How This Great Design Is Bringing World Change to the Masses

"You can't fight for your rights if you don't know what they are." #projectliteracy #globalgoals

More than 150 world leaders are expected to attend the U.N. Sustainable Development Summit this weekend at the United Nations’ headquarters in New York City. There, they’ll formally adopt their to-do list for the entire planet—a momentous agenda referred to as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), intended to spur the international community into action and solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2030.

It’s a long list, featuring 17 goals written in the dense language of geopolitics. Truly mobilizing people means communicating this plan clearly and succinctly to as many of them as possible. But how to do that when there are cross-cultural divides, language barriers, and 757 million people around the world who cannot read or write?

Enter Jakob Trollbäck, graphic designer and chief creative officer of design and branding firm Trollbäck + Company. A little more than a year ago, Trollbäck was tasked by Richard Curtis, founder of Project Everyone, with branding the Global Goals in order to help make them famous—so famous that every single person on Planet Earth would encounter and understand them.

Trollbäck’s job, then, is essentially to communicate at a level beyond language. It’s particularly fitting, given that the root cause of many of the issues being tackled by the SDGs is global illiteracy. Without the ability to read or write, people everywhere are more prone to crime, infant mortality, gender inequality, poverty, and infectious diseases.

Though he thinks all the goals are important, Trollbäck says that, “In a way, everything starts with ‘Goal 4: Quality Education’. A civilized, intelligent, and humane society can only be built with education. It creates insight and empathy and stands in the way of intolerance and abuse. Just look at the systematic way that the Taliban and ISIS are trying to eradicate education, and you understand what’s in the balance.” Which might be why the U.N. has been so ambitious with one of the targets Goal 4 needs to hit: “By 2030, ensure that all youth and a substantial proportion of adults, both men and women, achieve literacy and numeracy.”

It’s a complicated objective that organizations like Project Literacy are already tackling, and it’ll take commitment from people all over the world to accomplish. Step 1 has to involve reaching out to illiterate individuals about their options in a straightforward, immediately comprehensible way. That’s why an awareness campaign of this magnitude is so important—by leveraging widespread radio spots, ads before movies, toolkits for educators, and other surprising placements, Project Everyone actually has a chance of reaching everyone, no matter their circumstances.

Creating universally understood iconography has been a long and delicate process. Trollbäck likens it to a negotiation, as he and the U.N. nudged the goals closer and closer to clarity. From the very beginning, he says, “There was almost a unanimous consensus that this was way too much. There was huge pressure to get the goals down to something that was more easily graspable.” Trollbäck and team tried grouping similar goals together by color or theme, but ultimately, they determined abstract categories were a cop-out. The best path forward was allowing each goal to stand on its own through a clear visual message that literally anyone could comprehend.

“The first time I presented the icons—even though some were very temporary—was sort of a revelation for everybody, even the leaders at the U.N. who before had been feeling the whole thing had been complicated by all the negotiation, and that 17 goals was almost a ridiculous number. Everyone on board had sudden excitement for the project—like, okay, we can do this.”

It’s certainly been an intensive endeavor—but always worth it, says Trollbäck. “Before this project, I had been to the U.N. building once before, as a tourist 20 years ago. To go in there and get a name [plate], that was pretty extraordinary... I’m not going to say that our work here is going to be saving the world by itself, but [whenever the pressure of the project nearly overwhelmed us], I would say, ‘Here’s what’s going to happen. Your kids are going to say, tell me the story again. The story of when you saved the world!’ You’re doing this for them.”

In the above slideshow, get Trollbäck’s perspective about how the language and imagery for the Global Goals project has become clearer and more universal over time. Sketches courtesy Trollbäck + Company.

via Collection of the New-York Historical Society / Wikimedia Commons

Fredrick Douglass was born into slavery in 1818. At the age of 10 he was given to the Auld family.

As a child, he worked as a house slave and was able to learn to read and write, and he attempted to teach his fellow slaves the same skills.

At the age of 15, he was given to Thomas Auld, a cruel man who beat and starved his slaves and thwarted any opportunity for them to practice their faith or to learn to read or write.

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via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

On April 20, 1889 at the Braunau am Inn, in Upper Austria Salzburger located at Vorstadt 15, Alois and Klara Hitler brought a son into the world. They named him Adolph.

Little did they know he would grow up to be one of the greatest forces of evil the world has ever known.

The Hitlers moved out of the Braunau am Inn when Adolph was three, but the three-story butter-colored building still stands. It has been the subject of controversy for seven decades.

