When the wheels of an idea start turning, it rarely results in a plan involving actual wheels. But in the case of Wheels4Water, riding bikes became the strategy for how to solve a problem inflicting thousands throughout the world – a lack of clean drinking water.
In 2007, founder Justin Ahrens and colleagues visited sub-Saharan Africa and saw the effects of unsafe drinking water on the communities there. This experience ignited a passion for seeing a change in the availability of clean water that resulted in the creation of Wheels4Water. They now create bike riding challenges to inspire action. The first bike riding fundraising effort happened in 2014 when Ahrens (Rule29) and Brian MacDonald (Wonderkind Studios) rode 1,207 miles in partnership with Lifewater, a non-profit finding solutions for the world’s water crisis, with a mission to provide clean water for life to the people of Uganda. The team managed to raise $100,000 by the end of 2014, providing 2,500 people with clean water and sanitation for life.
Since 2014, Wheels4Water has taken on a new fundraising goal every year. Three years later, the team continues to achieve success and has a 2017 goal of raising $200,000. With so many fundraising efforts fighting for attention though, how has Wheels4Water achieved the success that most teams only dream of attaining? From a graphic design perspective, it appears that the design background of the team members has likely given them an edge on the competition.
Besides having an easy to navigate website that makes learning and donating simple, Wheels4Water has created unique designs every year for each new fundraising campaign. Every year has its own logo representing the type of riding challenge for that year. These unique visuals emphasize the renewal of this organization’s passion and encourage continued support even after one year of donating. The logo for the current year is used as the profile image on Wheels4Water’s social media pages. Here are the logos for 2015-2017 (2014 pictured above).
Their design that has most captivated me since I learned about Wheels4Water through an article by HOW magazine, is their 2015 California coast poster design. That year, Wheels4Water had the goal of riding 450 miles down the California coast to provide drinking water for 450 children at a school in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The image captures the goal of riding down the state with bright colors and a sense of energy to motivate participation.
Looking at this poster, I first admired the vibrant four color graphic but then became more intrigued when I realized how this poster describes the cause. Besides the event logo in the bottom left, the words “450 miles for 450 children” have been blind embossed onto the poster, to the right of the logo. This strategy of using a bold image and subtle text works well at grabbing peoples’ attention, no matter the scale at which the poster/image is seen. I think that this approach works well for this cause, as most people already know that the issue of unclean drinking water exists so the method for helping has justification in being more prominent than the actual cause.
Beyond the marketing perspective, this poster from 2015 also has technically successful design. Design Shack has an article listing ten factors that contribute to “perfect poster design” and Wheels4Water has followed a number of their recommendations. The design has a high level of contrast with colors and can be easily understood from close up or far away. Tip no. 5 of using one big visual and no. 9 of using a cool printing technique would both apply as well with the stunning California bike trail graphic and emboss printing technique for the call to action.
In the crowd of causes calling for attention, it’s difficult for a small team to get noticed. Wheels4Water however, has proven that passion fuels ideas that will inspire action if done right. A smart use of graphic design has given this organization a spotlight that lets their wheels spin for change at a fast pace.
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