I was brought in with Will Leivenberg to create the brand, social, web, and design guidelines for a new climate-change-focused media company, The Cool Down by former Bleacher Report CEO Dave Finnochio. Working in tandem, Will and I crafted the core brand messaging and ethos and then I set upon developing the look and feel of the brand along with a design system that could function across web, social and broadcast mediums. The idea was the build a commerce-focused social-first media company that felt modern and friendly for consumers in the face of an often daunting topic.
Angel investors include The Ringer founder Bill Simmons, former Credo Beauty CEO Dawn Dobras and music and marketing entrepreneurs Rick Farman and Richard Goodstone.
My main challenge in leading the creative direction and branding for The Cool Down was to develop an overall Brand Guidelines Kit including brand market fit, logo, color palette, custom typography, bespoke iconography, and motion broadcast package while providing overarching art direction and positioning. More than a media company or lifestyle brand, The Cool Down is a rallying cry — to cool down the earth, and ultimately to cool down the polarized climate conversation. It’s an invitation for everyone to participate, make an impact, and create a better future for us all. This inclusivity in a traditionally fragmented space was a challenge that needed to be overcome to position the brand correctly and futureproof it. This meant a robust design system that worked both in situ, digitally, experientially and on the web or social and could grow with the brand, it had to be a multi-pronged solution that would fit them for the foreseeable future.
When I look for design projects to take on, one of the most important things to me is whether or not the mission of the company really resonates with me, and that was true when it came to a chance to collaborate once again with former Bleacher Report CEO Dave Finnochio on his brand new venture, The Cool Down which focused on disrupting the climate focused media space with a new one stop platform to take the confusion and fragmentation out of the equation.
The core concept really hinges on using social and web to launch a media coverage arm that then builds an audience by which a sustainable marketplace can be created. As climate change becomes more mainstream, more money will flow toward eco-friendly goods which creates an opportunity in becoming a trusted source for climate change content, so that one day The Cool Down can be a trusted voice in sustainable purchase recommendations and climate e-commerce.
As can be seen in the launch video which I created from scratch above with some help from my old friend Mikey Navarro on the sound design, we really are at a tipping point moment with the climate change conversation, especially when you look at the geo-political factors around war, inflation and the pandemic all push us towards more sustainable forms of societal living. Having previous experience building Bleacher Report, Dave knew I could be trusted to bring the right vision.
Dave tapped me in through my former colleague Will Lievenberg who I worked with on the Just Women's Sports rebrand and the BR Media Lab and I was tasked with essentially being the de-facto creative director for the brand in those early startup stages and building up it's ethos, pillars and visual look and feel while Will developed it's messaging. Having a bit of a sandbox to enjoy experimentation and initial brand exercises, Will began researching target audiences while I figured out the finer aspects of brand design. Dave, Nina, Anna and the entire founding team at The Cool Down was a pleasure to work with and seemed to really resonate with our approach.
I created the video above, with the iconic Rage against the Dying of the light poem to showcase the mission and purpose of the brand and it acted as a north star while developing the branding, finally getting to complete the outro once I had finalized the look and feel. It does a great job of showcasing the passion and inspiration behind this company and the whole branding, it really is meant to feel like a dynamic lightbulb moment.
Since the beginning, media businesses have been in the game of building audience segments and mobilizing those audiences to do something. Most American media has learned how to mobilize audiences on various platforms to click or view ads. To buy stuff. But in the wake of the climate crisis, there are certainly better uses of our time online and purchasing power, especially in an era of click to buy and fast fashion. In order to make this daunting and often anxiety inducing subject more accessible and actionable, we needed to be very practical in our design thinking as well.
Humanizing a fragmented space meant taking a strong and evocative typeface that would have a sense of gravitas but it wouldn't be too overwhelming of a presence. It was a tough balance to strike and needed to do a lot of heavy lifting for any logo, and I felt like something more robust might be needed compared to other executions.
The Cool Down enters as a social voice that curates content and builds audience while informing them. This is the positioning of the brand and where my initial ideation began when I was coming up with logo concepts and sketching out how to bring this to life. A lot of the inspiration was drawn from meteorology and climate science, in an effort to take the more dry and less engaging informational material and turn it into a design language to help humanize the subject.
I took cues from everything from the old Walt Disney World logos which harken to the era of Tomorrowland and the monorail to the clean features of the UN logo and it's ubiquity. I also tried to take some cues from media companies like The Next Web to showcase that we are a trusted news source. However there was also something very cool about how MTV used their logo as a clipping mask for music video content to give it some flair and personality, so I was definitely also inspired by that. But beyond these other logos and media brands, I felt like there was a ton of inspiration to take from the world of fashion, sports and nature as can be seen from the moodboard below:
The colors, use of grids and typography and textures all really set the stage for the logo system I came up with, the initial mood boards were a north star for logo design. Especially when you look at the rise of gorpcore and the recent integration of practical tech wear and gear into the streetwear scene there is a ton of inspiration I felt like would work well as I developed this logo. Furthermore, the cross section of sustainability you get from brands like Patagonia and functionality from a North Face, but then also integrate the hype beast element with the Supreme collaboration just felt like the right intersection for TCD to sit at, young, accessible and ridiculously cool but with a nod towards nature and color and an empowering informational background that would reinforce this positive relationship with our consumers.
