The Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) is one of the world’s most effective environmental action organizations. They use law, science and the strength of 1.3 million members and online activists to protect the planet’s wildlife and wild places, and to ensure a safe, healthy environment for all living things. In January 2007, NRDC brought its hard-hitting environmental advocacy to the Midwest where the organization is working to lead the region to a clean and sustainable future.
To celebrate the release of Reverse Effect NRDC hosted a fundraising event. The organization approached estudiotres to design a unique and striking gala invitation that would generate interest and conversation, while announcing a special component of the evening – a onetime only performance of Carpocalypse!, an original sketch comedy about Asian carp, performed by The Second City.
Using the art of origami as inspiration, estudiotres created both an invitation and a save the date announcement that seamlessly incorporated the Asian carp theme while helping to distinguish NRDC’s fundraising event from competing social events happening in Chicago.
The Midwest Brand
This was a challenging assignment. We needed to make sure that the new Midwest Council identity, a subset of the larger NRDC brand, was unique, visually interesting and yet still recognizable within its “mother ship,” in this case an internationally recognized logo with strict identity standards.
Our solution was to embrace the obvious – utilize NRDC’s existing color and typography scheme in an innovative way to ensure that the new logo would look right at home with the national brand.
We started by creating a color field that incorporated NRDC’s color standards. We based all subsequent designs on the understanding that they would need to work within the confines of this color field. Our next step was to create a name typography that would compel the audience to associate it with NRDC’s highly recognizable logo.
Our next step was to create a name typography that would force the audience to “follow” the name to the NRDC’s highly recognizable iconography.
After a few brainstorming sessions with NRDC staff, we decided to create an environmentally conscious snowman. The illustration depicted a snowman in a winter landscape, but with an environmental twist. The snowman’s traditional coal eyes would be replaced with a “greener” alternative – cucumber slices – so as to reflect NRDC’s stance on the destructive practices of the coal industry. The tag line read: “Natural Resources Defense Council: Creating a Greener, Cleaner Vision for the Midwest.”
The vector based illustration utilized NRDC’s existing brand standards, including the organization’s two primary PMS colors and asterisks in the organization’s proprietary typeface to create the trees in the background forest. The design received praise from environmental groups all over the Midwest, including this article on treehugger.com.
After the success of the 2009 holiday card, estudiotres won the bid to design and illustrate the organization’s 2010 and 2011 holiday cards. Always mindful of NRDC’s strict branding standards, estudiotres quickly gained a reputation within the organization’s upper management as a creative, reliable and professional partner. We became their go-to agency for all of design and illustration needs.
In 2010, NRDC was eager to create a holiday card that reflected their work on energy efficiency in the region, while also evoking holiday cheer. estudiotres decided to use this opportunity to reinvent the traditional gingerbread house by equipping it with the latest energy efficient technologies – in candy form. The successful illustration included: chocolate solar panels, a candy cane wind turbine, a mint flavored green roof, and a chocolate wafer rain barrel. The tagline, an elegant quote from author and naturalist Henry David Thoreau, read: “What’s the use of a fine house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on?”
After pitching several scenario ideas and rewrites, estudiotres creative writer, Aaron Metz sold the team at NRDC on a cartoon depicting an Asian carp dressed in holiday garb, standing under mistletoe at a party. The visibly nervous carp stares at woman attempting to show his romantic interest. The caption reads: “Now that he had conquered the Chicago River, Carl set his sights higher up the food chain.”
The positive response to the holiday carp card was overwhelming. Chicago Tribune Business Reporter, Julie Wernau tweeted, “Asian carp holiday card from NRDC et al wins the prize for awesomeness.”