Sunbrella: Future of Shade

  • Services:

    Integrated, Video

  • Client:


Sunbrella: Future of Shade

Integrated, Video
  • Full Version

Within the architecture and design community, awnings are often seen as outmoded or boring. Our challenge was to overcome negative perceptions of awnings by elevating the conversation to focus on shade design and the role Sunbrella fabric plays in creating artful and innovative installations.

Project Overview

What We Did

Our team negotiated a partnership with industry influencer Architizer, the largest online community of architects and designers, to create and promote an annual competition called Future of Shade. The competition challenges industry professionals and students to explore shade fabrics as an opportunity to combine art, innovation and functional design. By crowdsourcing new and innovative shade designs, this holistic program allows Sunbrella to engage with its target audience by showcasing their ideas and sparking a global conversation about innovations in shade.


Future of Shade entries increased substantially each year, and we capitalized on the competition’s success by developing two educational courses for architects and landscape architects, who are required to complete Continuing Education Units (CEUs) annually. The Future of Shade and Healing Garden CEUs were created with content crowdsourced from the competition. So far, more than 4,400 professionals have completed the Future of Shade CEU. An additional 700 have completed the Healing Gardens CEU.

  • 43%

    Year-over-year increase in contest submissions

  • 350%

    Overall increase in contest submissions

  • 5,100

    Professionals who have completed the CEU courses

  • 348

    Overall entries from over 30 countries


Using arresting imagery with innovative and artistic uses of shade, we created traditional print and online ads that spread awareness of the competition while showing just how inventive and unexpected shade can be. These ads close the loop by driving the trade online to find a Sunbrella specialist and fabricator who can help them build out their ideas.

Digital Design

Our team created a responsive website that allows users to learn more about the competition and get inspired by browsing submissions from past years on any device. To drive traffic to the site, we developed a comprehensive display and retargeting digital advertising campaign that ran on industry-specific websites.

Online Video

To position Sunbrella as a thought leader, we launched the program with a short documentary in which experts ruminate on the question, “Why is shade important to humanity?” We also created a series of video profiles of the winning designers and their projects to uncover the inspiration behind the winners’ creations and explore the impact these designs could have on the world.

Brand Experiences

To raise awareness of the Future of Shade competition, Twisty, the grand prize winner from the first competition, was built out and displayed during Architectural Digest magazine’s AD Oasis event at Art Basel in Miami. To further engage the trade, we created gallery-like displays for trade show events featuring the current year’s entries in order to spark conversations around shade design. A panel discussion event gave the New York City A&D community an opportunity to interact with our judging panel through a conversation about shade design and the year’s winning entries.

Educational Content

To capitalize on the success of the Future of Shade competition, we developed two continuing education courses for designers and landscape architects, featuring submissions and ideas from the competition. These courses generated added brand awareness and served as a resource for industry professionals by providing both inspiration and course credits.