The Global Goals

In 2015, Jakob Trollbäck and Christina Rüegg-Grässli created the communication language for the Sustainable Development Goals. Today, their simple words and colorful symbols are used wherever sustainability is discussed.

A few years later in 2017, we extended the language to include the driving forces of the agenda—the 169 targets. Read the whole story below!

Project type
Design + Activation

The 17, backstory

The story of the Global Goals begins in the fall of 2014 with director Richard Curtis meeting with our founder Jakob Trollbäck to discuss how to best make the agenda famous.

Invaluable insights from UN ambassadors and NGOs along the journey pushed us to develop icons that could be universally understood. The designs and palette carefully consider cross-cultural relevance and symbolism. The circular logotype for the master brand is an expression of unity using the full palette from the icon system.

The result is a communication system, signed-off by all 193 member nations. It is today universally adopted and used - a hopeful language of change to inspire everyone, everywhere to act.

Our work is a substantial contribution to enhance global partnership for the goals. We have created a common language which visually tells the story of the Global Goals and how we can work together to realize these goals by 2030.

Our hope is to achieve a global movement, where people in different ages and roles, truly care about the future of our planet and understand which steps are needed in order to reach the goals. A decentralized, global and powerful effort is the only way forward in the right direction, and make it possible to reach the goals by 2030.

The 169 targets

But the Global Goals are only just that: goals. It is the 169 targets connected to the Goals that define and articulate what measures needs to be taken to achieve the Goals. Through the project Targets For Action, the targets are now given the same visual expression and language as the 17 main Goals, to make the agenda easier to spread and communicate all over the world.

In this process we studied all the 169 targets in-depth in order to capture the essence of each target in a short, understandable headline. Then came a lengthy process where we discussed the best way to capture each target in a powerful visual symbol. We used the bright colors and bold typography from the parent goal, thereby creating families that are easily associated with the main goal. The symbols express the determination and optimism at the core of the goals.

Lastly we initiated a unique collaboration with organizations around the world to fact-check the work and to secure a universal understanding of the language. We wanted it to be easy for everyone, including governments, companies, organizations, academia and civil society to better understand the targets in order to synchronize the work for long-term integrated solutions.

The Global Goals website

Once the work was finalized, it was launched on, created by our digital partner Code and Conspire. A website that is fast and accessible in every possible scenario, even offline, for a global audience, and where all the goals and targets are downloadable and free for everyone to use.

"Creating the beautiful icons for the Sustainable Development Goals was a simple idea that has delivered enormous impact. Without the icons and Trollbäck’s tremendous work on visually telling the story of the Sustainable Development Goals, we simply would not be where we are today."

Cathy Calvin
President and CEO of the UNF

"The genius of the work that Trollbäck did was to create for the Sustainable Development Goals a visual language which communicates with the greatest simplicity the plan for the planet. The beauty of the design belies the brilliance of the intelligence behind every choice of favellas, catwalks to conference rooms."

Corinne Woods
Director of Communications at World Food Programme

Sustainable Action

Since launching in 2015, our work has become the de-facto design system for sustainability messaging around the world. Nearly every event designed to propagate the Global Goals message uses our design system in some capacity from local events to global conferences. Experiential content has included building projections at the UN building; branded pavilions for the World Economic Forum in Davos and Habitat III in Quito; a fleet of SDG sailboats welcoming Greta Thunberg’s arrival to the UN’s 2019 Climate Action Summit, and is even available for avatars within Pokemon Go.

Our branding has also been taken up by grassroots organizers and like-minded advocates everywhere—showing up everywhere from new, sustainable clothing lines to protest signs to classrooms around the world.