Water Leadership poster

Canada is surrounded by water and historically, Canadians have a very strong connection with water. Major cities are built around rivers, lakes, and oceans. We celebrate water through sport and culture. So it should be surprising that in 2016, Canada ranked last when it came to environmental protection amongst developed countries. And based on RBC’s Canadian Water Attitudes Survey, 56% of young Canadians aged 18 to 34 didn’t know where their drinking water came from. In the same study, many also didn’t know what a watershed was or the name of the watershed that they lived in. So Waterkeeper considered this conundrum and asked, how can Canadians protect their waters when they don’t know the basic information about their waters? And how can people who make decisions for communities protect their waters if they too don’t know the basic information?

To help remedy this disconnection, Waterkeeper realized they had to backtrack. It’s difficult to teach someone the laws that protect their waters when the person isn’t aware of the body of water at their doorstep – or even where their drinking water comes from. It’s not that people didn’t care. Most people actually do care if they’re aware of what’s around them. So this was a clear opportunity to educate and walk people through the steps in becoming water leaders – people who understand their connection to water. The more you’re connected to water, the more you’ll want to protect it.

This poster outlines the six qualities that make a water leader.

The Challenge

At the time, the steps to become a water leader were constantly discussed at staff meetings as the idea took shape. As I was in the communications role, I wrote them down in case we wanted to post them on the blog. What I wasn’t expecting was to be asked to do an infographic to accompany the blog post.

The infographics I tended to gravitate towards were very factual and straightforward. To me, good infographics had bold stats that were easy to absorb (and as a designer, emphasize). But that wasn’t the case for this infographic. The foundation of this infographic was based on an idea – the belief that if people go through these six steps, they’ll be better and stronger advocates for Canada’s waters. There were no numbers. And this was the first infographic I was asked to create – ever. I felt like I really understood these six steps, and I believed in their effectiveness to change peoples’ view.

I felt a little baffled, but I was 2-months in at Waterkeeper and I wanted to make a good impression. I remember tackling each step separately. Not in sequence because some of them stumped me more than others (the idea of a Watermark was still new to me). I spent a bit of time going through Google Images to get ideas and I sketched a few layouts in my notebook. I experimented with different icons and played around with different shades of blue while being careful to ensure each step carried similar (visual) weight. I separated each step vertically so each could stand on their own and added a path and arrows to guide the reader.

When I showed the team the poster, I remember feeling elated after hearing their positive response.

Here’s the blog post where the infographic made its first appearance.