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Cayuga County Chamber of Commerce logo

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.

(this article first appeared on Kivi’s Nonprofit Communications Blog on October 5, 2011. This is Part 1 in a series of posts that I will share on Kivi’s blog about how to hire a graphic designer or design firm.)


If you’ve never worked with a designer before, the task can seem daunting. I’ll try to demystify the process.

You may have just completed a strategic planning process, and are ready to hire a designer to overhaul your entire communication system with a newly refined vision and mission. Or you may have a discrete project on hand – a website, annual report, or logo design. Either way, the time has come to find the right person or firm for the job. How to find one that’s a good fit for you?

Where to Look

1. Referrals from Colleagues You Know
If you see work you admire being done for another organization, be direct and ask who they use, and if they would recommend that person/firm. In my experience, colleagues are happy to refer consultants and vendors they know, like, and trust.

Jana Byington-Smith, Executive Director of Camp for All Kids and President of Second Gift,  adds, “I also look for firms that work with clients repeatedly. I think this is an indicator of the ability to develop a good relationship – quality of relationship over the number of clients.”

2. Referrals from Colleagues You Don’t Know
There are several listservs and other groups serving the nonprofit community. One of my favorites is The Progressive Exchange, a helpful online community with over 8,000 members, whose goal is to “aid the online efforts of progressive causes, campaigns, and organizations”. If you seek help finding a web designer or developer firm, this would be a good place to post a query.

3. Online Portfolio Sites
These are sites where you can look through many different designer’s portfolios, and in some cases, post a job or project listing.

Behance is a highly visual portfolio site for all types of creatives. While you can narrow your search by various creative fields, alas, “nonprofit design” is not one of the search criteria.

AIGA, the professional association for design. You can search the Designer Directory by clicking on “Find a Designer” in the top right corner of the home page, which leads you to a listing of designers and links to their own websites. Any designer you find here is likely to uphold the group’s high standards. But be aware, some of the portfolios listed in the Jobs section could be students or recent grads, so if you prefer someone with more experience, tailor your search accordingly.

Creative Hotlist easily allows you to seek designers by location, category, and experience, or via any words you enter in the ‘search’ field.

4. Google Search
While this may sound obvious, a key word search in Google may yield positive results in finding a design firm that has expertise in your niche. Graphic design is a highly competitive field, and firms are willing to spend time & money to come up high in page rankings that are highly relevant to your search terms. Try making your search terms as specific as possible, avoiding generic search terms like “logo design”. We had one prospect find us recently by searching “New York web designer local food”. She found us because one of things we’re passionate about is working with clients who promote good and local food, nutrition, and healthy food systems – and Google found us.

5. Post an RFP
This is one of the standard ways that clients look for business partners. You post a Request for Proposal on your own site, or one like the RFP Database, and sit back waiting for the proposals to come flooding in. If I sound cynical, that’s because I think the RFP process is outdated and should be done away with. Why? From the designer’s point of view, most RFPs are not written thoroughly enough for the designer to be able to adequately respond.

Plus, wouldn’t it be better to garner responses from firms you have a relationship with already, or, if you don’t have any designer relationships, than referrals from people in your field that you trust and admire? If you’re still in the dark, look for proposals from firms that make an effort to establish personal contact and get to know you better, and your group’s unique needs. This could be a simple phone call or request to meet in person.

Your designer should be your strategic partner, working in collaboration with you to get to know your personality, goals, and challenges. If the project scope allows, they should be talking to your board, interviewing donors, and observing your communication processes. Let them make recommendations as how best meet your goals and overcome challenges. Designers learn more during the discovery process than could ever be encapsulated in an RFP, no matter how detailed.

If you insist on persisting, then it helps to write a good RFP.  I recommend Nancy Schwartz’s article, 8 Ways to Craft a Communications RFP Process that Works.

