While browsing a Texas electric co-op’s blog feed, I found an editorial written by Curtis Condon, Ruralite’s recently-retired managing editor. Hello Google, my old friend. Let’s see where else electric co-ops shared his column, Appreciating Electricity a Penny at a Time.
Texas. Kansas. Pennsylvania. Nebraska. Montana. Colorado. Minnesota. Illinois. Oklahoma. Wisconsin. Tennessee. Iowa. South Dakota. Wow.
Add states with Ruralite member utilities (Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, California, Arizona, Florida), and you realize consumers in all parts of the country read this message. That’s the power of Straight Talk.
I used to write consumer-focused content for Straight Talk when I worked for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. The sheer power of sharing a message across a 900-utility network of communicators never ceases to amaze me.
Wait—you’ve never heard of Straight Talk?
The team at Ruralite Services, a utility-owned communications cooperative, know the value of working collaboratively to save time, money and headaches. Our editors connect members to helpful resources like Straight Talk, the Electrical Safety Foundation International, Safe Electricity, and more. We write original energy-focused content and create graphics for Ruralite members, too. Cooperation among cooperatives—I love that principle, don’t you?
I often meet communicators who had never heard about Straight Talk, a consumer content resource for NRECA members.
Do you work for an electric co-op? If so, join Straight Talk’s Listserv. Each month you get an email with an editorial and stories about energy efficiency, safety and other energy issues. Graphics and videos support the content. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. NRECA also provides toolkits on rate increases, internal communications, social media, crisis communications, smart meters and more.
Not an NRECA member? Never fear—you have great resources, too. The American Public Power Association has consumer content for Public Power Week (October 1-7, 2017!) and storm preparation materials. They often share graphics from their magazine, Public Power. To get on the distribution list, email APPA Director of Digital and Social Media Sam Gonzales.
What resources work best for you? Share your favorite go-to resources as comments on this blog post. Remember—as public power utility communicators, we’re more powerful together!
Anniversary gifts can be tricky. Why pick from paper, wood, silver, gold or diamond gifts when you could opt for a solid design, instead?
Whether your utility has powered the community for 25 years or is approaching the centennial mark, a logo unifies celebration messages.
Last week, utility communicators across the nation shared examples of anniversary logos on NRECA’s Communicators Listserv (NRECA members can view the conversation here). We thought we’d join the fun by sharing a few of our favorite examples, too.
Lewiston, Idaho-based Clearwater Power used iconic elements from their rural area—trees, fish, deer, wheat and power lines—to create a 75th anniversary logo in 2012.
The original design was packed with detail. There were layers of needles on the evergreen trees and eye, nose and shading definition on the deer.
Clearwater Power Marketing and Communications Specialist Jeff Marshall refreshed the logo in 2017. He stripped it down and improved on an already good design. Using simple silhouettes versus gradients make the design stronger and more versatile.
The original 2012 logo, left, and the updated 2017 logo.
For the most impact, keep images incorporated into a logo focused on a few recognizable, clearly defined icons. Aim for clean, simple lines; avoid too much detail.
Get Creative with Numbers
What’s the best part about evenly-spaced anniversaries? The frame-like shapes of the numbers. Most anniversaries end in a five or zero. Both numbers easily become powerful shapes for logo design.
Rappahannock Electric Cooperative in Fredericksburg, Virginia, brilliantly used the numbers seven and five to create a utility pole and circle for the years of their incorporation. This design may be four years old, but it still feels fresh and fun.
Rappahannock Electric’s logo turned a seven and a five into a utility pole.
Yampa Valley Electric Association in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, turned the tops of the numbers seven and five into a thick line, cleverly framing the co-op’s years of service. The utility also used two contrasting colors (black for the utility name, red for the year) to highlight the milestone.
Although it’s smart to design in monotone (the best designs translate easily into black and white), colors can be a powerful way to add impact to a logo.
YVEA’s milestone logo merged the top of two numbers to create a thick line.
Mohave Electric Cooperative in Bullhead City, Arizona, filled the zero in 70 and added an electric bolt inside the circle, connecting the milestone year to the utility.
Several other utilities used the zero in eighty or seventy to frame an image and the celebration milestone. While turning numbers into frames can work really well, be careful not to pack too much detail into a small frame.
These examples from Arkansas and Alabama use the zero as a design element.
Rest on your Laurels
Laurel leaves, a Greek symbol of victory and honor, pop up in several utility anniversary logos. Makes sense—public power utilities have won several battles for consumers since founded.
Clatskanie PUD used laurel leaves behind their milestone year in a 2013 logo. Because of the utility’s focus on service, the icon works.
