The damaging effects of the climate crisis are far-reaching, requiring everyone to do their part to help build a better future. Leading the way is New York City, which in 2012 adopted an 80x50 emissions reduction plan as part of the goal to address the climate crisis and become the most sustainable city in the world. When the effort's signature program, NYC Accelerator, needed a new brand to match its inspiring mission, the Mayor's Office of Sustainability turned to SMAKK to craft an identity and launch strategy that could build on the iconic NYC brand and position it to become a sustainability movement.
Unlike other cities where transportation creates the lion's share of air pollution, in NYC buildings account for 80% of the city's emissions. Accordingly, NYC Accelerator works with thousands of buildings across the five boroughs to build a cleaner future by lowering pollution and carbon emissions, offering everything from financial, technical and legal assistance to training, access to contractors and incentive awards. This multi-level resource meant that the branding solution needed to be flexible enough to scale across the parent brand and its five offerings - with each targeting a different audience.
SMAKK responded by creating a colorful identity system to enhance the iconic New York City parent brand originally created by Wolff Olins -- one that felt familiar while still differentiating from the hundreds of other city departments and programs that use the parent mark. Incorporating various symbols and iconography, the new brand is designed to more easily adapt to future additional services. SMAKK also led naming for both the parent NYC Accelerator brand (previously called 'Retrofit Accelerator') and its five sub-brands.
"We wanted the brand to be emblematic of a better, brighter future for NYC, hence the arrows pointing upwards - a graphical callback to the original NYC mark," explained SMAKK Founder Katie Klencheski. "We also made sure to use bright, bold colors and visual cues that are inspired by approachable, democratic mark-making. New York has a long history of city signage and visuals that encourage all to join in as a community and we wanted to honor that while also taking people on a journey to a hopeful, sustainable future for NYC."
SMAKK also created a range of supporting materials, including communications templates, digital properties and content, as well as complex messaging and a communications strategy for reaching a diverse audience that included everyone from major developers and 'mom and pop' landlords to grassroots neighborhood organizations and massive, sophisticated institutional building owners like universities and corporate campuses.
"Working on a project so integral to helping the city we call home (and the greatest city in the world) lead the charge in fighting the climate crisis was an honor and privilege," Klencheski added. "Nothing is more important than solving the climate crisis, and helping NYC show the world that it's possible to systematically do this through such a groundbreaking project was an amazing opportunity."