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Designing mascots to make climate change feel personal.

Project Overview



Design a solution that inspires a new, large audience to become climate change activists.





Adobe XD, Photoshop, Illustrator

Sketching, storyboarding, secondary research, personas, journey maps, UI design, design for behavior change, storytelling, illustration, photo editing, graphic design, mock-ups, augmented reality, web design

Climate Designers, Marc O'Brien

7 weeks, Fall 2020

Watch a video of my presentation on Bedrock here.

Problem Statement

Problem Statement


This project left me a lot of room to pursue my own interests. I started to wonder how climate change could become extremely known and relevant. Two things occurred to me:

1. Everywhere that I see climate change mentioned, the context is overtly political (specifically, left-wing).

2. How do you gain supporters for a cause that you can't see? Human "mascots" (like Greta Thunberg) seem to rally dissenters equally as much as they rally supporters.

I started to think about how other abstract and intangible concepts are represented. I came up with a couple of key examples that informed the direction of my design: Smokey Bear (an actual bear, and more commonly today, a well-known character) who promoted fire safety, and Darrel the Barrel (an oil barrel that promoted keeping Texas litter-free). Both campaigns were wildly successful by putting a face and a name to a boring concept. With that, I formulated a HMW... question.

How might we make the issue of climate change feel personal and apolitical?




It’s no secret that the negative impacts of climate change are severe and imminent – every day that we don’t take action is affecting our future. To quote the United Nations"Climate Change is the defining issue of our time and we are at a defining moment … Without drastic action today, adapting to these impacts in the future will be more difficult and costly."

It’s a global problem that will affect everyone, everywhere, on some level. We all have a stake in the well being of our planet and all of the beings that live on it. Likewise, we needs all hands on deck to adequately address climate change. So if we realize that one of the keys to mitigating the effects of climate change is getting more people on board to solve it, why is so much of the messaging seen from climate change activist circles so divisive, exclusionary, and biased?

A cursory glance at climate-related postings on social media show that climate change has become a politicized issue, and it should come as no surprise that this is one of the root causes of climate change denial.

Quotes showing the perception of some climate change activists on social media.


It is clear that people have certain assumptions about who does and doesn't support climate change. I feel that many environmentally friendly products are designed for people who are already supportive of climate action. I wanted to know what Americans' attitudes toward climate change actually were. What I found was surprising – in almost every state, the majority of respondents to a survey conducted by Yale felt that global warming would not personally affect them, despite many people professing belief in global warming. Largely, people think of global warming or climate change as problems, but problems that affect someone else in some faraway and un-relatable land. How do we change that?

Stats on Americans' beliefs relating to global warming.




We’re going to create climate activists and mitigate the effects of climate change... by not talking about climate change. Why? Because political discourse has turned these two words into buzzwords that can immediately shut down a conversation once they’re spoken.


How to create more climate change activists? Stop talking about "climate change."


From a guest lecturer from, I learned about behavioral levers that can be used to encourage people to adopt new behaviors. I identified three levers that would be of particular importance in my project:

Behavioral levers that I used in my project.


Initially, I tried to think of unique ways to use mascots. You see them on signs and in ads, but what else could they do? I created a series of storyboards with potential concepts.

Initial concept sketches for the project.


I had the chance to go to an event for sharing work and getting feedback from other design students, so I showed my concepts and learned what people thought of all of them. I tested my concepts with two college students who have an interest in climate change. Based on their feedback, and critique from my professor, I modified concepts for a second round of storyboards.