Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, with more than 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide in the short term. It’s estimated that at least a quarter of today’s global temperature increases are caused by methane from human sources.
Yet methane—an odorless gas emitted from many sources, including oil drilling, agriculture, wildfires, and more—is notoriously hard to track, making its real impact likely underestimated by the scientific community.
Pentagram partners Abbott Miller and Giorgia Lupi, along with their teams, have developed a comprehensive new brand identity, data visualization system and website for MethaneSAT, a soon-to-be-launched satellite that will orbit the Earth’s atmosphere and measure methane emissions. An initiative of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), one of the world's leading environmental non-profits, MethaneSAT represents a significant innovation in environmental monitoring and the fight against climate change. The satellite will locate and measure methane emissions almost anywhere on Earth, producing data to help us identify, manage, and reduce methane emissions.
To begin the project, the design teams wanted to address the core communication issue at the heart of the brief. Climate change as a topic enjoys broad awareness, but articulating the science and environmental triggers behind it is difficult. While most audiences are familiar with CO2, there is far less knowledge about methane and its disastrous impacts. New messaging was developed with the EDF team that would better communicate methane’s potency, positioning methane reduction as the “fastest way to curb climate change.” To heighten its immediacy, copy is typeset in all caps using A2’s Record Gothic, an assertive and declarative condensed sans serif that makes the brand’s objective clear. The type can be stacked to highlight specific words, or alternatively outlined depending on the message’s emphasis. The color palette is constrained, using primarily stark black and white, to allow full-bleed, documentarian photography to take center stage.
Data visualization is also a component of the brand’s visual language. To communicate both the urgency of the problem and the possibility of methane reduction, simple but visceral data visualizations were developed to help to educate the reader on the science behind MethaneSAT’s mission. These visualizations are artfully layered into photography, directly connecting the numbers to real-world impacts. Purposefully simple, to amplify the messaging without extraneous detailing or labels, the visualizations can be deployed in websites, social media, presentations, and more.
In addition to the visual identity, Pentagram also created the visual design, information architecture, and interaction for MethaneSAT’s new website. The site takes a story-first approach, presenting a long-scroll with animated data visualizations.The Pentagram team worked closely with EDF experts to craft a story which would appeal to insiders and non-experts alike. As MethaneSAT prepares for its public launch, the website will serve as the primary front door for press, policymakers, and industry representatives to learn about the satellite and support its mission.