In the same way, Blachly-Lane Electric Co-op wanted to focus on a long history of service. Laurel leaves on either side of the co-op’s signature oval logo shape was an easy way to create a temporary logo design for 2017.
These examples celebrate service and honor by adding laurel leaves to the design.
We Can Help
We love working with public power utilities to find fun ways to celebrate milestones. We can also help you update your current logo. To learn how Blachly-Lane Electric worked with Ruralite earlier this year to refresh their logo and create a complementary anniversary design, read our portfolio post. Want to get to work? Email us today.
Trying to pick colors for a page layout, or looking for inspiration to freshen your brand hues? Since the 1800s, designers have used color wheels to identify which colors work well together to set a tone or draw attention.
Adobe Color CC takes the color wheel online, offering three ways to find fresh color combinations.
Duy Mai uses Adobe Color CC to help Ruralite members find strong color combinations.
Browse for Bright Ideas
Start at Color.Adobe.com/Explore. You will see sample color mixes from designers around the world. On the top left drop-down menu, select “Most popular” to find current color trends.
Need to evoke a specific feeling? Search palette names in the top right search box. The feature is hit or miss, since color names are highly subjective. But you might find a fun, unexpected mix.
Looking for the colors for a brand (Seahawks or 49ers fans, anyone?) or a palette to match an occasion? You can search for brand names or generic events, too.
Pull Colors from a Picture
Upload an image to find five colors that convey a colorful, muted or deep meaning.
After adding a picture, use the left drop-down navigation pane to set a mood (colorful, bright, muted, deep or dark). Each option picks five different colors from the picture to help evoke a feeling. You can also use the custom option to handpick five colors from the picture.
Ready to create your own color combinations? Use the manual color wheel at Color.Adobe.com.
Enter a color you want to work with. If your logo uses NRECA’s green ball icon, enter the green RGB color (Pantone 348, RGB 0/132/61).
Now use the drop-down color rule menu to view analogous, monochromatic, triad, complementary or compound colors. Want to stay close to home? Opt for shades of the selected color. You can also pick five colors you think pair well with each other, using the custom option.
Save Your Colors
Find an inspiring color palette? You do not need an Adobe membership to use Adobe Color CC, but you must be a member to save the colors you discover. If you are an Adobe Creative Cloud member, save your palettes to other Adobe software (i.e. PhotoShop, InDesign, Illustrator). Otherwise, take a screen shot and jot down the formulas (RGB or CMYK) for your favorites.
Need help finding a Pantone color (used by printers) that matches a screenshot? Adobe Illustrator’s Recolor Artwork tool (Edit> Edit Colors> Recolor Artwork) can help. If you do not have the software, your editor can work with you to find a Pantone color that works for your brand. Screen and printing colors will always be different, so keep that in mind.
Mobile Color Mixes
Need more tools to find fresh color blends? Try the Adobe Capture CC app (iTunes, Google Play). The app makes it easy to pull colors out of your surroundings. You can also turn pictures into vector shapes or brushes, then make the files available in Adobe PhotoShop and Illustrator.
The app is free to download, but you must sign in with your Adobe Creative Cloud password to use the features.
Color palettes unify, strengthen a brand’s image
Your colors—whether used in a logo, brochure or website—are part of your company’s brand.
Colors can make people feel hungry or sated, happy or sad. People bring individual experiences to the meaning of colors, too. For fun examples, watch this video of your peers sharing favorite colors. Once you pick your brand’s set of colors, tie those colors into all of the materials produced throughout the year.
Less is more
How many colors should your brand’s color palette include? Follow the rule of thumb designers follow for fonts; stick to two or three colors for consistency.
Unsuccessful designs may use five or six different fonts. There is no consistency, which can make the creative feel unprofessional and disjointed. You can use more than one font, but do it thoughtfully. When using contrasting fonts, have a clear purpose in mind to draw attention to a key word or phrase.
The same guideline can be used for color. Pick a primary color, then add a color or two that complement or contrast the primary color. Use those colors when you want to draw attention to something.
Remember, less is more. It’s nice to have font and color options when designing for your utility, but you do not need to use all of your options all of the time.
Ruralite Services’ member colors are mainly navy blues and forest greens. There are few pastels or neon colors used. For the most part, utilities opt for safe, traditional colors. But as we work to connect with younger consumers, we should consider colors that resonate with a younger crowd, too.
Consumers Power’s combination of blue and orange is nice and bright. It’s a good example of a fresh color palette. The colors pair well on the logo. The website plays the colors off each other, and some magazine pages use the colors to draw attention to headlines.
