How&How’s tree-planting app rebrand is full of floofy foliage that pops with fuzziness when you click

For cultivating fresh new branding for Freetree – an app allowing users to plant trees via online shoping purchases – How&How asked to be paid in 60,000 trees.

11 May 2022

When branding and design agency How&How began work on the rebrand of Freetree, a tree-planting browser extension similar to Ecosia (its partner) but powered by online shopping, the agency faced a dilemma. While the app uses online purchase ‘activations’ to plant trees, How&How didn’t want to celebrate consumerism. It also knew it wanted to create something light, airy and restorative; “A lot of climate emergency marketing is bleak,” Cat How, How&How creative director, tells It’s Nice That. The solution lay in tying together visuals from the digital browsing landscape with organic animated forms in efforts to cultivate the warm and fuzzy feeling you get from a small good deed. Replicating this fuzzy feeling visually, it’s also the floofiest rebrand we’ve seen in some time.

To help users visualise the real-world impact of using Freetree, How&How incorporated the “literal foliage fuzz” users would be helping to plant IRL, says Cat. To make the connection between online shopping and tree planting even more tangible, the agency animated these smooth balls of undergrowth so they pop and spike when activated, mirroring the little growth spurts forests receive when users click to make an online purchase – or Freetree “activation”. Not content with that clever creative touch alone, How&How also developed a logo that looks both like a cursor and a tiny pine tree, which has been rolled out to also function as the Freetree website cursor.

According to Cat, landing on this playful approach came down, rather unexpectedly, to looking at words, not visuals. “Words are secret weapons when it comes to design – and good verbal strategy is at the bottom of good visual inspiration,” explains Cat. “Our wonderful strategist Jack came up with the word ‘fuzz’ which was so visual, and a pure gift to the design team, as we were able to hook so much around it.” Wanting to create a feeling of growth and expansion, How&How utilised the bouncy Champ by Typeverything for type, which features carved inktraps, “characterful cuts and ‘tendrils’,” Cat adds.

Meanwhile, to live up to the liveliness of the Freetree characters: “The palette had to feel loud and optimistic,” says Cat. With a baseline suite of greens, the studio brought in pops of accent brights – pinks, yellows and oranges – to suggest foliage in different seasonal states.

While there was a budget for the rebrand, How&How waived the fee, asking Freetree and Ecosia to “pay them in trees” instead – 60,000 to be exact. Thus, the rebrand marks not only the start of the brand’s mission to make the Earth “fuzzier” but assists with a tangible contribution along the way. The Freetree browser extension is currently in beta mode and working alongside 40,000 companies, from Lidl to H&M, in an effort to plant trees at no extra cost to the consumer.

GalleryHow&How: Freetree (Copyright © How&How, 2022)

GalleryHow&How: Freetree (Copyright © How&How, 2022)

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How&How: Freetree (Copyright © How&How, 2022)

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About the Author

Liz Gorny

Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. In January 2023, they became associate editor, predominantly working on partnership projects and contributing long-form pieces to It’s Nice That. Contact them about potential partnerships or story leads.

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