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.

Julian Meehan

Young leaders from around the world are gathering at the United Nations Headquarters in New York Saturday to address arguably the most urgent issue of our time. The Youth Climate Summit comes on the heels of an international strike spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, who arrived in New York via emissions-free sailboat earlier this month.

Translated from Swedish, "berg" means "mountain," so it may feel fated that a young woman with Viking blood in her veins and summit in her name would be at the helm. But let's go out on a limb and presume Thunberg, in keeping with most activists, would chafe at the notion of pre-ordained "destiny," and rightly so. Destiny is passive — it happens to you. It's also egomaniacal. Change, on the other hand, is active; you have to fight. And it is humble. "We need to get angry and understand what is at stake," Thunberg declared. "And then we need to transform that anger into action."

This new generation of activists' most pernicious enemy is denial. The people in charge — complacent politicians and corporation heads who grossly benefit from maintaining the status quo — are buffered from real-life consequences of climate change. But millions of people don't share that privilege. For them, climate change isn't an abstract concept, but a daily state of emergency, whether it comes in the form of "prolonged drought in sub-Saharan Africa…devastating tropical storms sweeping across Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific…[or] heatwaves and wildfires," as Amnesty International reportsare all too real problems people are facing on a regular basis.

RELATED: Greta Thunberg urges people to turn to nature to combat climate change

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

Millions of people in over 150 countries across the globe marched for lawmakers and corporations to take action to help stop climate change on Friday, September 20.

The Climate Strikes were organized by children around the world as an extension of the of the "Fridays for Future" campaign. Students have been walking out of classrooms on Fridays to speak out about political inaction surrounding the climate crisis.

"We need to act right now to stop burning fossil fuels and ensure a rapid energy revolution with equity, reparations and climate justice at its heart," organizers say.

There's no doubt the visual images from the marches send a powerful message to those on the ground but especially those watching from around the world. GOOD's own Gabriel Reilich was on the scene for the largest of the Climate Strikes. Here are 18 of the best signs from the Climate Strike march in New York City.

Keep Reading Show less

September 20th marks the beginning of a pivotal push for the future of our planet. The Global Climate Strike will set the stage for the United Nations Climate Action Summit, where more than 60 nations are expected to build upon their commitment to 2015's Paris Agreement for combating climate change.

Millions of people are expected to take part in an estimated 4,000 events across 130 countries.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via Apple

When the iPhone 11 debuted on September 10, it was met with less enthusiasm than the usual iPhone release. A lot of techies are holding off purchasing the latest gadget until Apple releases a phone with 5G technology.

Major US phone carriers have yet to build out the infrastructure necessary to provide a consistent 5G experience, so Apple didn't feel it necessary to integrate the technology into its latest iPhone.

A dramatic new feature on the iPhone 11 Pro is its three camera lenses. The three lenses give users the the original wide, plus ultrawide and telephoto options.

Keep Reading Show less
via I love butter / Flickr

We often dismiss our dreams as nonsensical dispatches from the mind while we're deep asleep. But recent research proves that our dreams can definitely affect our waking lives.

People often dream about their significant others and studies show it actually affects how we behave towads them the next day.

"A lot of people don't pay attention to their dreams and are unaware of the impact they have on their state of mind," said Dylan Selterman, psychology lecturer at the University of Maryland, says according to The Huffington Post. "Now we have evidence that there is this association."

Keep Reading Show less