SoGood Case Study: Clear and simple message gets community members involved with Mississauga Earth Days

Case Study by Tina Mackenzie RGD and Brian Marchand, Creative Services, City of Mississauga

This project was selected as a winner in the Government-Initiated category of RGD's 2014 So(cial) Good Design Awards.


Mississauga Earth Days (originally named Earth Week) was launched by the City of Mississauga in 1996. It takes place each April with the goal of increasing participation in community events and encouraging residents to be more environmentally conscious year-round. The City’s Communications division developed the campaign and works with Parks and Forestry, Transit and the Environment divisions to plan the community events.



At the City of Mississauga, Creative Services is a team of eight: one Manager/Creative Director, six Graphic Designers and one Graphic Artist. At the beginning of any project, we are provided with a brief and create concepts to communicate the message based on the criteria provided. The designer reviews the concepts with the Creative Service Manager and decides what to present to the project lead. The project lead, with the help of the designer, selects a concept which must then undergo a series of approvals.


The approval process begins with the project lead, then it goes through the Manager of Corporate Communications, the Director of Communications and the departmental client. Depending on the project, it can sometimes then go through approvals with the Commissioner as well as the City Manager and Mayor.


The City of Mississauga has many different business areas and often they will work together by offering in-kind advertising space to cross-promote different programs, events and initiatives from one business area to another. Media buying is fairly minimal, depending on the project. There is also an internal print shop where most of the printing - including large scale prints - are done, which keeps the cost low.

The content is provided by the client and the copy is developed by Corporate Communications. The designer will often make suggestions and work with both Corporate Communications and the client to make sure the message works best in the medium and in the space available.



For Mississauga Earth Days, the campaign was meant to be fun and approachable, something that would resonate with people of all ages.


We first considered a photo-based option for the concept, but we decided to go with the silhouette style illustrations because it provided a softer, friendlier look. This decision was made because we wanted to appeal to a wide age range and demographic. The designer, Creative Services Manager, the project lead and the client were all involved in the decision-making process. We used a rich gradient green with bright green illustrations and bright white and yellow text to really make it pop and stand out.


The layouts and illustrations for this project were created entirely in Adobe Illustrator; this allowed us the flexibility to size them for multiple applications, including:

  • Bus Shelter Poster
  • Library Screen Saver
  • Screen ads
  • Web ads for City of Mississauga website, MiWay website, Environmental Department page, Facebook
  • City Report News Screen image 
  • Mississauga news ad
  • Calendar of Events web graphic
  • Poster 


The above tactics / applications were chosen based on high visibility to reach the greatest number of Mississauga residents in the most cost-effective way. We utilize all of the advertising space that belongs to the City to reach people while they are in our facilities (community centres, libraries, Celebration Square, etc.) so that it is not necessary to purchase outside advertising space. Our research shows that web advertising is also very effective for reaching residents, with 53% of participants indicating that they found out about Earth Days 2014 on




November 2013-January 2014 – Planning of events and communications tactics
March 2014 – Design of the various promotional pieces
Mid-April 2014 – Roll-out of all promotional tactics
April 17-26, 2014 – Earth Days events take place across the City of Mississauga



The focus of the City of Mississauga’s Earth Days campaign is to encourage people of all ages and backgrounds to get involved and join in on the events. This requires a design that appeals to every demographic. The use of bold colours and simple illustration achieved this by not targeting any one age group, but instead allowing the messaging to stand out in busy environments.




The design was intended to capture people's attention and let members of the community know about events happening in the City that they could participate in. The success of Mississauga Earth Days was measured by community participation in the events.

In 2014:

  • 41 community clean-ups took place across Mississauga.
  • Over 1,000 MiWay riders interacted with the Litter Awareness Blitz at transit terminals.
  • More than 200 residents planted over 500 trees during the One Million Trees Family Fun Day.
  • Participation in the City of Mississauga employee 20-Minute Makeover at Community Common Park increased from 2013 by 27% 

Overall, we received positive feedback on the Earth Days 2014 design and are currently in the process of evaluating the response and making recommendations in the plan for 2015.



  1. Audience. Know your audience and make sure your solution speaks to them.
  2. Copy Clarity. When working with clients from different business areas, with different levels of experience, it’s important to ensure the message is clear and simple. You want the content to be digestible and understandable. There may be times when you need to make edit suggestions, but remember there may be a reason why some of the content is necessary. If you include your client in the process they will be willing to collaborate for the best end result.
  3. Application. Know the medium and placement. This will help you ensure your communications are effective and stand out from the clutter
  4. Accessibility. There are new government regulations around accessibility so the content is available to everyone. You want to make sure your message stands out, especially when it comes to important messages. If the content isn’t legible, it’ll be a disservice to the message as well as the citizens trying to read it.


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