure to click the Free Goods tab at the top to check them out.
  • Adobe Color — If you’re not a designer, sometimes the idea of selecting a color palette seems daunting. With the Adobe Color Wheel, they do the hard work for you. Just select a color, and decide if you’re looking for monochromatic or complimentary — Voila! HEX and RGB swatches at your fingertips. There is even an option to develop a color palette from a photograph.
  • Canva — Canva is an easy way to develop graphics if you don’t have access to a real, living, graphic designer. Canva helps you create designs for web or print: blog graphics, presentations, Facebook covers, flyers, posters, invitations and so much more. Oh, and did I mention it’s totally free?
  • Dribbble — Looking for inspiration from other designers out there? Dribbble is your #1 inspiration hub. Dribbble asks the question: What are you working on? It’s an awesome place to see concepts, in progress work, and final products. But not only does it feature work from designers, it’s also a great community to connect with. You can comment, ask questions, or reach out to different artists.
  • infogram — So you need to make an infographic. But all you have are numbers. No problem. Infogram helps you pick infographic templates, and create a final product that is compelling and interactive. It’s data visualization made very, very easy.

What are some of your favorite design tools out there? If you don’t have access to an in-house designer, how do you solve your design problems?

Meet Amy

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Meet Amy

Everyone: Meet Amy.

Amy is a member of our innovative Studio team. She does graphic and web design for all of the moving pieces that make up USGBC.

10 Questions with Amy:

  1. Where were you born? Richmond, Va.
  2. Favorite city to visit? Savannah, Ga. — my college city!
  3. Describe your role on the USGBC Marketing Team. I support our marketing team by designing graphics, presentations, one pagers, slide templates, printed collateral, and sometimes landing pages.
  4. Go-to Karaoke Song: Mr. Big — The Next To Be With You
  5. Do you believe in Aliens? Yes, there’s definitely something else living out there.
  6. Zodiac sign: Aries — go rams.
  7. How do you get to work everyday? Since I recently moved to the H Street Corridor in Northeast DC, I’ve started walking to work! It’s about a 3.5 mile walk, but it’s really beautiful. I also have a bus I sometimes take that drops me off right in front of our USGBC headquarters!
  8. Favorite ice cream flavor: Dolce de Leche
  9. Best movie: Fear — 1996 thriller staring Reese Witherspoon and Mark Wahlberg.
  10. Favorite guilty pleasure TV show to watch: Real World. Or really any show on MTV.

Our innovative Studio team is comprised of marketing strategists, digital analysts, designers and developers. This supergroup is responsible for making sure that USGBC communicates with the world in the most effective and compelling way while maintaining our standards of sustainability. The only way we can accomplish this is through collaboration. Glad you guys took the time to meet Amy — stay tuned to meet the rest of our talented team members!

Meet Kunal Gulati

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Meet Kunal Gulati

Everyone: Meet Kunal.

Kunal joined our supergroup to help create better narratives and stories to market our products better. Kunal is our go-to guy for all things PEER and WELL related. He also has a pretty good handle on GBCI and its products.

10 Questions with Kunal:

  1. Favorite city to visit? It has to be a cross between Istanbul and Berlin. Istanlin? Berstanbul?
  2. Go-to Karaoke Song: Larger than Life, Backstreet Boys. Especially closer to the night, where all the love songs start to take over.
  3. Best movie: I have The Matrix memorized. From Laurence to Keanu.
  4. How do you contribute to USGBC’s sustainable efforts in your personal life? I spend hours in front trash receptacles, deciding which one to choose based on what I am attempting to dispose. Sometimes this process takes days.
  5. Most visited website: The front page of the internet, Reddit.
  6. Favorite guilty pleasure TV show to watch: I may or may not watch The Amazing Race (all 26 seasons)
  7. Favorite pizza toppings: Since moving to New York, it’s only grandma style pizza. Basil, tomato, mozzarella.
  8. Best book you’ve read in the past year: “I am Zlatan” offers a candid commentary behind a Swedish Soccer player. Excellent read.
  9. Favorite season: Shorts and sweater weather is better weather.
  10. Are you a morning person, or night owl? The most productive things get done when everyone else is asleep.

Our innovative Studio team is comprised of marketing strategists, digital analysts, designers and developers. This supergroup is responsible for making sure that USGBC communicates with the world in the most effective and compelling way while maintaining our standards of sustainability. The only way we can accomplish this is through collaboration. Glad you guys took the time to meet Kunal—stay tuned to meet the rest of our talented team members!

Tools to Enhance Productivity Series: Evernote

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Tools to Enhance Productivity Series: Evernote

I used to rely on handwritten to-do lists exclusively. I thought that because of the writing aspect of the note, I was more likely to remember the things on the list. Lies. I would totally forget things, and I would spend way more time perfecting my handwriting for said to-do list instead of actually accomplishing the things on the list!

