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University of Illinois Chicago

When the Energy Resources Center completed the Illinois Monarch Action Plan in the spring of 2020, they saw the need for a cohesive communication strategy to support the next phase of work including promotion of the second statewide Monarch Summit and distribution of the Illinois Monarch Action Plan to stakeholder groups.  They asked us to craft a fresh, colorful yet professional website and brand narrative that united multi-agency stakeholders as well as the public, with the goal of inspiring and prompting action on behalf of this iconic species.



Illinois Monarch Project


Higher Education


Environmental Services


Website Design



Creative Strategy

About the Client

The Energy Resources Center at the University of Illinois Chicago is an interdisciplinary public service, research, and special projects organization that works to improve energy efficiency and the environment.  The ERC provides comprehensive and cutting edge solutions for energy and environmental challenges in the institutional, industrial, and commercial sectors.  For over thirty years, the ERC has made significant contributions to the fields of energy conservation and production technologies, helping to create a cleaner and more sustainable environment. 



The website is more beautiful and engaging than we ever dreamed!  It has really reinvigorated our outreach work and given us something we are proud to direct our stakeholders to as a one-stop-shop for monarch conservation in Illinois.  Curmudgeon Group was responsive to our needs and consistently delivered high-quality results.  They went above and beyond to produce a product that will build brand awareness and serve us for a long time.  Everyone at Curmudgeon was fun to work with, and embraced our project and mission with enthusiasm and excitement. 

Iris Caldwell, Program Manager – Sustainable Landscapes

The Challenge

Appealing to stakeholders across sectors including agriculture, urban and protected lands, rights-of-way, utilities and the general public meant giving relaying the importance of the Monarch Action Plan through relevant calls to action and resources.  The ERC was intent on making sure each agency had their voice heard with an active role in protecting the monarch. 

The Opportunity

As a cohesive, statewide effort, the ERC wanted to convey the mission and vision of the IMP in a thoughtful, clear and powerful manner.  But what really brought the project to life was the goal of differentiating the ERC and the IMP from other conservation, academic and environmental research sites focused on the monarch – this provided ample opportunity to create a fresh, colorful and bold tone of voice and visual style with an undercurrent of scientific knowledge and professionalism. 

Identity and Tone of Voice

We developed to provide a cohesive, inspiring, personal, public-facing brand narrative that matched the visual style and tone of the site, while maintaining the high standard of credibility and professionalism set by the University of Illinois Chicago and the ERC.  We focused on the distinct needs, resources and attributes of each stakeholder group as much as the strategic work and vision of the IMP. 

Site Build

The design and style of the site drew on the color and energy of the monarch species itself, while keeping in line with the existing IMP logo.  Custom illustration, animation and graphics supplemented maps of the monarch migration and a timeline reflecting the evolution and key milestones of the IMP.  After distilling the Action Plan, it became clear that the site would be far more robust than the originally anticipated landing page; to maintain a clean look and feel, we designed a scrolling website with tabs highlighting specific stakeholder resources. 

The Results

Much time was spent editing and copywriting to create an inspiring, colorful, public-facing persona that matched the visual style and tone, yet maintained the high standard of credibility and professionalism of the University and the ERC.  Our goal was an appeal to stakeholders across industries as well as individuals, relaying the importance of the Action Plan and providing relevant calls to action and resources.  From a brand identity and concept design perspective, we drew on the color and energy of the species itself, sprinkling in custom illustrations, animations, and graphics throughout the site, including maps and a timeline reflecting the evolution and key milestones of the IMP.  These illustrations were designed to be compatible across both web and print media as part of the IMP Action Plan. 

The final result was a fresh website that coincided with the launch of the IMP’s pledge initiative, jam-packed with resources and information but presented in an approachable, easy to navigate format.  In the first four months, the IMP received more than 220 pledges with a 10% increase in email subscribers, and is now using the site as a home for the published Illinois Monarch Action Plan and related work.


220 + pledges

10% increase in email subscribers

and counting …

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