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Hate your logo? Figure out if it can be fixed, or if you need a new one.
Do you love your organization, but hate your logo? Would you love to change it, but you’re not sure what to do, how to talk about it, or know if you can afford it?
You are not alone.
Bad logos are a common nonprofit affliction. Maybe it was drawn twenty years ago. Maybe you started with clip art. Maybe you lost the original files and are using a version that looks like it has been faxed thirty times. Maybe you just flat-out don’t like it, whether you know why or not.
It’s OK. We’ll get you on the path to logo recovery!
Presented Live on
Wednesday, February 8, 2012
1:00 – 2:00 p.m. Eastern
(10:00 – 11:00 a.m. Pacific)
During this webinar, our favorite design expert, Julia Reich, will
- Elevate your knowledge of logo design, so you know what makes a good logo and what makes a bad one
- Look at lots of logos with us, and discuss why they work and why they don’t so you can put the theory into practice and have examples you can discuss with others
- Give you the ammunition you need to evaluate your logo and intelligently discuss it with your colleagues
- Help you see if you can get away with a quick fix versus a total logo overhaul, and what each process entails
As an added bonus, Julia will review the logos of several participants live on the webinar.
It’s important for an organization to have a strong logo, since it helps you create a consistent look that reinforces your mission, increases awareness, and attract donors. We will help your logo go from sucky to successful!
Julia Reich of Julia Reich Design will present this webinar. Kivi Leroux Miller, president of Nonprofit Marketing Guide.com, will moderate your questions for Julia.
This is Part 2 in a series of posts that I have been sharing share with the http://www.nonprofitmarketingguide.com/ community, about how to hire a graphic designer or design firm.
In my last post, “How to Hire a Graphic Designer or Design Firm, Part 1: Where to Look” I offered suggestions on where to turn to find designers to work with.
Assuming you’ve found some likely candidates, how do you narrow down your choices? I’ll cover what to look for in an independent designer or design firm so you can pick one with a sensibility and methodology (and pricing) that’s a good match for you and your organization.
Look & Feel
Aesthetics are surely subjective, but there are some standards that apply across the design discipline. In reviewing creative portfolios (which should be easy to find on any firm’s website), look for work that is accessible, straightforward, impactful, and memorable. Avoid trendiness. It should look in line with the current times, but also project into the future 5 or 10 years – do you think the work will be visually relevant then, too?
Media, Industries, and Sectors
When “shopping” for a designer, it’s typical to want to find someone that’s done the exact same thing you need. However, a proficient designer/design firm should be able to work on a broad range of projects. For example, if you need to have a website re-designed, but a colleague at another agency recommends their logo designer, ask the designer if they also do what you need, and look at samples of their work.
A good designer can be just as creative working with an organization in, say, the health care sector as they can in the performing arts for example. As long as they are curious and exhaustive in really getting to know you – by asking questions, talking to stakeholders, and researching your organization – don’t discount them right off the bat if you don’t see exactly the same kind of piece you’re looking for, or past clients that are similar to you, in their portfolio. In fact, sometimes it’s better to find someone that does not work within your field, so your designer comes at your project with a fresh, open approach.
I DO highly recommend finding a designer that works primarily within the nonprofit world. Not only are nonprofit needs unique from your corporate counterparts, but the culture and personality at nonprofits is different. Your designer should have the kind of expertise in creating materials that typify the nonprofit sector, whether that’s communicating diverse messages or designing campaigns that increase donations and awareness.
Finally, if you are looking for a logo design, there are a lot of designers who are highly talented doing this kind of creative work. But if you are looking to undertake a full-scale strategic branding project, take note of designers and firms which clearly state that they offer this service, and have the case studies and testimonials to back it up.
A Quick Note About Designers vs. Developers
When it comes to website projects, designers are not the same as developers. Designers, who are typically responsible for the aesthetics of a site and maintaining your brand online, do not always make great developers, and developers, who are typically responsible for the site’s functionality, can be terrible designers (of course, this is a generalization, and you could very well find talented individuals whose left and right brains are equally robust).
If you hire a solo designer, be aware that they may be partnering with another individual to do the development. This is a good thing, since each person on the creative team is doing what they do best. Ensure your designer is the main point person. If s/he is able to manage workflow and facilitate communication between yourself and the developer for the duration of the project, you should be in good hands.