Enter Evernote.

I have been using Evernote since June of 2008 when it was released. Since then, it has only improved my workflow. Evernote works across all my devices—so if I created a note on my work laptop, I can still check it out at home on my iPhone or iPad. Evernote is a program that collects all of my things—literally a collection of all of my collections. I mean, their slogan is “Remember Everything™”. I am constantly making notes, to-do lists, project descriptions, visual inspirations, websites to visit at a later date, notes for a presentation, or real time notes during conversations and feedback.

Evernote does 3 really amazing things that my life in the office easier: Allows me to attach files to any note, ability to drop images or visuals into any note, and the checklist function.

File Attachments: When I take notes on a project, there are usually supporting documents. That can range from old PDFs to reference, to Excel spreadsheets full of numbers and specs. I like for this all to stay in one place to reference when needed. Evernote allows me to copy and paste the project guidelines text into a note, and also attach any supporting files. That way when I go back to begin the project, I can easily access the PDF or spreadsheet I need!

Image Collections: As a designer, 50% of the project usually involves researching and nailing down a visual direction. For me this can mean pulling tons of inspiring photos from blogs, websites or videos and collecting them in one space to reference during the project. With Evernote, I can add any images to a note and view it as I read the project description or list in the note. This makes inspiration for every project super convenient and organized.

Checklist Function: Like I mentioned before, the handwritten to-do list has been an epic failure in my work life. But thanks to Evernote, I can create checklists right in my notes. I keep a notebook specifically full of weekly to-do lists. Every week I generate a note that includes a to-do list that shows all my projects due within the week. I can even highlight them to make sure I don’t skip over them! It’s great for me because every week it is inevitable that I’ll add a handful of urgent projects to my to-do list. My Evernote list is ever-changing, and easy for me to update on the fly. I can be at lunch, pull out my phone and add an urgent project while I pay for my overpriced salad!

Without Evernote, I would not have an efficient way to track my projects, add visual inspiration and keep my project files in one place! And this way, I can access it anywhere, anytime. Evernote has enhanced my productivity in the office—you should check it out!

Do you have ways you enhance productivity in your home life or work life?

Design Cheat Sheet

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Design Cheat Sheet

As a department, we’re always trying to make it easy to approach us and work with us. And because we’re involved in projects across our entire organization, it means we get to work with a lot of different people.

We always want to make sure that we’re all on the same page, so sometimes we create helpful tips and tools for our colleagues to reference. One thing that’s tough is making sure everyone understands design terms. What do you call this project? What do you call this image? How do I know what kind of timeline to expect? Below is a quick list we’ve put together explaining some of our most commonly used terms in our department!

  • Slide Deck: A group of slides that share a common theme. (Keynote, PowerPoint, or PDF)
  • Slide: A singular element for insertion into an existing Keynote, PowerPoint, or PDF presentation.
  • One-pager: An easy-to-read, one-page document used to give an overview of a subject.
  • Infographic: An illustration designed to make data and statistics easily understandable at a glance. Infographics quickly communicate a message, simplify the presentation of large amounts of data, show data patterns and relationships, and highlight changes in variables over time.
  • Data Visualization: Numerical or abstract data illustrated to aid in understanding the meaning of data; compares quantitative data. (ex: graphs + charts)
  • Template: A file used as a guide to make other similar documents.
  • Article Feature Image: A visual representation of the article content. (670 x 308 px)
  • Hi-res Image:  At least 300 dpi, but keep in mind size of the final project when selecting Images. A good rule of thumb is to aim for over 1,000 px by 1,000 px if possible.
  • Image Permissions: Images pulled from the web cannot always be used for print or digital documents. It’s best to leave image finding up to us, but we always appreciate examples of what you’re looking for!
  • Logo: A simple, but strong graphic symbol that complements an aspect of a business/product or service, sometimes combined with a wordmark
  • Wordmark:  A text treatment with unique typographic elements. The representation of the word essentially becomes a symbol of the program/entity.

Within our department, we’re using these words everyday to describe current and future projects. But it’s important that everyone understands what’s going on. So we like to ensure that we’re all on the same page! Do you have any cheat sheets you share around the office to help your colleagues out?

Want to reference these terms in the future? Download our design cheat sheet.

Meet Annie Butler

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Meet Annie Butler

Everyone: Meet Annie Butler.

Annie is a member of our innovative Studio team who specializes in managing marketing and communications projects. She has the capacity to juggle endless projects at once, manage deadlines and expectations and, most importantly, she keeps us all on track.

