Website for MIT Faculty Teaching Sustainability

, , Oct 25, 2010 Comments Off

Screencapture of FENS websiteThe Faculty Environmental Network for Sustainability (FENS) at MIT is a group of 100+ faculty and staff from across all schools on the MIT campus who have come together to try to make sustainability a larger part of the MIT course offerings for both undergraduate and graduate students. This requires a significant consensus-building effort within the administration. To help engage with the public and the rest of the MIT campus, Adroit was hired to build them a website. It features:

  • a list of all FENS members’ names, titles, and email addresses
  • presentations about topics that “every environmentally literate MIT graduate ought to know”
  • information about a proposed new undergraduate minor
  • information about a proposed new graduate certificate
  • announcements
  • a moderated forum
  • a contact page
  • web traffic analytics

As well as other bells and whistles.

Prototypical "environmental" picture of hands holding small green globe

What we wanted to avoid. (Image source:

When we were researching this project, Adroit found that most websites about the environment and sustainability followed the same predictable aesthetic:

  • a blue/green/brown color palette to match sky/grass/dirt colors,
  • idealized and pastoral images of nature (think: small globe/plant/droplet in a child”s cupped hands, etc.), and
  • transcendentalist text.
City planners standing over map of city

What we used instead

In addition to being predictable, that design aesthetic wouldn’t (in our client’s estimation) have optimum appeal to an empirically-minded MIT audience that, while perhaps animated by some of the same underlying goals and concerns, studies things like designing sustainable cities, engineering greener fuel resources, and tracking global climate change metrics. “It can’t look like something that could be dismissed as tree-hugging hippie stuff,” we were told. “This community prizes hard science.”

So we built FENS a site that would package the information in a style more indigenous to the engineering mindset that dominates the MIT academic community. Thanks in part to the creation of this site, the FENS has already accomplished some of its goals.


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