In 2021, New York City, adopted a 80×50 emissions reduction plan as part of the goal to address the climate crisis and become the most sustainable city in the world. When the effort’s signature program, NYC Accelerator, needed a new brand to match its mission, the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability turned to branding and marketing agency SMAKK to craft an identity and launch strategy that could build on the iconic NYC brand and position it to become a sustainability movement. NYC has a rich history of icons and pictograms that includes legendary designer Massimo Vignelli, and SMAKK’s work seeks to add to that history while promoting change through a new set of official sustainability-themed symbols.
NYC Accelerator works with thousands of buildings across the five boroughs to build a cleaner future by lowering pollution and carbon emissions, offering everything from financial, technical and legal assistance to training, access to contractors and incentive awards. This multi-level resource meant that the branding solution needed to be flexible enough to scale across the parent brand and its five offerings – with each targeting a different audience.
SMAKK responded by creating a colorful identity system to enhance the iconic New York City parent brand originally created by Wolff Olins — one that felt familiar while still differentiating from the hundreds of other city departments and programs that use the parent mark. The new brand is designed to more easily adapt to future additional services. SMAKK also led naming for both the parent NYC Accelerator brand (previously called “Retrofit Accelerator”) and its five sub-brands.
“We wanted the brand to be emblematic of a better, brighter future for NYC, hence the arrows pointing upwards – a graphical callback to the original NYC mark,” explains SMAKK Founder Katie Klencheski. “We also made sure to use bright, bold colors and visual cues that are inspired by approachable, democratic mark-making. New York has a long history of city signage and visuals that encourage all to join in as a community and we wanted to honor that while also taking people on a journey to a hopeful, sustainable future for NYC.”
SMAKK also created a range of supporting materials, including communications templates, digital properties and content, as well as complex messaging and a communications strategy for reaching a diverse audience that included everyone from major developers and “mom and pop” landlords to grassroots neighborhood organizations and massive, sophisticated institutional building owners like universities and corporate campuses.