Umatilla Electric’s logo is another fun example of a bright, friendly color palette. The utility uses one primary color—a bright blue—on their logo and website. A lighter shade of the color is used on the back of the magazine, complementing the primary color.
Be Color Blind, Too
Not all communications are in color (forms, for example), and some utilities do not use color regularly on their magazine pages.
Although powerful, always remember design does not start with color. Some people are so tied to color that it blinds them to the actual design. Color can be a distraction in the early stages of designing a logo or other graphic.
Working on a design? See what it looks like in black and white, first. An easy way to test a design’s strength is to use a photocopier to make a black and white copy of your work. See how the bones of the design or layout—not the color—stand out.
We often hear about designing accessible websites, but how many of us understand what it is like to put those designs into practice? Empathyprompts.net offers several ways to experience accessibility issues first hand.
The website challenges you to put yourself in the position of people with cognitive, auditory, motor or visual conditions. For example:
- Mute your speakers, then watch a video.
- Sit on your dominant hand, then try to get your work done.
- Borrow someone’s glasses for a few minutes and try to type.
- Wear heavy winter gloves while using your keyboard.
- Use your keyboard—no mouse or trackpad!—to navigate a website. (Tip: Use Windows Mouse Keys.)
Want to go one step further? Some prompts include extensions you can add to a browser to simulate dyslexia , low vision and other conditions.
Empathy Prompts is hosted on GitHub, a software development platform. The project is meant to help digital designers take into account how everyone—not just people like them—interact with digital offerings. The website was launched in May to celebrate Global Accessibility Awareness Day.
Accessible Utility Designs
Learn about website accessibility solutions in these blog posts:
We Can Help
Need help updating your website? We’d love to help. Here are common questions (and answers!) about how we help utilities design websites with accessibility (and your budget) in mind.
Are you ready to gif… we mean give, your linemen some love in April? Here’s how to #thankalineman in style.
When’s the Party?
We like to celebrate linemen every day—they’re awesome!—but it’s also nice to pick a date every year to highlight the men and women who keep our lights on. This is when industry leaders celebrate in 2017:
- March 31: Edison Electric Institute (investor-owned utility association), the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
- April 10: National Rural Electric Cooperative Association
- April 18: American Public Power Association
Let’s GIF this Party Started!
We love brainstorming creative ways to recognize holidays on social media. To celebrate linemen this year, we created a looping gif. It’s not as time-intensive as a video, but the moving images stand out and get noticed on social media news feeds.
In addition to the gif, Ruralite Social Media Support Program subscribers get a custom cover image and National Lineman Appreciation Day graphic with their utility logo.
Love this idea? Talk to me if you want to add your logo to this year’s social media design. Prices for a custom graphic are determined on a one-hour minimum project basis.
Party (and Press!) Ideas
No matter which day you pick, here are three great ways to #thankalineman and get the community and your staff involved.
- Surprise Snacks:
Have volunteers pack up snacks for linemen to take on the road. Ask member services representatives, a class of students at a nearby school or consumers visiting the office to sign thank you cards, and add a card to each bag. Place the surprise snacks either in each utility truck EARLY in the morning or place them in your utility’s linemen office/meeting space. Supplies: Thank you cards, small brown paper lunch bags, snack variety packs, candy bars, and either bottled water or an energy drink. Tip: Although an apple might be healthy, bear in mind linemen often eat on the run.
- Biscuits and Banners:
Nothing says ‘Thank You’ quite like a warm biscuit. Treat your linemen to breakfast and hang a ‘Thank You’ banner on your warehouse dock. Keep the banner up for at least a week. No time for a banner? Post 8.5×11 flyers around the office and dock (download flyer). Supplies: Call ahead to your local biscuit supplier (or a chain such as McDonald’s, Burger King, Jack in the Box). Order a biscuit for each of your linemen. You may want to order enough to feed other operations and engineering staff, too. Tip: Get a picture of your CEO/General Manager hanging up the banner to use in your newsletter.
- Lemonade for Linemen:
As the linemen return to the docks, have either member service representatives and/or senior staff hand out lemonade to crews. Supplies: Buy in bulk from your local grocery store or buy sugar, water and lemon juice and make it from scratch. Serve from a large thermos or other container; have a stack of plastic cups handy. Tip: Invite local press to snap pictures. If the afternoon time doesn’t work, consider having staff fill thermos for the linemen to take with them in the morning (some crews attach a thermos to their bucket trucks).
Other Party Resources:
NRECA put together a planning guide with sample social media posts and celebration ideas. NRECA members can download all of the support materials (press release, print ad, social media images).
Have an idea to share?
We’d love to let other utility communicators see how you celebrate your linemen. Share pictures/ideas below or send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for spreading the lineman love!