At Oxide Design Co., we select one pro bono client each year. It’s a careful process for us. We want to give our time toward something we believe in, and which needs our help. Nebraskans for Civic Reform has a mission much inline with our own. This organization advocates for a fair and equitable democracy – something near and dear to us. It provides civic education for youth and the community, training for veterans in job-readiness training, and advocacy for fair and accessible voting. It’s an organization we want to be more involved with, and to which we believe we can bring real value.

Earlier this summer, we began work with Nebraskans for Civic Reform on a new logo and corporate identity for the organization.

Nebraskans for Civic ReformNebraskans for Civic Reform logo

In the process of our initial in-depth research and interviews with Nebraskans for Civic Reform, a few themes emerged, giving us a clear understanding of the organization, and our starting point for building an effective and appropriate identity:

  • Creating a modern and robust democracy
  • Equality and common good
  • Community-focused
  • [obviously] Nebraska-centric
Nebraskans for Civic Reform concept sketchesNebraskans for Civic Reform concept sketches

Perhaps the first thing you’ll notice about the new logo is that it looks like a seal. This is an intentional allusion to our Nebraskan state seal – the blue color and the simplified line work of the rope outline are a modern take on the state seal. The seal is a symbol in which all Nebraskans can take pride, celebrating the fact that – politics aside – we’re all Nebraskans.

While many symbols are used to represent democracy, we wanted to find appropriate but unexpected imagery. Through our research, we discovered the seemingly unlikely candidate of the honey bee.

The honey bee is Nebraska’s official state insect. We found that bee societies are often mistaken as a monarchy – or even a dictatorship. But it turns out that the so-called “queen” bee is not the deciding member. Every bee is equal.

This insect society is actually a great example of democracy. The book Honeybee Democracy by Thomas D. Seeley goes into great depth on this concept, including how a bee colony will select its new home. (A process outlined with clever graphics in an NPR article, aptly titled “Why Honey Bees Are Better Politicians Than Humans.”)

NCR shirt

Honey bees, Seeley explains, use “collective intelligence.” In the instance of finding a new home, it means that 300 elder bees will represent the colony of 10,000 that’s looking to move. Those 300 will go out and scout some potential new homes. They’ll come back and report on their best findings by performing a dance that gives directions to the site. The more repetitions of the dance (like, 300 times), the better they think the site is. A second wave goes out to examine the top choices. More dancing. In the end, each bee has a voice.

And then this incredible thing happens: Once a bee expresses their opinion on the site, they stop caring which site is chosen. They’ll go along with whichever site is chosen by the collective. Because the collective will choose the best site.

Honey bees, it seems, have a perfect democracy.

The honey bee in the new Nebraskans for Civic Reform seal also looks upwards toward a star shape – an aspirational nod toward the ideal democracy.

In total, the visual elements capture everything at the at the heart of Nebraskans for Civic Reform’s work: everyone having equal voice, each an active community member, all working together to find the best solution for the whole of Nebraska.

We’re very pleased with the final product, and we’re excited to see it help grow Nebraskans for Civic Reform and the great endeavors in which they’re engaged. Today they unveil the new identity, and in the coming months we’ll be helping them implement it across all of their touch points in the community.

View the project page for Nebraskans for Civic Reform.