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

The building was a meeting place for Nazi loyalists in the 1930s and '40s. After World War II, the building has become an informal pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis and veterans to glorify the murderous dictator.

The building was a thorn in the side to local government and residents to say the least.

RELATED: He photographed Nazi atrocities and buried the negatives. The unearthed images are unforgettable.

For years it was owned by Gerlinde Pommer, a descendant of the original owners. The Austrian government made numerous attempts to purchase it from her, but to no avail. The building has served many purposes, a school, a library, and a makeshift museum.

In 1989, a stone from the building was inscribed with:

"For Peace, Freedom

and Democracy.

Never Again Fascism.

Millions of Dead Remind [us]."

via Jo Oh / Wikimedia Commons

For three decades it was home to an organization that offered support and integration assistance for disabled people. But in 2011, the organization vacated the property because Pommer refused to bring it up to code.

RELATED: 'High Castle' producers destroyed every swastika used on the show and the video is oh-so satisfying

In 2017, the fight between the government and Pommer ended with it seizing the property. Authorities said it would get a "thorough architectural remodeling is necessary to permanently prevent the recognition and the symbolism of the building."

Now, the government intends to turn it into a police station which will surely deter any neo-Nazis from hanging around the building.

Austria has strict anti-Nazi laws that aim to prohibit any potential Nazi revival. The laws state that anyone who denies, belittles, condones or tries to justify the Nazi genocide or other Nazi crimes against humanity shall be punished with imprisonment for one year up to ten years.

In Austria the anti-Nazi laws are so strict one can go to prison for making the Nazi hand salute or saying "Heil Hitler."

"The future use of the house by the police should send an unmistakable signal that the role of this building as a memorial to the Nazis has been permanently revoked," Austria's IInterior Minister, Wolfgang Peschorn said in a statement.

The house is set to be redesigned following an international architectural competition.

via Chela Horsdal / Twitter

Amazon's "The Man in the High Castle" debuted the first episode of its final season last week.

The show is loosely based on an alternative history novel by Philip K. Dick that postulates what would happen if Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan controlled the United States after being victorious in World War II.

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via Mike Mozart / Flickr

Chick-fil-A is the third-largest fast food chain in America, behind McDonald's and Starbucks, raking in over $10 billion a year.

But for years, the company has faced boycotts for supporting anti-LGBT charities, including the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

The Salvation Army faced criticism after a leader in the organization implied that gay people "deserve to die" and the company also came under fire after refusing to offer same-sex couples health insurance. But the organization swears it's evolving on such issues.

via Thomas Hawk / Flickr

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes explicitly announced it was anti gay marriage in a recent "Statement of Faith."

God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.

The Paul Anderson Youth Home teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is "rage against Jesus Christ and His values."

RELATED: The 1975's singer bravely kissed a man at a Dubai concert to protest anti-LGBT oppression

In 2012, Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, made anti same-sex marriage comments on a radio broadcast:

I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, "We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage". I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

But the chicken giant has now decided to change it's says its charitable donation strategy because it's bad for business...Not because being homophobic is wrong.

The company recently lost several bids to provide concessions in U.S. airports. A pop-up shop in England was told it would not be renewed after eight days following LGBTQ protests.

Chick-fil-A also has plans to expand to Boston, Massachusetts where its mayor, Thomas Menino, pledged to ban the restaurant from the city.

via Wikimedia Commons

"There's no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are," Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told Bisnow. "There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message."

RELATED: Alan Turing will appear on the 50-pound note nearly 70 years after being persecuted for his sexuality

Instead, the Chick-fil-A Foundation plans to give $9 million to organizations that support education and fight homelessness. Which is commendable regardless of the company's troubled past.

"If Chick-Fil-A is serious about their pledge to stop holding hands with divisive anti-LGBTQ activists, then further transparency is needed regarding their deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families," Drew Anderson, GLAAD's director of campaigns and rapid response, said in a statement.

Chick-fil-A's decision to back down from contributing to anti-LGBT charities shows the power that people have to fight back against companies by hitting them where it really hurts — the pocket book.

The question remains: If you previously avoided Chick-fil-A because it supported anti-LGBT organizations, is it now OK to eat there? Especially when Popeye's chicken sandwich is so good people will kill for it?


Oh, irony. You are having quite a day.

The Italian region of Veneto, which includes the city of Venice, is currently experiencing historic flooding. Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro has stated that the flooding is a direct result of climate change, with the tide measuring the highest level in 50 years. The city (which is actually a collection of 100 islands in a lagoon—hence its famous canal streets), is no stranger to regular flooding, but is currently on the brink of declaring a state of emergency as waters refuse to recede.

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