The Cool Down is aiming to reach a mainstream American audience by making the topic of climate more accessible and less focused on often-politicized doom and gloom and the system helps contextualize and act as a navigation tool along as a branding element. It has enough gravity to sit alone and look great on a hat or t-shirt but also feels like it can function on social media to help organize and inform. The pictograms were a way to help categorize news and fulfill that mission of making climate content more readily available and easy to find, I like to think of the logo almost like a compass.
The concept of the pictograms came as I wanted to make something that could really look out at the media landscape that is climate news and coverage, super fragmented and full of misinformation and political interests and make it far more easy to navigate, and because of this I think of our design system almost as a compass or an indicator. One example I kept using was the vegetarian, halal and kosher symbols on food packaging as a way to give implicit information through design that is both meaningful and functional.
The first key icon really is the globe logo to indicate the critical global nature of both the climate crisis but also The Cool Down and how it wants to be an all encompassing brand that is accessible to consumers worldwide. It was important to know and check our privilege as the nations with the largest carbon footprint and with the greatest contribution to the causes accelerating global warming. The globe helps anchor and center the logo system with the idea that we are a worldwide brand. There are not political borders when it comes to who will be affected and showcasing this in the logo felt important to me.
To the left and the right side of the globe icon you will see fire and water, the two essential elemental icons I felt like would represent the important systems that govern our planet's fragile ecosystems. For the fire logo, that really is mother nature personified and the imminent danger of the situation. The flame is a literal representation of the forest fires in California or the Tsunami's in South Asia and so many other natural disasters.
The flame icon represents how climate change is affecting the weather patterns and rare natural disasters and events that change all of our lives. The flame icon represents many of the effects of climate change out of our control that we have to deal with while the raindrop icon showcases how we can be empowered by lifestyle choices to move the needle against such seemingly helpless emotions around a topic like this.
Showcasing this on one side and then the water symbol to represent how humanity is an integral part of this system. The drip icon represents solutions and lifestyle change oriented thinking that is what makes it easy for consumers to take action against such danger and fear and doom and gloom around these disasters that can feel so outside of our control.
The fire and water icons bookend our globe as the most tangible aspects of what the company would cover and form the inner sanctum of the logo system. I also think in many ways the logo system helps reinforce that this is a multi pronged issue, not one size fits all and that it affects everyone in different ways.
As we move further out in the logo system you will see the leaf and the lightning bold icons which are extremely important in the oncoming technological and environmental context that we try and preach at The Cool Down and integral to building a planet that is here for multiple future generations to come. The bolt stands for power and energy focused issues that TCD would cover, ways to practically target energy saving as renewables and resources to help expand access and replace our aging grid. Especially the website and how it would use search engine optimization to give people entry point to make going green as frictionless as possible.
It was important to include this type of organizing principle in our logo system because we knew that this is where much of our B2B partnerships would come from as governments and corporations look to help consumers bridge the gap as we go green. TCD can make these solutions easier to navigate and help connect people with urgent resources and information during this transformative period of human history. The bolt is a call to action as much as it is a cute to build and have a science and tech focused perspective and as far as our website goes it actually allowed me to use some of this language to help categorize and give SEO optimization to the web development.
While from a marketplace perspective and eventual revenue standpoint, the lightning bolt has a very practical use case in the system, however I felt like similar to the globe's role in anchoring the design work in a diverse and inclusive vibe the final icon is the leaf icon that sits next to the letter forms. The leaf stands for nature, sustainability and the environmental aspects of what we cover, and it really has a sense of reverence for the planet that we are protecting. It cleverly gives us a chance to showcase the C and the D lettering within the leaf to connotate "Cool Down" and is strong enough to stand on it's own almost like a stamp.
When it came to my initial color explorations I wanted to pull directly from images of nature so I went ahead and did a ton of photography research and started finding common colors across the imagery that really resonated with the brand mission. A number of purples, oranges and greens came through as consistent themes and I knew that I wanted to stick with this vibe as the colors came together. FInally I had a stroke of inspiration come from the world of data analysis.
Inspired by the world of viridis color map data visualization, the extended color palette is built to be used as gradients. The colors individually are brash and bold and act as a rallying cry but when paired together and used as a gradient, that is when the magic really begins to show. For inspiration, as can be seen in the mood board below, I built upon the existing colors with a lot of bright oranges and greens with some eclectic sources to pull from.
Everything from the shades of Nocta puffer jackets Drake wears in music videos and the meteorological design language of NASA and NOAA along with the trendy thermal dresses that the likes of Kylie Jenner were rocking and even the flames of the forrest fires burning in California were elements in the crucible for this color palette and helped give the logo system some vibrancy and excitement.
