GreenerU uses design to communicate complex topics to diverse audiences

Design is a powerful tool in GreenerU’s arsenal, and one that we leverage to tackle one of the biggest obstacles in our field: communicating about sustainability.


GreenerU uses intuitive data visualizations, accessible language, and our design expertise to create effective communication tools that can extend beyond our expertise into topics such as public health, research, and academic programming.

Design as buy-in for big ideas

After leading sustainability and climate action planning processes for several clients throughout our 15-year history, GreenerU began doing in-house design in 2020. The first was UMass Chan Medical School’s Climate Action Plan 2021–2026, which included visual comparisons of the School’s comparison within the UMass system and, ultimately, alignment with the Commonwealth’s goals.

Next, we tackled Portland Community College’s Climate Action Plan 2021: Resiliency, Equity and Education for a Just Transition. An immensely complex and comprehensive plan—and one of the first colleges to set Scope 3 emissions reduction goals, particularly for commuter and business travel—PCC coupled its ambitious goals with visual takeaways that could be pulled from the plan and used in PowerPoint presentations.

Subsequent climate action planning processes have been coupled with GreenerU’s graphic design work to help formalize and sell ambitious goals to the institution’s communities, including at Concord Free Public Library, Boston Collegiate Charter School, University of Rochester, The Fenn School, and most recently, Historic New England’s Casey Farm.

Good design is key to communication

In 2023, the University of Texas San Antonio (UTSA) approached GreenerU to help create three sustainability-related documents. One of these was a design standards document outlining how contractors and designers can execute their new sustainability key performance indicators process. The Office of Sustainability’s goal with this document was to create fun and interesting visuals to help present the dense content necessary for explaining this complex system. Working in collaboration with the Office, GreenerU developed a design style that allowed for the large amounts of text necessary in this type of document but presented the information in a playful, on-theme manner.

Below are two pages of this document, both of which illustrate the visual style and theme GreenerU used to develop it. The same style was used throughout the other two documents GreenerU created for UTSA.

We’ve got you seeing STARS

One of the key challenges for institutions following an AASHE STARS submission is: what now? After six months of hard work collecting and analyzing data, many institutions don’t have the capacity to create communication tools from the valuable information contained in a STARS report. The causes for celebration and the next steps for action detailed in STARS reports represent an opportunity to engage with the campus community about sustainability.

GreenerU can take an institution’s STARS data and perform peer comparisons, formulate recommendations, and present this information in formats that are easily understood, visually appealing, and consistent with the institution’s brand. One of the most frequent deliverables requested is a report that either calls attention to highlights or to areas that need a boost. In early 2022, GreenerU worked with the University of Texas Arlington (UTA) to create one such report. We wrote and designed this report to highlight UTA’s sustainability strengths and call attention to their demonstrated leadership in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. UTA’s Office of Sustainability was able to leverage this report to convince university executives to invest in creating a sustainability dashboard, interactive map, and a sustainability plan (process ongoing).

Below, you’ll see a spread from the report GreenerU generated for UMass Amherst that celebrates their achievements in operations and calls attention to the curriculum and engagement areas that took a hit during COVID-19.

To sustainability and beyond

In 2023, GreenerU’s design capabilities started to draw the attention of departments operating outside of sustainability. The Multi-Interprofessional Center of Health Informatics (MICHI) hired GreenerU to create their annual report, asking for something innovative, engaging, and on brand. This was a new challenge, as the report’s content was outside of GreenerU’s area of expertise. Meeting the challenge head-on, we worked to create a product that did MICHI’s work in the world of health informatics justice. Below is an excerpt of the completed annual report detailing MICHI’s work using a combination of text and graphics intended to make the report accessible to everyone.

Additionally, GreenerU worked with the University of Texas at Arlington’s Research Institute (UTARI) on creating an annual report for 2023 that highlighted the institute’s groundbreaking and innovative activities—all while staying on UTA’s brand.

Good design is not just a frill at the close of a project. It’s an essential tool to highlight and celebrate your accomplishments, visually illustrate complex ideas, and get buy-in for ambitious goals and strategies. Contact us today to start a conversation—we would love to spiff up the look of your hard work with a great visual design.

  Back to Articles

The owner of this website has made a commitment to accessibility and inclusion, please report any problems that you encounter using the contact form on this website. This site uses the WP ADA Compliance Check plugin to enhance accessibility.