Many firms are full-service operations, and can create your entire website from concept through completion. See if they have both designers and developers on staff. In either case, check out designers/design firms online portfolios – do you like their designs? Do the sites they create offer the kind of features and functionality you’d like for your site? Are you able to move around their clients’ sites easily, and is the experience enjoyable?
Read more here about designers vs. developers, and why knowing the difference can ensure a successful site.
Arrange for three to five designers to visit for an in-person meeting to discuss their work and your project. Whether the designer chooses to display their work in an old-fashioned portfolio with hard copies, online, or using a PowerPoint presentation, here’s some tips on what to ask and look for:
- Is the work consistently strong, and in a style that resonates with you and the personality of your organization? (strong = accessible, straightforward, impactful, and memorable)
- Ask about the challenges inherent in each project, and how the client articulated what they needed. How successful was the solution the designer came up with? Are there quantifiable results, or client testimonials? Listen carefully for articulate and informed answers. Be aware of work that is pretty to look at, but does not solve the client’s unique problems.
- Find out if the work you are viewing was actually approved and produced/printed (good!), or if it is student/personal work (red flag alert!).
- Ask what the designer’s role was in each project. Look for someone who can manage an entire project from concept through completion, and work with a printer or developer to ensure quality control for the duration.
- Ask the designer to explain their process. You should come away from the meeting with a clear understanding of each phase, what the deliverables are and how they will be presented, how many rounds of revisions you’ll get, and what they expect you to provide/do.
- Be prepared to explain the full scope of work so the designer will be able to get back to you with a price estimate and/or proposal.
That Certain… Je Ne Sais Quois
Other than creativity and expertise, your designer of choice should be intelligent, inspired, and responsive to your needs. You should feel comfortable – not intimidated or awkward- communicating with them. Ultimately, a successful project – whether it’s a logo, brochure, or website – will be the result of a designer/client relationship with mutual rapport and respect.
Julia is Principal of Julia Reich Design, which helps nonprofit organizations bring their mission to life with award-winning brand strategy, graphic design, and web design services. Clients love her team’s top-notch creative work combined with an affordable, personalized approach.
When an Upstate NY organization revolutionized its strategy in order to stay on mission, we jumped in to help.
With a new executive director, new office space, and a new strategic plan, the Cayuga County Chamber of Commerce needed a newly imagined logo to let everyone know that things had changed.
In our Discovery Process, we learned that the Chamber’s constituents saw it as a social organization. But it’s really an advocacy and business development organization.
So we looked for active, bold, businesslike images, and avoided anything passive, soft, or pastoral. Our three suggested designs focused on three concepts: “Voice of the Business Community,” “County-wide Reach,” and “Collaboration.”
The Chamber went for “Collaboration.”
Our inspiration for that design came from the executive director, who told us that “the Chamber is the cog in the wheel that sets the business machine in motion.” That image set our imaginations in motion!
In the design, each wheel represents one of the three Cs of Cayuga County Chamber. The central “C” shows the Chamber at the dynamic center of things. And we chose a strong “Neutraface” font to mirror the circular shapes in the logo.
The bright, multi-color palette reflects the energy of the Chamber’s diverse membership, as well as the area it serves. Blue for the water that brings tourists to the Finger Lakes, green for the beautiful farms and forests, and oranges and yellows to illustrate the vigorous arts and culture of the area.
That beauty and energy now appears in the Cayuga Chamber of Commerce logo.
I met Julia Reich at the NTC conference (at the 501 Tech NYC Happy Hour to be exact) and being the nonprofit marketing geeks we are, we started talking about the struggles that nonprofits face with design. We seemed to take a similar approach, so I asked Julia to guest blog for us. Her first post follows up on the discussion I started about style guides earlier this month by providing you with some real-life examples.
It’s not unusual that as an organization grows, your communication materials are created by various people. Before you know it, there’s five different versions of letterhead circulating around the office and your blue logo varies in shade from green to purple.
Consistency is Key. Inconsistency can be a problem. It’s crucial for a nonprofit to not only communicate their message clearly – what they do, how they do it, and who they do it for – but also to represent themselves visually in a consistent manner, so donors and other stakeholders will have an easier time recognizing your good work and understanding the case for supporting you. If you don’t communicate what your nonprofit stands for, intelligibly and distinctly, your audiences may become confused.
Style Guide Rules (or, Style Guides Rule!) Whenever my firm works on a branding project, our final deliverable is always a Graphic Design Style Guide (alternately referred to as Brand Standards or Brand Guidelines, if messaging and positioning were part of the branding process). The overarching need for such a manual is so that internally, your organization has a set of rules by which to create consistent communications collateral. The rules apply similarly to print and web usage – and Powerpoint, signage, a mug, the side of a truck, and any other media you can think of – although the specifics across media may vary. In essence, the Style Guide protects your organization’s message and your image.
Training Ensures Buy-In. Staff may need some instruction on how to implement their new style rules. For instance, along with the Style Guide, our clients receive a CD with their new logo in every possible file format necessary for usage with the above media. And while the manual explains when and where it’s appropriate to use each file, some explanation could be helpful for those not familiar with print production processes, or web standards. Training will also aid in getting everyone on board, ensuring buy-in throughout the organization for your new, or newly revised, visual identity.
Real Life Examples. Kivi’s post from April 12 was spot-on in terms of what is typically included in this document: logo usage, color palette, typefaces, and layout templates. If you’re a visual thinker like I am, it might be helpful to see examples of what this means. To that end, here are a few examples from style guides we’ve created over the years:
I’m taking a 12-week class called The Certified Networker, a program of The Referral Institute. Each week a small group of students – mostly solopreneurs like myself – meet in Ithaca to learn how to build our businesses by referral. I’m in the process of identifying my network (or ‘contact sphere’ of people who can help me with information, support, and referrals – and vice-versa); investing time to develop individual relationships that strengthen this network; working my network to generate referrals; and eventually, soon – although it hasn’t happened yet – turning those referrals into clients.
I’m spending more time than I ever did before, getting to know people better through ‘one-to-ones’. This might be the core benefit the program holds for me, since I am chronically afflicted with feelings of isolation (have an hour and a therapist’s couch? We can talk more about it). A recovering introvert, I’ve been wanting to pull myself out of the isolation for some time now, with half-baked notions of project collaborations with other creative professionals, but did not, until now, have a structured plan and rationale to do so.
What do I spend all that time talking about with my potential partners in these 60-minute ‘one-to-ones’? I’m still learning about it – and have yet to put it into practice – but in order to generate effective referrals, my contact sphere needs to know a whole lot about me and my business. And I need to know the same about them.
Our homework last week was to develop a GAINS profile (an acronym for Goals, Accomplishments, Interests, Networks, Skills) I can give to the people on my list – the people I’ve identified as being strong potential referral partners – so we can share our personal, networking, and business goals.
My first effort read more like a curriculum vitae, but I’ve since made it more succinct. You can download it here: GAINS_JuliaReich.
Go ahead – download & read it. In my GAINS profile, you’ll probably learn more about me than you might have in a typical conversation or networking event. For instance, now you know that one of my goals this year is to get to NYC more often. If we were in a one-to-one, and you asked me why, that would give me the opportunity to let you know that I miss the city, and the relationships I developed there over 15 years. My intention this year is to re-commit to maintaining those relationships. I’d love to find a situation where I can land a retainer client or contract gig that gives me an excuse to get there every few weeks.
You might also not know that some of my accomplishments include: winning the 2009 Cayuga County Small Business of the Year award; having my design work featured in several books; writing a monthly food column for a local newspaper in 2008; and counting swing dancing and Settlers of Catan (a German board game) as two of my interests.
Why go into so much depth? What goes around comes around. If I help people achieve something important to them, they will remember me, and want to help me, too. And they will be more likely to share their information with me if I share mine with them. I’m learning a new, deeper way of communicating who I am and what I do, and my referral partners are being trained to employ the same strategies and language.
It makes so much sense, don’t you think? Stay tuned while I go out over the next several weeks and try this stuff in real life. I’ll be writing about the results.
I’m currently enrolled in a 12-week class called The Certified Networker, held by the Referral Institute of Ithaca. In the class, I am learning how to develop relationships with people and create a referral network, which will help me grow my business. Part of this work involves enhancing my business image by developing a marketing communication strategy. This strategy includes developing a short introduction about who I am and what I do, and a longer, 10-minute presentation, which is what follows in this blog post. It should have an emotional-based marketing theme, and a call to action.
You know I am a graphic designer, and that I am owner of my business, Julia Reich Design. Let me tell you about myself and WHY I do what I do.
I grew up in NJ, in the suburbs. My father worked on Wall St. as a securities analyst, commuting over an hour each way into the city every day. I did not see him very much, and we were never very close. To this day I could not really explain to you what he did for a living. My mother (now retired), with whom I was closer, started out as a high school math teacher, eventually earning two masters degrees and becoming a learning consultant where she tested teenagers with learning problems – special ed kids – and making recommendations for appropriate schools or programs that would best serve their needs.
As a kid, my two main interests were animals, and drawing. When I went off to college, I thought I’d study to become a wildlife biologist. However, at about the same time I learned that scientists need to have an aptitude for statistics & math, I discovered environmental education – teaching nature to kids – which I loved. i was drawn towards education since i admired my mother and her career, so I went down that path, but in my own unique direction, based on my love for the outdoors.
In my 20’s, after college and then living in NYC, I was an environmental educator. In my last job in that role, I was education director of a nature center on the Hudson River. But more & more I found myself interpreting science lessons with art rather than science, culminating in an environmental & artistic tour de force that was a life-size, indoor, walk-through Hudson River marsh, that I made with my elementary school students.
Soon after, I took an evening class at the school of visual arts in NYC in graphic design, which really resonated with me. In a few more years, I left my education job to attend Pratt Institute, and got a degree in graphic design two years later.
In 2001 I started my own firm. I had worked briefly in a corporate setting, as an in-house designer, but the cubicle life was not for me. I found the hierarchies in those firms stifle creativity and meaningful personal relationships, and which make business development satisfying for me as a “solopreneur”.
Because I was familiar with the nonprofit world, this quickly became my target market, and remains to this day. I’ve had the pleasure of working with some great organizations, educational institutions, and progressive businesses: Brooklyn Botanic Garden; GrowNYC (the org which runs the famous Union Square greenmarkets); Wildlife Conservation Society; National Environmental Education Foundation; Educational Video Center; Slow Food USA; Food Systems Network NYC; Hawthorne Valley Farm. These are the ones that have missions related to my own personal interests, that I feel passionate about, and are usually the most fun to work with. And that list hasn’t changed much since I was a kid – nature, environment, animals, and similar sectors – gardening, food, and anything that could be labeled ‘green or ‘sustainable’. And of course, education.
The services I provide for these nonprofits and progressive businesses include print design (such as brochures, reports, newsletters), web design, and branding. Branding is when I design not only a logo for a client, but create their entire identity, and often also aid them with positioning and messaging – how they communicate who they are in the marketplace. This is my favorite type of work because it is strategic and involves a deep Discovery phase, which is fun, because I really get to dig deep into who a client is – figure out their personality, what’s the story they want to tell, and then translate that into visual language. Once this is established, all those other things I just mentioned – reports, business cards, websites – will need to be designed using a consistent look, feel, and message. In essence, I help organizations create their identity from the ground up, by developing their character, logo, stationery and website – a strong visual gestalt that gets carried through everything else – packaging, advertising, eBlasts, and more.
I run my design firm as a “virtual” agency. By “virtual” I don’t mean “fake” – as I have an office, in Aurora. What I mean is that I work with a collaboration of experts that I hand-pick – professionals such as designers, developers, and photographers – but they mostly work offsite. These are teams of high-level talent that are custom-assembled for each client and project. As compared to a traditional brick & mortar office – with staff – I believe the benefits of a virtual model are manifold:
• Senior level talent. Each person has at least 10 years experience, and because they are all independent consultants, it allows for a more focused application of each expert’s individual skill set.
• Flexibility. To organize a top level team and do it quickly; and to change the team from project to project.
• Personalized service. One of my clients told me recently that the large branding firm they’ve been working with for several years sent their top execs to the first few meetings, but after that, meetings and phone calls were run by staff members who did not seem to be familiar with the client or the project. With the virtual agency model, there is no bait & switch from a senior team member to a junior-level person once the project is awarded. As creative director and project manager, I am always the point person.
• Value. Since I’m dedicated to working within my client’s budget most efficiently, my virtual agency rates are more reasonable and competitive as compared to medium and big firms.
I am growing my business, and maybe you, dear reader, can help me. One of my current clients is the Cornell Small Farms Program. To work with them, I became a “preferred vendor”. Now I can work with any department or program at Cornell, so I’d like to ask – if you know someone who needs graphic design services at Cornell, or knows someone who makes these kinds of purchasing decisions, would you be willing to introduce me to them? I would welcome the opportunity to talk to them about my business and how I may be able to assist them, and would be most grateful for your referral.