Like I said, the gradient is really what makes this sing more than anything because when paired with a black backdrop and some typography it ads a burst of energy to any composition or layout we put together. It works extremely well for TCD's purposes and acts as a gradient implementation of the famous Python Matplotlib colormaps designed by Stéfan van der Walt and Nathaniel J. Smith. Viridis and Magma provide a series of color maps that are designed to improve graph readability for readers with common forms of color blindness and/or color vision deficiency. The color maps are also perceptually-uniform, both in regular form and also when converted to black-and-white for printing.
Being perceptually-uniform gives the gradients a balance and harmony as the colors are all equidistant from each other, which is why it is so advantageous for data visualization. Every color your computer can display is describe by a combination of red, blue, and green intensity values scaled from 0 to 255. This is why we refer to the computer as 256 bit color. These gradients spread the spectrum of color evenly to really make them super flexible design tools.
Typographically I just wanted to keep things simple and legible, and with the logo all ready being in Druk Wide Medium it felt natural to use that for headlines and large instances of title text usage and go with a nice sans serif font lik Eina for our body copy and quote cards and the like. The typography can be seen in use in the wild in the branded content video created for Tesla (With the familiar Adam Lefkoe on the VO) where Druk helps bring home the overall car commercial aesthetic in a modern built for social kind of way.
Typography hierarchy is meant to be used on social, print and web with Druk being reserved for headlines and large spaces, while Eina is used for body copy in bold weight and regular is used for any attributions. *Druk condensed is preferred for numbers on social graphics where space is an issue, otherwise Druk Wide can be used if more impact is needed. This would give us an ample number of weights to be able to create a fresh social set of templates which was the next step of this branding exercise.
On social the templates had to be versatile enough to fit all different kinds of news coverage from quotes and new product innovations to guides and recommendations. The social templates needed to be able to handle more fun relatable content and user generated posts as well as serious and scientific content. To do this I used a combination of image led templates that I created with rounded corners to give them a bit of a friendlier vibe. The gradient was used to divide sections and small underline and marker stroke elements were used for emphasis.
The flipped letterform of “D” from the logo becomes an arch shape that serves as a vehicle for imagery. Meant to be used as a clipping mask for images on social templates as a way to reinforce the brand. Text bubbles act as a vehicle for communicating dense climate change and pollution information in an easy to digest manner. Heavily used on social to make it seem more conversational. All these little details added up to create a very flexible modular system that can continue to evolve and grow as new challenges and opportunities arise on social.
There is so much amazing nature photography it was important to set up a good clear set of rules and guidelines on how to pick the correct visuals to maximize impact and match the tone of the content. For me the keys really lie in picking diverse subject matter and interesting angles with high contrast and then using the design system to bring out the details, whether it is using type to give it a contrast or the gradient as a pop of color.
A large part of the future vision of the company involves building a sustainable marketplace for all sorts of climate friendly products and so creating a simple but effective early strategy and game plan for merchandise and e-commerce done in a sustainable and scalable way was also a key deliverable I wanted to include in this exploration. The paradox of choice means that too many options can leave consumers feeling stuck and treading water instead of taking action, and we wanted to help make the brand a beacon of hope.
From the jump, being able to use the logo on gear was a key feature of marketing it to the right audiences and turning The Cool Down into an influencing voice in that space so that an audience and trustworthy relationship could be established with the brand. The logo lends itself to simple and clean pieces as seen below:
However, just because the logo was capable of being used on so many items in this format didn't mean that it wasn't also worth doing some more fun and colorful explorations targeted at Gen-Z with a bit more personality and expression. The illustrations convey optimism and energy while the gradient dip dye of the hoodies is a more sustainable way to produce the merch but also leads to pieces with unique patterns.
At the end of the day it comes down to authenticity. The climate crisis impacts all of our lives; through the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the safety and security of our communities. It’s real, and it demands urgent action. But the story of our future is still being written, and we all have a part to play. Within this crisis, opportunity and optimism are gaining momentum and that is what I wanted the merch and the design system to help convey and help navigate. If the design system is a compass then it is hopefully pointing towards better days rather than worse.
The Cool Down channels that positive energy, welcoming people everywhere to join a movement for a safer, cleaner world for the next generation. It’s a rallying cry - to cool down the polarized conversation, and ultimately, the planet. The Cool Down is an invitation for everyone to participate and make an impact. I was glad I had a chance to shape the social templates the brand design and logo playbook for such a young company that will hopefully make a massive impact.
Perhaps the final and most impactful piece of the puzzle I had a chance to unlock and work on for The Cool Down was the building and design of their investor deck as they went to market to raise capital. We actually got an article on Business Insider titled, "Check out the pitch deck that helped a pair of media veterans raise $5.7 million to launch climate-focused media startup The Cool Down" I was able to find effective ways to showcase the brand's positioning and communicate their vision to help them raise nearly 6 million dollars, which is a testament to the design work that went into this, along with the focus and the marketing alignment.