Sustainable Food & Farming Iconathon


Agriculture has changed dramatically in the past few decades. Multinational corporations dominate an industry once made up primarily of small farmers, with vertical integration threatening those who remain. The majority of the food we eat is produced by a handful of companies, using technologies designed to increase efficiency, but often at significant cost to public and environmental health. Practices like industrial scale meat production and increased reliance on chemicals in crop production have drawn criticism from environmentalists and animal welfare advocates, as well as from consumers. More and more people recognize the importance of ecological farming practices and are joining the sustainable agriculture movement.

In an effort to help communicate the importance of sustainable farming, we are teaming up with GRACE Communications Foundation and Mother Jones to host an Iconathon around this important topic. The goal is to create a set of universally recognizable icons that will be used to help increase communication around food issues. Sustainable food experts from TEDx Manhattan, GRACE, and Mother Jones will work side by side with volunteers and designers from School of Visual Art‘s MFA Interaction Design, SVA|NYC program to create these icons. The final icons will be released into the public domain for use in journalism, local/sustainable food marketing, online sustainable food directories and mobile applications.

The publicly open design workshop will take place on March 2nd at the School of Visual Arts in New York. The Iconathon is free to attend, but space is limited so please RSVP.

Iconathons are organized to engage the general public in the design process and participants include both designers and non-designers. No design or art skills are necessary, all are welcome to participate.

Image by Christopher Paquette

Innovation in Education Iconathon at Duke University


We were recently contacted by Michael Faber, the IT Innovation Program Manager at Duke University, with a great idea for an Iconathon. Michael runs a program called the Innovation Co-Lab – a creativity incubator that focuses on how emerging technologies are reshaping research and academics within higher education. The program aims to elevate and inspire Duke students who are solving problems through the rapidly changing technological environment.

Michael came to us with the idea of holding an Iconathon around the new, technology-orientated teaching models practiced at some of the top universities. Right now one of the hottest topics in education is the use of massive open online courses (MOOCs). These are open access classes aimed at large scale interaction and participation via the web. Duke is a leader in this new space and was one of the first schools to offer courses in all areas of studies to people around the world to enroll for free.

This distance learning is an online revolution, making education accessible to all parts of the world. People who would not normally have the chance to take university level classes now have the opportunity to enhance their skills and gain valuable knowledge from some of the best schools. These programs are exciting because they create global communities of people around a shared intellectual endeavor. More importantly they are helping people better their lives, their families lives, and improve their communities.

Technology is also affecting the physical classroom in higher ed institutions as well, not just in the world of online education.  Educators are incorporating technology into traditional teaching methods including “flipped classrooms”, game-based learning, and badge systems to revolutionize our expectations of how we learn.

The icons generated at this event will help with the multilingual interactions between peers, students, and teacher assistants. We’re hosting the Iconathon on Saturday, October 5th to help create a visual language for this education revolution.

Iconathons are organized to engage the general public in the design process and participants include both designers and non-designers. No design or art skills are necessary, all are welcome to participate. The Iconathon is free to attend but tickets are limited, please RSVP.

Event Details:

When: Saturday, October 5th from 11am to 4:00pm (lunch provided)

Where: Perkins Library (Room 217), 411 Chapel Dr,Durham, NC 27705

RSVP: Space is limited, RSVP for free tickets.

Iconathon for Games that Explain Climate Risk


We met Pablo Suarez nearly a year ago at our Urban Disaster Preparedness Iconathon in Washington, D.C.  We were immediately drawn to his passion for helping people around the world learn about and make choices around the different risks associated with today’s changing climate.  Pablo is the Associate Director for Research and Innovation at the Red Cross / Red Crescent Climate Centre.  He’s one of the most well traveled people you’ll ever meet and is never in one place for long – most of our conversations have been during the seldom few days he’s in the States before jetting off to some of the most remote areas of the world.

Not many people will deny that there is clear scientific evidence that climate change is already happening, and will be one of the main global challenges for humanity in the coming century.  We are unfortunately continuously reminded of the sharp increase in weather-related disasters and extreme weather events.  People suffer due to entirely avoidable reasons, often lack of preparedness despite forecasts of imminent floods, hurricanes, or food insecurity due to drought. Many losses are avoidable.

But how do you educate people of the complex decisions and choices ahead of them?  How do you explain managing the risks of extreme weather to policy makers, farmers, ministers, shanty town dwellers, fishermen, and make sure the information is not only understood but also sticks?  This is where we became vested in this project.  Instead of asking people to passively listen through another PowerPoint lecture, the Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre decided to use a different, more active approach – participatory games.

