Developing a platform for change to save our oceans

Benioff Ocean Initiative


Douglas McCauley, a marine biologist at UC Santa Barbara, published a report that caught the attention of Marc Benioff, the CEO of Salesforce and Forbes Magazine’s “Innovator of the Decade”. In that report McCauley demonstrated not only the dire importance of saving our oceans but the need to gather more data and put the great science minds of our generation to work on solving real problems rather than simply publishing reports and writing the ocean’s obituary.

Marc and Lynne Benioff gifted more than $10 million to the University of California at Santa Barbara to create an innovative approach to saving our oceans. MODassic was honored to be hired to develop the brand identity for the organization as well as design and develop the platform that would make it all possible.

The Benioff Ocean Initiative was born.

The strategy was to develop a platform that would enable the crowdsourcing of ideas from everyday people around the world asking what problems they would like to see solved in their ocean.

Each cycle the organization would select a problem and then gather the best minds in ocean science and back it with a million dollars to solve that problem through emerging technologies, such as data analytics, satellite technologies, or the Internet of things.


Brand Identity

Our goal was to develop not just a logo mark for the organization but to create a lifestyle brand that scientists, surfers, outdoor enthusiasts, designers, developers and everyday people would want to be a part of. We explored a number of directions, ran focus groups and preference tests and ultimately tapped into the pulse of the ocean concept. We created a mark that ties the waves of the oceans into the familiar EKG line. Additionally through the use of voice/tone and custom illustrations, we brought this brand to life.  It’s now up to all of us to decide, are we going to let the pulse die or grow stronger?


The website is much more than just a static online brochure. It’s a platform for change. It’s a living portal where users need to quickly understand the concept, feel that it’s speaking directly to them and then easily engage by submitting their ideas as well as browse, like and comment on the ideas of others. The challenge was to communicate the process and ensure we were speaking to both high marine biologists as well as the everyday person who may just be taking a walk down a beach and not like what they see.

Idea Submission Portal

The core of the website is the idea submission portal. For this we developed a custom platform built on the WordPress platform. The portal allows the user to submit their idea and add photos. The ideas are categorized, can be searched and filtered, and users can comment and like other submission ideas.

Social Media Logins

The platform needed a seamless way for people to engage without jumping through hoops to create an account. As they are walking down the beach, browsing Facebook or in-line at the grocery store, users need to be able to quickly pull out their phone and connect before the moment of inspiration passes. To do this we integrated social media logins so users can connect with the click of a button.

Custom Illustrations

The brand is much more than the logo and intertwines with the message. We needed to create an approachable message that would both be taken seriously by the science community but also be inviting to the everyday person that the crowdsourced approach depended on. We couldn’t have users feeling their ideas aren’t good enough or smart enough. We truly wanted ideas from everyone and everywhere. Through custom illustrations we both communicated the process as well as created that approachable message.

Launch Events

The Benioff Ocean Initiative was launched at two very high profile events including the State Department’s Our Ocean conference in Washington DC and Dreamforce in San Francisco, CA. 

President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, Actor and Activist Leonardo DiCaprio as well as leaders from around the world gathered at Our Oceans in Washington DC where the Benioff Ocean Initiative along with a number of new initiatives focused on marine conservation and protection we introduced. Together these initiatives are valued at more than $5.24 billion and in addition include new commitments on the protection of almost four million square kilometers (over 1.5 million square miles) of the ocean. The event looks to inspire and empower a new generation and protect the future of our ocean.

Dreamforce, the annual Salesforce conference, is the largest conference of its kind and brought 170,000 business leaders, marketers, salespersons, designers and developers to San Francisco. Julie Packard and Douglas McCauley from the Benioff Ocean Initiative presented the project at Dreamforce as part of the Forbes Philanthropy Summit for a panel discussion entitled The Future of Our Oceans. The MODassic team was proud to be in attendance to see our work presented at such an amazing event.

Award winning branding

The MODassic team was proud to take home a Platinum award in the 2017 Hermes Creative Awards for the Benioff Ocean Initiative branding. Our goal was to both create a brand that communicates the mission as well as create a lifestyle brand that individuals would want to be a part of. We think we accomplished that.