As a designer, you have the opportunity to meaningfully accelerate climate action by bringing your skills to the table. Though many jobs can be tangentially related to the environment, you might be seeking an opportunity that lets you make a more direct impact on climate-related issues through design.
It’s the biggest existential threat and challenge facing our generation and future generations. When you think about our mission of using design to improve the world, there’s no greater problem space than helping solve our climate crisis.Enrique Allen, Co-founder, Designer Fund
Luckily, more startups dedicated to catalyzing climate action are cropping up than ever before. Funding is also following suit, with climate tech investments more than tripling to $60B in the first half of 2021, compared to the same period in 2020. From cutting-edge products that replace destructive cooking oils to city planning tools built with equity in mind, climate-minded technologists and scientists are teaming up to develop breakthrough technologies to tackle a host of climate challenges. And many of them are partnering with talented designers to help achieve their missions.
In this blog post, we’re profiling five of our portfolio companies that prioritize design as a tool to address the climate crisis. Fill out the form below to express your interest in a climate tech design role and check out our Climate Tech Guide for Designers and Climate Tech Primer for Founders.
⛰️ Headquarters: Denver, CO / Remote
🚀 Company size: 1-10 employees
🗓️ Year founded: 2020
😀 Co-Founders: Mackenzie Burnett, Jeff Anders, Dan Schlosser
🚜 Sector: Agriculture, Fintech
The average U.S. farmer is over 55 years old, and setting younger farmers up for success is crucial as more and more farmers retire. Farmers of all ages and levels of tech savvy need better tools, and Ambrook goes above and beyond with its focus on usability, accessibility, and innovation. They are also taking product and design cues from their fintech peers to push agrifinance forward.
The agriculture industry accounted for 10 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2019 (EPA) and that number will keep growing until it's profitable to be more sustainable. Farms need products like Ambrook to help them afford to make better choices for our environment.Enrique Allen, Designer Fund
Ambrook leverages design everywhere it can by focusing not only on product design but on research, storytelling, and brand design. Designer and co-founder Jeff Anders — who has worked at Scale AI, Venmo, Meta, and Autodesk — came to the role having experienced the challenges of product design at fast-paced and quickly growing tech companies. Those insights led him to set up the Ambrook design system in week one (read more here: “How Engineers Design”).
Their tight design system begins with visuals and is translated into code to mitigate early-stage pain points — especially building efficiently and cohesively with a small team. Ongoing design training, team-wide feedback sessions and brainstorms, and permissive access to tooling like Figma and Miro keep design and design thinking at the forefront.
We create systems to enable everyone to be involved in design and product decisions, from engineers to researchers. By distributing design competencies and decisions, we ensure that every detail has an extremely high quality bar for our audience, even those that the core designers don’t directly touch.Jeff Anders, Co-founder, Ambrook
🌉 Headquarters: San Francisco, CA / Remote
🚀 Company size: 51-100
🗓️ Year founded: 2019
😀 Co-Founders: Harshita Arora, Vignan Velivela, Tushar Misra
🚚 Sector: Trucking & Logistics, Fintech
As a relatively new fintech company in a space filled with predatory incumbents, AtoB must build trust with its customers. Their design focus is two-fold — conveying the trustworthiness and authority of a bank, while prioritizing ease of use for customers with unique professional constraints. Their vision of success is helping their time-strapped, hard-working customers go about their business without barriers by providing financial tools that function as reliably as running water or electricity.
Instead of using a top-down approach, AtoB has focused its design decision-making squarely on the real needs of its customer base — primarily the 4 million or so truck drivers in America. These customers are not always digital natives, and they’re often using AtoB’s products during long interstate routes, in the middle of the night. That user context is as important to successful product design as the functionality.
AtoB’s team has a deep bench, with experience at a wide array of companies like Uber, Square, Facebook, Google and McKinsey. But because most don’t have direct experience in trucking or logistics, the team ensures that user feedback and real-world observations remain the most important inputs for deciding on design improvements and product updates. As AtoB transitions from an external to an internal design team, their ability to directly respond to customer needs quickly and fluidly will only grow.
AtoB’s tools are already creating efficiencies and encouraging the use of alternative fuels. It’s currently the only fleet card that can be used at all EV charging and alternative fuel stations. By building a card backed by Visa (that’s accepted nearly everywhere), AtoB empowers fleets to visit the most conveniently located fueling stations, leading to large emissions savings at scale.
There are close to 4 million truck drivers in America (constituting one of the nation’s largest workforces), and we have an opportunity to transform the way they work through intuitive, transparent, and customized products. No one has given much thought to what truly excellent payments products for this sector should look and feel like. At AtoB, there’s an opportunity to build a UX playbook from scratch.Nirav Mehta, Head of Product, AtoB
🌉 Headquarters: San Francisco, CA / Remote
🚀 Company size: 11-50
🗓️ Year founded: 2020
😀 Co-Founders: Peter Light, David Coen
🌱 Sector: Clean Energy, Commercial Real Estate
As with so many sectors bogged down by legacy technologies and systems, design can be the tool that spurs revolution — in this case, transitioning commercial buildings to clean energy.
With a combination of cutting-edge data science, software, and deep sector expertise, Lumen is making on-site clean energy accessible to commercial real estate owners, and working to accelerate the transition toward sustainable energy. Lumen’s proprietary pricing engine can remotely assess building features, utility bills, roof quality, credit, permitting, grid prices, and other constraints.
With great product design, Lumen strives to mask that complexity and deliver a simple, delightful experience that results in immediately actionable offers. Smart, targeted marketing drives potential customers to the platform, and helps sell them on solar as a viable answer for their portfolio. And strong brand design builds trust, demystifies confusing information, and helps build connections.
Good design is crucial to accelerating decarbonization. Success requires demystifying complex technologies and processes for users, and nowhere is this more true than at Lumen Energy. Today, our co-founders are deeply involved in the design process with an outside agency, but we’re searching for a design lead to transform how commercial buildings get their energy.Dave Coen, Co-founder, Lumen Energy
🌉 Headquarters: San Francisco, CA
🚀 Company size: 51-100
🗓️ Year founded: 2014 (acquired by Via in 2021)
😀 Co-Founders: Dan Getelman, Danny Whalen, Sam Hashemi, Tiffany Chu
🚚 Sector: Transit Tech
The public sector is for everyone. That’s why design can make such a huge impact — especially when it’s user friendly and beautiful. There’s no reason the tools available to local governments shouldn’t meet the same standards as those designed for consumers. Remix’s usability is a key factor valued by its city customers that contributes to why they continue to work with Remix over the years. And Remix’s incentives are directly aligned with its users, so good design becomes a benefit for everyone.
Because Remix’s founders both have product and civic design backgrounds, the company’s very origins began with design thinking, and solving UX problems in transit systems. Design is central for every employee from day one. Building empathy and gaining first-hand experience with customers starting with the onboarding process sets up every team to look at their work through the lens of design.
Getting to apply design to an industry that’s actively tackling structural inequalities through increased access to equitable and sustainable transit solutions is worth dedicating your time towards. There’s also something interesting about building public transit software where there are fewer existing design precedents or conventions to follow. This creates an exciting opportunity for designers to be more creative—and tenacious—in finding solutions and testing hypotheses.Kelsey Jones, Director of Design, Remix by Via
Currently, each product designer on the team owns end-to-end research, design, and development hand-off for a product vertical, like Transit Planning or Street Design — with cross-functional collaboration ensuring everyone is solving the right problem, with social impact at the core. Read more about design at Remix here.
🌳 Headquarters: San Mateo, CA / Remote
🚀 Company size: 11-50 employees
🗓️ Year founded: 2020
😀 Co-Founders: Jeff Nobbs, Steve del Cardayre, Jay Keasling
🍳 Sector: Food
Zero Acre Farms isn’t just looking to create a new, healthier product in a legacy category — it’s seeking to radically shift behavior and build a movement. They focus on the need to shift away from consumption of seed oils, for the betterment of human health and the planet.
Great brand design and compelling marketing are central to the success of the effort, on top of creating a better, more delicious product. Zero Acre Farms’ primary design goals are to explain the problem clearly, and inspire people to take action. Building trust in this space can be complicated, with false health claims flooding people’s feeds. To combat all the misinformation, Zero Acre Farms is deploying actionable, accurate, science-backed information in order to spread the word.
For anyone, not just designers, "work" is a lot more fun when it's making a difference in the world and making a positive impact on an important problem. There are lots of important problems to solve, and climate tech is one of the biggest ones.Jeff Nobbs, Co-founder, Zero Acre Farms
Whether it's designing lower carbon footprint software or using data visualizations to ignite behavior change, the opportunities to address climate change through design are endless. Every designer—regardless of discipline or industry—can apply their skills for positive change.
Want to be part of the solution? We’re here to support you in your search for a climate-oriented design job. Just fill out this short questionnaire and we’ll reach out if we find a match with one of the companies in our network. If you’re a founder of a climate tech company, get in touch here.