Just like in real life, during these games participants experience decisions with consequences. They receive incomplete information about risks, have to allocate limited resources in a limited amount of time, and lose if the outcomes are unfavorable.  People work in groups, debate over decisions, and learn first hand the difficulty of making these life-altering decisions based on forecasts.

We’re hosting an Iconathon on Saturday, September 7th to help create a visual language around these Climate Risk games. The symbols we create in the design workshop will be released into the public domain, and used around the world to help navigate people through difficult decisions.  Plus, we’ll get to experience the fun intensity of one of these games first-hand!

Iconathons are organized to engage the general public in the design process and participants include both designers and non-designers. No design or art skills are necessary, all are welcome to participate. The Iconathon is free to attend but tickets are limited, please RSVP.

Event Details:

When: Saturday, September 7th from 10:30am to 3:30pm

Where: American Red Cross of Greater New York at 520 W 49th Street (between 10th & 11th), New York, NY 10036

RSVP: Seating is limited, RSVP for free tickets.

To learn more about Climate Centre’s Participatory Games for Climate Risk, check out the videos from Boston University and Senegal.

*Image of flood in Bangladesh by Amir Jina.

Cultural Heritage Iconathon


The Noun Project is excited to announce a new Iconathon on Cultural Heritage, sponsored by the Metropolitan New York Library Council (METRO).

Iconathons are organized to engage the general public in the design process, so no design or art skills are necessary – all are welcome to participate.  The Iconathon is free to attend but tickets are limited, please RSVP.

“Institutions like libraries, archives and museums serve an essential function in providing access to knowledge, documenting and preserving history, and supporting the civic and cultural needs of their communities – communities often speaking a wide range of languages. A set of public domain icons will enable these cultural organizations to communicate better with patrons and elegantly and clearly visualize the breadth of services, activities, and collections they support and the vital role they play in society,” said Jefferson Bailey, Strategic Initiatives Manager, Metropolitan New York Library Council.

The icons created will be released into the public domain to be used in signage and interactives, as well as to illustrate on-site services, Web pages, online catalogs, mobile applications, and to identify and symbolize many of the other offerings of cultural heritage organizations.

Event Details:

When: Saturday, June 1st from 10:30am to 3:30pm

Where: Metropolitan New York Library Council at 57 E. 11th St, 4th Floor, New York, NY 10003

RSVP: Seating is limited, RSVP for free tickets.


*Image of the New York Public Library by stephs_photos

The Visual Language of Wikipedia Iconathon in San Francisco


How do you navigate 500 million unique visitors from different countries across a reference site available in 285 languages?  With over 25 million collaboratively written and edited articles, Wikipedia sets the standard for building user experiences that cross cultural and language differences.  To help in this effort, The Noun Project is hosting an Iconathon design workshop sponsored by the Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit that operates Wikipedia and its sister sites, to create a set of public domain navigation, editing, feedback and expression symbols that can be used not only by Wikipedia editors, but anyone on the internet, for free.

The Iconathon will bring together designers, students, civic activists, and Wikipedia-enthusiasts for a day-long workshop focused around creating symbols for best user-comprehension.  The Noun Project organizes Iconathons to engage the public in the design process, so no art or design skills are necessary to participate.

The open nature of Wikipedia has served as an inspiration for The Noun Project to provide a platform for a visual language anyone can use to communicate.  Given the extensive usage of Wikipedia by people from around the world, we are thrilled to collaborate with the Wikimedia Foundation on adding navigation focused symbols to the public domain. 

Event Details:

When: Saturday, April 6th from 10:30am to 4:00pm

Where: Wikimedia Foundation at 149 New Montgomery Street, San Francisco, CA 94105

RSVP: Seating is limited. RSVP for free tickets.



The Noun Project is excited to host an Iconathon during SXSW with (mt) Media Temple!

(mt) Media Temple has been an essential partner of The Noun Project ever since we launched.  We are thrilled they’ve decided to sponsor a fun 2-hour workshop to create a new visual language around inspiration and creativity.  What does it feel like when you get that moment of inspiration?  How would you visually communicate that feeling in a simple pictogram?  We’ll be working together to create a new set of icons to illuminate the world of “Ideas.”

