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.