Bert and Pipa – the new social media mascots on meereisportal.de
09 October 2020
Polar bears are native to the Arctic and are more closely associated with the region than any other animal. Though they are the largest land-based predators in the Arctic, they spend the majority of their lives on the ice of the frozen ocean. Accordingly, they greatly depend on sea ice when it comes to hunting. Due to the steady decline in sea ice due to climate change, their freedom of movement continues to shrink, and in the long term they may face extinction; a recent study indicates that this will likely come to pass in the majority of subpopulations before the end of the century (Molnár et al., 2020).
As such, it made perfect sense that a polar bear should be the mascot for meereisportal.de. In 2015 the portal was selected as one of the recipients of the “Germany – Land of Ideas” prize. As a science platform, contact point for information from experts, and publicly accessible data archive on all aspects of sea ice, meereisportal.de was awarded as one of the “Outstanding Sites in the Land of Ideas” in the category “City, Country, Network – Innovations for a Digital World”. We wanted to celebrate this achievement with a short film on our platform. The result came in 2016: an animated film with a polar bear in the starring role, jointly created with the DEKRA University of Applied Sciences in Berlin. Our first mascot, Bert, was born. In the film, Bert uses meereisportal.de to find out where the sea ice is thick enough for him and his friends to play football on it. Unfortunately, the topic of sea ice, which is playfully portrayed in the film, is a bitter truth for polar bears in the real world: the sea ice is disappearing, and growing thinner! If the current warming continues unchecked, the Arctic may see ice-free summers as early as mid-century.
Sea ice isn’t just found in the Arctic; it’s also in the Antarctic, where the impacts of climate change and its influence on the ecosystem can be clearly seen. To ensure the Antarctic was also represented, a long-standing cooperation with the FU Berlin’s Institute for Media and Communication Studies produced the idea for a second mascot to accompany Bert. The final choice: a penguin named Pipa.
In the context of courses at the FU Berlin, the students had already begun preparing information and articles on the social media channels of meereisportal.de. The idea of using the two figures as symbols of their respective polar regions at the portal soon emerged. But before that could happen, a few visual aspects had to be clarified. Step by step, the two mascots’ looks were refined and adapted for their future appearances online.
For the young graphic designer Hadi Mehana, this was the first real experience designing mascots. But he had previously created comic figures used in awareness campaigns for health at schools, which gave him a point of departure for approaching the designs. He began by analysing photographs of polar bears and penguins, to ensure his designs would maintain their basic forms and proportions. When it came to selecting potential designs, the focus was on the faces being able to express emotions, without departing too much from the animals’ real-world faces; the goal was for the two mascots to appear both authentic and friendly. Hadi also gathered a wealth of images and other inspirations on the topic, and ultimately created three very different options, whose components could also be mixed and matched.
The final results impressed everyone involved in the process, and the planning for future use of Bert and Pipa gained momentum. In the future, the pair will appear as experts for their respective polar regions, and share their knowhow with visitors in fun and exciting posts on the social media channels of meereisportal.de (https://twitter.com/meereisportal, https://www.instagram.com/meereisportal.de/). In this way, the two mascots will discuss and explain factual information on the two hemispheres from meereisportal.de on its Twitter and Instagram channels. The goal is to make information on the important topics discussed at meereisportal.de accessible to additional target groups and provide figures they can associate with the website.
We can hardly wait to see what stories our new ambassadors Bert and Pipa have to tell, and encourage you to check in with them on social media on a regular basis.
Warm wishes from the meereisportal.de team, not to mention …
More information on life in and underneath sea ice: