Accelerating the clean energy transition

How a century-old energy company recommitted itself to addressing the climate crisis

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Rising above a picturesque bend in the Connecticut River, Northfield Mountain is a bucolic landscape, straight out of a Norman Rockwell picture. Yet beneath it—quite literally below ground —is one of the most advanced hydroelectric generating facilities in the U.S. You’d never know that the flow of water, the health of riparian habitats, the annual upstream passage of fish are all thoughtfully stewarded by FirstLight.

Under a rock—FirstLight’s hydroelectric facility is a sprawling subterranean complex. Located inside Northfield Mountain, it generates and stores energy that powers hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts households.

Yet, like the massive turbines concealed under a mountain, FirstLight’s story has remained hidden from view. FirstLight approached Ummo as the company undertook major investments in clean energy.  Among its peers, FirstLight was already renowned for its strong commitment to decarbonizing the electrical grid—while stewarding natural resources. But Ummo’s charge was to reintroduce FirstLight to broader audiences—from neighbors to regulators. This is why the new FirstLight brand was forged in thought-partnership with leadership, board members, staff, and the extended community.

The unmistakable shape of the FirstLight’s visual mark, the direct and aspirational voice of its verbal identity, and the bold shapes and colors of the brand all resulted from the wonderfully polyphonous complexity of this co-creative process.

“FirstLight is comfortable with complex, existential themes such as the climate crisis, resource stewardship, and systemic change.”

FirstLight brand manual

Through an extensive discovery process, we came to understand that FirstLight is not merely selling commercial energy. Rather, the company is  building a generational movement towards decarbonizing the grid—and ultimately securing a common clean energy future. FirstLight contends with fundamental forces of the sun, wind, and water. It grapples with existential questions of wellbeing, resilience, and species survival. And, rather than using resources for extraction, FirstLight is a thoughtful custodian of the environment; it invests heavily in the habitats under its care and manages dynamic ecosystems across North America.

The new FirstLight brand is therefore elemental: it speaks with conviction and clarity. The mark is built to evoke the astronomical angle of the sun’s first rays, at 18 degrees to the horizon. This wedge formed between the earth’s surface and the infinite reaches of the universe has appeared in every corner of the world, every morning, since time immemorial. The 18-degree angle  is at once a precise scientific quantity and the most basic perceived reality of life on earth. This angle, intuitively familiar to anyone who has ever experienced sunrise, shines through the new FirstLight logo mark—a reminder of a recurring dawn, a badge of optimism in our collective future.

Navigating complexity—The FirstLight website works hard. Neighbors visit it to pull recreation permits or learn about flood warnings; hikers and campers click to book reservations; regulators check in on compliance. Plus, the website houses company information, news, resources, and historical data. The new brings legibility to this variety of content and provides clear paths for multiple users.

In addition to the mark, the brand was elaborated through visual and verbal identity, color and typography, composition and use. It culminated in a new website, which welcomes FirstLight’s diverse user groups, including neighbors seeking recreation permits and legislators who regulate the company’s multijurisdictional operations.

The site is the primary touchpoint for these audiences. Despite the staggering complexity of its content and organization, Ummo charted a clear path for users. We fully renamed and reordered site architecture, breaking it into legible sections heralded by clear, resonant headlines and sub-page menus. A minimal color palette lets video and images shine, while a rigorously-organized navigation puts users in control.

The new brand powerfully states FirstLight’s commitment to a carbon-free grid. But at the picturesque bend in the Connecticut River, there is no branding to be seen—here, the splendor of the natural environment speaks for itself.

Do not speak softly—FirstLight is building a movement—not merely selling electricity. Ummo wrote a new vision statement from a place of conviction: “Clean energy. Clear path. Common purpose.”

Colophon

Project

Strategy and brand for FirstLight

Scope

  • Identity,
  • website,
  • strategy

Typology

  • Innovation

Client

FirstLight Power Resources, Inc.

Credits

Developer Alex Knoll

Big batteries

Bloomberg Quicktake explores the vast potential of our Northfield Mountain Pumped Hydro Energy Storage facility in supporting the transition to a clean energy economy.

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