10 Questions with Annie

  1. Describe your role on the USGBC Marketing Team: I’m the marketing project manager for the team, which means that I assign and review all the projects coming in, as well as manage projects myself. It’s always fun to see something that starts as an idea or vision come to life as a beautiful (and functional) marketing piece.
  2. If you could sing one song on American Idol, what would it be? I would like to think I could do a pretty sweet rendition of the Tina Turner version of “Proud Mary.”
  3. Do you believe in aliens? I guess anything is possible?
  4. If you could meet any celebrity, who would it be? Elvis. A trip to Graceland is on my travel list.
  5. How do you contribute to USGBC’s sustainable efforts in your personal life? I walk to and from work every day, and try my best to put my trash into the correct bins after lunch.
  6. Best movie: “Rear Window”
  7. Who inspires you? My parents, they’re the best.
  8. Favorite quote or mantra: “My hope still is to leave the world a bit better than when I got here.” – Jim Henson
  9. 3 things you’d take with you to a deserted island: My Kindle, some SPF 30 sunscreen and a bottomless box of cereal.
  10. Most visited website for inspiration: Feedly, it collects all of my blog loves in one place for easy reading.

Our innovative Studio team is comprised of marketing strategists, digital analysts, designers and developers. This supergroup is responsible for making sure that USGBC communicates with the world in the most effective and compelling way while maintaining our standards of sustainability. The only way we can accomplish this is through collaboration. Glad you guys took the time to meet Annie — stay tuned to meet the rest of our talented team members!

Getting Creative in the Office

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Getting Creative in the Office

In our department we spend a lot of our time creating schedules, setting deadlines and responding to emails. But that isn’t all we do! We also schedule time to be creative and inspire each other.

Our social media videos take a lot of creativity—and a lot of hands—to create. Not only do we want to produce visually interesting videos for our social media followers to enjoy, but we also want to focus on LEED, green building and the sustainable market. It’s hard to stay current in our industry and also be creative. That’s why collaboration is so important. When we need to create a video for social media, sometimes it means spending a couple hours in our Knowledge Center creating. We brainstorm, cut and paste, and shoot together. It’s super satisfying to have a final product that everyone had a hand in creating. Our #USGBCfamily knows the importance of taking time out to get collaborative and creative; all in a day’s work!


Since we have taken on the challenge of producing more and more videos for our social media followers, we have realized how much people enjoy them. Everyone has busy schedules these days, and this means our content we put out there needs to be easy to quickly take in. Our videos are a quick way to celebrate an event, announce something or educate our followers. How do you use videos and social media to effectively communicate? Don’t forget to check out our Vine channel, and Instagram to see the latest video creations!

Meet Megan Coyle

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Meet Megan Coyle

Everyone: Meet Megan Coyle.

Megan is one of our super talented team members who specializes in design and web development. She’s been with USGBC since November, and we’ll go ahead and admit it: we’d be lost without her.

10 Questions with Megan

  1. Describe your role on the USGBC Marketing Team:
    I work on our web projects—building microsites, developing user experiences, and researching different digital platforms for future projects. 
  2. What city were you born in?
    Fairfax, VA
  3. If you could sing one song at Karaoke Night, what would it be?
    “Don’t Stop Believin” by Journey
  4. Zodiac sign:
    Gemini, which is very fitting considering I sort of have a twin (but not really). I was born on my brother’s 2nd birthday, and we are both artists and lefties.
  5. How do you contribute to USGBC’s sustainable efforts in your personal life?
    In my free time I repurpose materials to make artwork. Specifically, I reuse old magazines by cutting them up and turning them into works of art with a process I call “painting with paper.” I’m also a fan of gadgets that help me live a more environmentally friendly lifestyle. For example, I use a Nest to make sure my home is more energy efficient and I always wear my Fitbit—when I notice I haven’t walked enough on any given day, I’ll walk instead of drive somewhere.
  6. Are you a cat or dog person?
    Dog person
  7. Best book you’ve read in the past year:
    Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris
  8. Right or left handed?
    Left handed
  9. 3 things you’d take with you to a deserted island: 
    Sketchbook, complete poems of Emily Dickinson, snorkel gear. However, if this hypothetical deserted island has electrical outlets and Wi-Fi, this would be the list: tablet (for reading and digital sketching), laptop, snorkel gear (even with gadgets, I might as well explore the area since I’m stuck on an island).
  10. Biggest pet peeve as a web developer (go ahead, nerd out on this one):
    When a website doesn’t follow best practices—like overusing iframes, inline styles instead of external style sheets, outdated html tags that aren’t supported in modern browsers, having every link open in a new tab, not properly coding media queries, and overcomplicating a page with lots of columns of text and clashing color schemes. Another big pet peeve is trying to design something that works/looks right in Internet Explorer (also known as one of the most frustrating browsers ever).


Our innovative Studio team is comprised of marketing strategists, digital analysts, designers and developers. This supergroup is responsible for making sure that USGBC communicates with the world in the most effective and compelling way while maintaining our standards of sustainability. The only way we can accomplish this is through collaboration. Glad you guys took the time to meet Megan—stay tuned to meet the rest of our talented team members!