Show additional information on this project Expand
Brand New NERDy!

Team Leadership
  • Art Director
    Molly Taaffe

Rethinking the Lil NERDy character

NERD has used the Lil NERDy character for a long time, but we felt the character could use a little refresh for the 2020 NERD Summit. We wanted to bring a warmer more illustrative tone to Lil NERDy, and give the event a unique theme that helped to express the values and mission of NERD.



Bringing a refreshed NERDy to life

We brainstormed several ideas but landed on a theme around cooking and food. This theme is rich with metaphors about working together, each ingredient adding to the final result, and a robust menu of content for attendees. From there we started sketching layouts. It turned out that Lil NERDy looked really cute in a chef’s hat!

lil NERDy character slicing a tomato over their head

We tried to produce images that spoke to the metaphorical meanings of the theme. NERDys sharing food, cooking together, or adding lots of ingredients. We also created some custom images, such as the call for volunteers, and hackathon email images.


Nerdy cooking with child
Nerdys sharing pizza

Remixing an existing character was a challenge, because it had to remain true to the feeling of the mascot, but also be refreshed enough that it was clear 2020 had a unique look and theme. We had to establish rules, such as the eyes always being darker than the body color, to make sure they looked cheerful and lighthearted, and hands and feet being simple shapes.

2020 NERD Summit Tee Design

Another element we brought to this theme was patterned backgrounds. We illustrated foods and cooking tools, and added them behind event collateral, to add another dimension to the illustrations when used in emails and on social media. This added depth to the imagery, and consistency to event collateral.

Food Pattern for NERD Summit 2020


We were able to create a library of Lil NERDys, supplemented by two patterns, that tied into the theme and were informative in the event marketing materials and collateral. NERD Summit had to make a quick pivot due to Covid-19, and was a remote event. We were still able to utilize Lil NERDy across many digital assets and bring some warmth to a then-unfamiliar new event type.