For more than 15 years, (mt) Media Temple has been helping people bring their big ideas to life. In that time they’ve witnessed a lot of light-bulb-over-the-head, “a-ha!” moments. Together we’re fascinated by the challenge of illustrating that moment and that feeling.  The symbols created during this workshop will be added to The Noun Project as public domain for anyone to use.

So if you have an interest in art, design, or iconography–or good ideas, or beer, for that matter–and you’re planning on being in Austin on March 11th, come join us! No design or art skills needed, Iconathons are meant to engage everyone in the design process so don’t be shy.

Event Details:
Monday, March 11, 2013
Paste Lounge at The Blackheart
86 Rainey St., Austin, TX 78701
Seating is limited–RSVP for free tickets

Designing “Badges of Honor” for Organics Recycling

Every day countless businesses across the country take extra time and effort to minimize the impact their operations have on the environment.  One of the areas in which a lot of progress is being made is in Organics Recycling. Organics recycling includes both traditional composting, as well as innovative programs such as “Food-to-People,” in which edible food is donated to people in need, and “Food-to-Livestock,” in which organic waste is sent to local farmers for hog-feed. Food scraps and food-soiled paper make up a ¼ of our garbage, creating methane (a potent greenhouse gas) when landfilled.  Recycling these organics reduces garbage in our landfills, creates valuable resources and provides economic development opportunities.


We want to make it easier for anyone to know which restaurants and businesses go that extra mile to make our world better.  We believe if people know which restaurants donate their food scraps to a local food shelter, or what businesses recycled their organics by participating in a local composting program, they will choose those businesses over others.  By recognizing these businesses for their efforts, we hope to encourage others to participate in cutting down their waste.

To get the ball rolling, we’ve teamed up with Minneapolis’ Hennepin County Environmental Services to host an Iconathon design workshop with the goal of creating a badge system that can be displayed on storefronts across the city.   These “badges of honor” will be similar in nature to the Yelp or Zagat rating stickers that can be seen on restaurants around the country.  The Iconathon will be held on Sunday, March 24th as part of University of Minnesota College of Design’s Public Interest Design Week.


We’ve chosen Hennepin County as our partner in this because they have been at the forefront of the organics recycling movement.  The county has assisted businesses, schools and cities in setting up organics recycling programs, including providing a grant to the City of Minneapolis for a pilot curbside organics recycling program in the Linden Hills neighborhood. Currently, about 150 businesses in the county, such as Target, MSP Airport and IKEA, as well as numerous schools and colleges, participate in organics recycling.

When the recycling movement began in the early 1970’s, a 23-year-old college student Gary Anderson created the now universally recognized recycling symbol that has since had a tremendous effect on our environment.  Our goal is to engage the design community and civic activists to create new “badges of honor” to encourage more recycling programs around the world.  The icons created during the Iconathon will be released into the public domain to be used by anyone interested in engaging in recycling programs.

The Organics Recycling Iconathon is sponsored by the University of Minnesota College of and The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation.


Event Details:

When: Sunday, March 24th from 10:30am to 3:30pm

Where: University of Minnesota, College of Design, Rapson Hall at 89 Church Street SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455.

RSVP: Seating is limited, RSVP for free tickets.


Yelp sticker photo taken by Robyn Lee.

Iconathon on Investigative Journalism at The New York Times


The Noun Project has teamed up with ProPublica and Hacks/Hackers NYC in organizing an Iconathon to create a new visual language around Investigative Journalism.  This Iconathon will be held at The New York Times building on Saturday, February 23rd, and is sponsored by Knight-Mozilla OpenNews and The New York Times.

We’ll be creating symbols for concepts in watchdog journalism such as public records, on-the-record sources, corporate malfeasance, and illustrating the ways power may be abused in both the public and private sectors.  The icons created will be released into the public domain to be used in news applications and interactives, as well as to illustrate reporting series, Web site topic pages, and mobile applications.

The Iconathon will kick off with presentations on tech & investigative journalism by Scott Klein – editor of News Applications at ProPublica, and Matthew Ericson – deputy graphics director at The New York Times.  “A new set of icons for news will help graphics editors and news application developers use graphical shorthand in place of lengthy explanation — the proverbial thousand words — and to tell meaningful and impactful stories more gracefully and graphically” – said Scott Klein.

Event Details:

When: Saturday, February 23rd from 10:30am to 4:00pm
Where: The New York Times building at 620 8th Avenue, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019
RSVP: Seating is limited, RSVP for free tickets.

