For the last fifteen years, the City of Portland’s Office of Sustainable Development has offered one-to-one sustainability consulting to help businesses of all sizes who embrace the principles of sustainability through its BEST (Businesses for an Environmentally Sustainable Tomorrow) Business program. Each year, OSD recognizes its most improved members in its BEST Awards. In the spring of 2008, OSD began expanding the program from a loose toolkit into a standalone, one-stop resource which will ultimately involve a storefront-type facility, and asked Pinch to help.

Working with a typically lean governmental budget and a leaner production schedule, we addressed three large areas: a governing visual identity for the program, which had to be derived from OSD’s existing graphic standards; a full-featured Web site with integrated content management tool; and collateral for the launch and awards event. The difficult part – given the agency’s mandate to consume as little as possible in its marketing effort – was keeping the scope small without sacrificing the message.

Program logos

Because OSD draws from a large stable of suppliers, we couldn’t be sure that we’d be able to nursemaid every project associated with the program to completion. Accordingly, we sought to stay as close as we could to the agency’s existing graphic standards, which were developed by another firm. For the Center’s visual identity, we drew colors from the approved “business” palette and overlapped them in a rational yet seemingly organic way, suggesting the Center’s broad areas of expertise and the overlapping disciplines its members bring to it. From these forms, we reversed the Center’s initials out in a condensed industrial grotesk, redrawn to match the proportions of the rectangles.

For the Awards component, we removed the rectangles and applied the colors to the initials themselves, fattening them up a bit and adding an inline to aid legibility and to reference the white of the Center’s identity. We placed the letters on a field of radiating spokes shaped to suggest the salvaged cogs that OSD uses for the actual awards.

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Web development

Build 1.0 of the site came together in just over two weeks, which is a ridiculous turnaround achieved in large part due to the efforts of Christine Llobregat, our client, who had been an information architect in a previous life. We received special dispensation from City of Portland’s IT department to use a content management system other than the City’s; we selected ExpressionEngine (from Portland’s Ellis Labs) because it offered the right balance of simplicity and power: it deploys like a blog platform, but packs the power of the larger open-source packages. Our friends at Substance lent us their top gun, Cory Duncan, to help with the presentation coding; we know our way around a stylesheet, but this guy is insane and insanely fast.

We’re currently working on an expansion of the site, but the launch version is fully-operational and well worth a look. You might sign up for the program at the same time.

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Outreach brochure

Using the visual language we developed for the Center’s Web site, we executed a simple, letter-sized brochure for use by the Center’s agents in direct-response and face-to-face recruiting efforts.

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Administrative collateral

OSD doesn’t like to use a lot of paper. The only paper component executed for the Center was a simple letterhead (and a postcard shilling for the launch event, shown on the next page); we also designed a templating system to integrate with the client’s existing reporting system, which is built on an implementation of Microsoft Access.

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Event materials

Postcard and banner designed for the launch of the Center.

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Awards event materials

For the 16th BEST Awards, we were tasked to provide the usual awards banquet gewgaws while again consuming as few raw materials as possible. Besides the banners shown at right, we eliminated the printed program in favor of a – if you’ll pardon the expression – Powerpoint presentation (center) running unobtrusively throughout the event. For a commemorative tchotchke, we collected used copy paper from OSD and had it cut down into notepads (unused side forward), the covers of which were printed with event information and BEST propaganda (left), providing a tangible example of useful reuse and the agency’s philosophy of lateral thinking to each of the event’s guests.

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