Once again, I’m Julia Reich, owner of Julia Reich Design, and I help organizations tell their stories, visually.
And if we ever went for a hike together, I could also teach you to how to identify birds by their calls, plants growing along the trail, and animal tracks in the snow. Oh, and anything you’d like to know about Hudson River marshes.
I’ve got branding on the brain – because I’m in the midst of several branding projects and also because I gave a workshop last night on the topic at Alternatives Federal Credit Union in Ithaca, NY. Here’s a short excerpt from that talk.
If you are in the process of working with a design firm on a new logo design, here’s a handy list of criteria to determine whether your visual brand identity is effective or not. Is it:
Meaning may not always be readily apparent. I think that’s OK, as long as the meaning is there and the logo is not mere eye candy. For ex, do you know what the Nike logo represents? That famous Swoosh represents the wing in the Greek Goddess of victory, Nike.
The design must be appropriate to your company, your target market, and the business sector in which you operate.
So for example, when I designed this logo for Fort la Presentation Association – a small regional association that is in the heritage tourism sector (they are reconstructing an authentic French & Indian war fort on the St lawrence River in Ogdensburg, NY) – I probably don’t want it to look like a logo for a contemporary art museum. This is reflected in the STYLE of how the logo is constructed – typefaces I chose; colors; even how the icon is rendered.
The brand should reflect your personality and be appropriate to your industry you’re in and your client’s expectations. Are you:
-an innovator? show Creativity & flair
-experienced and reliable? show Quieter and conservative
-high cost/high quality? show Visual elegance, rich imagery
(thanks to fellow designer Lauri Baram for her inspiration here!)
Your visual identity must work well across media, scale, in black and white, and color.
In this example, we designed this logo for an environmental organization in NYC who has started to offer several products featuring the new design. We’ve also spotted it around town on kiosks, canopies, a carved pumpkin, and even the side of a building!
In marketing speak, this is sometimes knows as your Unique Value Proposition or Unique Selling Proposition. For instance, if you consider water bottle packaging – those companies have done a good job convincing consumers there’s a difference amongst waters that by now have been revealed to mainly be tapwater. But generally there IS something unique about your company, and you need to identify what it is.
More on how to arrive at THAT realization in a future post -
Negotiating financial discussions with clients is rarely fun, and often fraught with difficulty. I tend to overthink how I phrase these kinds of interactions.
Recently I had a conversation with a production artist who is interested in doing work for my firm. When I inquired about his rates, his response was:
“My hourly rate in $xx-$xx depending upon the nature/difficulty of the work and the client’s budget. I’m flexible and see it as a friendly discussion arriving at a fair rate on a project by project basis.”
Obviously not every situation will allow for this kind of flexibility, but I thought this was a great response which invited further discussion and immediately put me at ease. Note the use of the words ‘fair’, ‘friendly’ and ‘flexible’, which tells me that I am dealing with someone with integrity. In the future I will try to incorporate them into discussions with my own clients.
Would this approach work for you?
I had a lovely chat today with a friend who runs the communications dept at a small liberal arts school. Among other things, we discussed summer in the Finger Lakes (wonderful but busy), local winery marketing (mostly abysmal), her design needs (bountiful yet budget conscious), and my business (growing).
She said she constantly receives materials from creative professionals such as designers and writers, and admitted that if their promotions look too good or too slick, she tosses them, assuming they are too expensive. This is eye-opening for me, since my promotional materials need to look as professional as possible in order to communicate that I am in the business of design & marketing. Yet I also work with nonprofits and businesses that are on a limited budget. I will never be the cheapest design firm out there, but nor am I the most costly. I believe in getting fairly remunerated for my work, and understand how to help my clients gain as much value as possible from our business relationship and the products and services I create for them.
So here’s the dilemma. if you receive my promotions (via direct mail or online) or visit my website, you’ll see my firm does great work. But how do I effectively communicate the value I bring to an organization or institution? How can I prevent the next Communications Director or Marketing Director or Executive Director from seeing my stuff and thinking – ‘hey that’s beautiful, but I’ll never be able to afford it’ ?
How can I help them understand that the investment they make in strong, effective brand strategy and visual communication will help them save time & money in the long run?