The Noun Project organizes Iconathons to engage the general public in the design process, so no design or art skills are necessary – all are welcome to participate!

According to Chrys Wu of Hacks/Hackers NYC “Investigative journalism is about explaining complicated concepts and revealing systemic problems. If we can do that visually, it can help readers better understand the reported stories.”  We’re honored to help out in such an important endeavor.

*Detective icon is by Simon Child.

Civic Hacker Iconathon in Miami February 16th



The Noun Project is teaming up with The LAB Miami for an Iconathon to create public domain symbols for civic hackers.

This Iconathon will bring together designers, hackers, students and civic-minded Miami residents for a collaborative workshop to design symbols for public interest. The Noun Project is working with Code for America’s Brigade to identify which symbols are frequently needed by civic hackers when developing new civic apps and websites. The Brigade is an organizing force for local civic engagement – a national network of “civic hackers” who contribute their skills and time to better their communities by way of technology.

The workshop will be held at The LAB Miami’s newly opened collaborative space in the Wynwood Art District.  The LAB’s campus is a dynamic environment for social innovation and entrepreneurship that includes tech startups, programmers, designers, investors, entrepreneurs, nonprofits, artists and academics.

Event Details:

When: Saturday, February 16th from 10:30am to 3:30pm
Where: The LAB Miami at 400 NW 26th Street, Miami FL 33127
RSVP: Seating is limited, RSVP for free tickets.

The Civic Hacker Iconathon is sponsored by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

*Lab Rat image courtesy of The LAB Miami.

American Red Cross to host an Iconathon on Urban Disaster Preparedness

In honor of World Disaster Risk Reduction Day, our next Iconathon will take us to Washington, D.C., where we will collaboratively create a suite of symbols on the topic of Urban Disaster Preparedness with the experts from the Global Disaster Preparedness Center and the American Red Cross.  The icon set that will be developed will be used for any number of applications including mapping, websites and publications.  These icons will help the American Red Cross and the rest of the humanitarian community communicate important Disaster Preparedness ideas graphically.

The Iconathon will be hosted at the historic American Red Cross National Headquarters on Saturday, October 13th to coincide with the International Day for Disaster Reduction and the official launch of the Global Disaster Preparedness Center (GDPC).   Our speakers will include Ian O’Donnell – Senior Information Architect for the GDPC, Robert Banick – Geographic Information System Coordinator for the American Red Cross International Services, and Edward Boatman, co-founder and Creative Director of The Noun Project.

This event is free and open to the public, anyone is welcome to participate – no design skills required.  Space is limited and an RSVP is required to attend due to security reasons, since we’ll be just blocks away from the White House.


Event Details

Date: Saturday, October 13th
Time: 10am to 3pm
American Red Cross (Historic National Headquarters)
Board of Governors Hall
430 17th Street NW, Washington, DC20006
Please use 17th street entrance
Theme: Urban Disaster Preparedness
Speakers on Disaster Preparedness: Ian O’Donnell – Senior Information Architect, Global Disaster Preparedness Center, and Robert Banick – GIS Coordinator, International Services, American Red Cross
Speaker on Symbol Design & User Comprehension: Edward Boatman, co-founder and Creative Director of The Noun Project
Host: Global Disaster Preparedness Center and the American Red Cross
RSVP: Eventbrite


About the American Red Cross

Responding to the increased frequency of disasters, global climate change and urbanization, the American Red Cross works with communities to build resiliency to future disasters, from training local first responders to helping mitigate common hazards. In 2011, their disaster preparedness programs spanned more than 30 countries.

The American Red Cross is part of the world’s largest humanitarian network with 13 million volunteers in 187 countries. Working together, they help respond to disasters, build safer communities, and educate future humanitarians. Each year, they reach millions across the globe.


About the Global Disaster Preparedness Center

The American Red Cross, together with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, has established the GlobalDisasterPreparednessCenter—a resource hub on disaster preparedness oriented toward the Red Cross network that will support learning and knowledge sharing for disaster preparedness practitioners worldwide.

This new Center, which will launch on October 12th, will offer a range of new services and initiatives in the coming year, including 1) an interactive website aimed at offering analysis, tools, best practices  and other resources in disaster preparedness, 2) a research program that will fund a variety of studies that will build the evidence base for disaster preparedness, and 3) an array of options for tailored technical assistance.

Image of The American Red Cross National Headquarters by AgnosticPreachersKid at en.wikipedia

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