It's not often anyone associates the words "style" or "satire" with a public utility. Prepare for that perception to change a bit. Both worthy attributes are on display in a new 2008 calendar recently published for Tacoma Public Utilities. Comic book style illustrations by talented local artist Chris Sharp cover the top flap for each month each with satirical, conservation-themed captions below. My favorite is easily October:
The full color publication looks great but I wanted to know a bit more about what the impetus was behind it. Chris Gleason, TPU's community and media services manager and the team leader behind this 12-month gem, took a minute for some email Q&A.
Q: What was the inspiration for creating such a stylized calendar?
A: We wanted to try to deliver conservation messages in a way that people have not seen before. It's a challenge to connect with our customers when we compete with so many other things, so we hoped that people would take notice when they got something unexpected from us.
Q: Can you describe some of your experience collaborating with local artist Chris Sharp on this project?
A: We had a great time working with Chris. The TPU communications team developed the tag lines and had a great time watching Chris work those into artistic concepts. He is so creative and came up with ideas that we hadn't even considered. (Like using a burglar for the month of October.)
Q: Should a public utility appear to be having fun?
A: Absolutely. We understand that people take our services very seriously and they rely on having clean water and reliable power. We would not have fun over those topics. But when it comes to educating our customers about messages like conservation there's every reason in the world to make it fun and engaging. (Which means there's no reason it should be boring.)
Q: Which month's art/caption is your favorite?
A: I love December. It delivers a strong message about an action someone can take to save energy but adds some humor by touching on a situation that can be reality in some marriages. Plus, the art is wonderful.
Q: Where can people who want a copy get one?
A: Customers can stop by the TPU lobby, 3628 S 35th St. in Tacoma [ map ] and pick one up. We're reluctant to mail them out because of the cost, but will look into seeing if we can charge $1 for postage so we can send them out.
Q: Any other tidbits or details you'd like to share?
A: The only other thing I'd like to add is that we would love to know what people think of it. This is a new way of communicating, so we want to find out if we're on the right track.
Also over at the Biz Buzz Blog