How branding can help us reach a greener travel future

Car brands have spent years, and millions, shoring up our reliance on petrol and personal vehicles, but change is arriving fast. Can a new wave of design and branding persuade us to move to greener forms of transport?

The world’s cities are on the brink of what could be a green transport revolution, with the lasting effects of Covid pushing councils to reconsider how urban roads operate. Major capitals are making streets more cycle-safe and encouraging residents to walk, bike, or scoot instead of jumping in their cars.

We’re also seeing new brands enter the market, from high-end electric bikes to startups such as Lime, which allows people to rent a cycle or scooter via its app. And with the UK announcing plans to phase out petrol and diesel cars by 2030, it’s no surprise that longstanding car brands are also making the switch to electric. 

All that said, there’s still plenty of work to do to wean consumers off their dependence on less eco-friendly forms of transport. “Part of the design challenge is education and being able to put a spin on these things that aren’t just about the eco-friendly aspect,” says Lea Loo, senior designer at New York brand and design studio Gretel.

“Ultimately, people are going to need to understand how these alternatives can fit seamlessly into their lives and work for them. There’s a bit of storytelling, trying to show and distil how these alternate modes are functional. Right now, the default is cars.”

Top and Above: Lime e-scooters