Where Not to Look
A brief note about a) the crowdsourcing trend, and 2) its evil stepsister, design contests. Don’t go there, and don’t do it! A lot has been written about this, so I don’t want to dwell in too much detail (or, perhaps I will in a future post). In brief, both of these concepts ask designers to work for free (“on spec”) by submitting designs that may not get chosen, and only getting paid for those that do, which is why crowdsourcing and contests are considered by many to be exploitative. This undermines the design profession and the value we bring to our relationship with our clients, while diminishing the quality of work you receive. Learn more here and at the NoSpec! site.

Once you’ve found some likely candidates, how do you narrow down the choices? In my next few posts I’ll cover what to look for in a designer/design firm, what to ask at the interview, and what to expect from your relationship once you’ve made a decision.

Join Business CENTS and Julia Reich, Principal of Julia Reich Design in this new workshop designed with Nonprofit organizations in mind! 

Business CENTS and Julia Reich, Principal of Julia Reich Design presented this new workshop on Wednesday, July 27, 2011, designed with Nonprofit organizations in mind.

Our workshop objectives were to:

• Learn what branding is

• Understand how a strong brand can benefit your nonprofit

• Learn about the process of creating a strong brand

• Evaluate your organization”s name, tagline and logo

Key Takeaway: A strong brand can help you create a consistent look that reinforces your mission and attracts donors.

Below are some of the Resources and Case Studies we shared and discussed.

Kivi’s Nonprofit Communications Blog — Written for do-it-yourself nonprofit marketers and one-person nonprofit communications departments.

This guest post by Allison Monnell demonstrates not only the power of storytelling in nonprofit communications, but just how beneficial it can be to your nonprofit when you integrate a culture of story sharing into your everyday work, as the Chemung ARC has done with its Stringer Success Stories.
Creating a Strong Nonprofit Brand | Nonprofit Marketing | Getting Attention

© 2002 – 2011 Nancy E. Schwartz. All rights reserved. You’re welcome to "reprint" this article online as long as you do not alter the article in any way, and you include the author byline and attribution as displayed below. If you would like to edit the article, please contact us.
Nonprofit Brand Institute

Council on the Environment of New York City Gets New Name and Logo to Improve Recognition The Union Square Greenmarket – the largest and most successful open-air farmers market in the country – is a New York City icon, but few people are aware that this and all greenmarkets in the city are programs of the 40-year-old Council on the Environment…
Resources | Big Duck

Think of this as your own communications resource library. As much as we may want to, we can’t work with every nonprofit out there. But even those we don’t work with directly can benefit from some of Big Duck’s free (or inexpensive) nonprofit communications resources.
What Does Your Business Card Say About You?

Hopefully you already have a business card, but if you don’t you should definitely create one. Business cards are something that we take for granted when we shouldn’t. The look, feel, and message on a card help people determine how they view you and more importantly, if they will even remember you.
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America

In the News Here are some of today’s top stories and happenings at IAVA. Prefer to receive real-time updates about major stories and legislation that IAVA is tracking? Follow us on Twitter @IAVAPressRoom or subscribe at
Stanford Social Innovation Review: Ideas for Socially Responsible Businesses

Click here to see our most recent eNewsletter Taking Exception to Exceptionalismby Eric Friedenwald-Fishman Jul 26, 2011 We Should Expect Good Giving To Be Hardby Holden KarnofskyJul 25, 2011 Surdna CEO on Philanthropic Isolationby Aaron HurstJul 22, 2011 Debra Dunn – Stakeholders in Corporate Social ResponsibilityJul 08, 2011 Robert Proctor – Global Health Speaker SeriesJun 29, 2011 Bill Drayton – Promoting Social Entrepreneurship Among YouthJun 27, 2011 Nonprofit Management Institute 2011 …

The Challenge
Our client, School Food FOCUS*, recently asked us to re-design this marketing piece. The reason for the re-design? They felt it was not adequately communicating the scope of what they do and who they do it for. Plus it’s just kind of homely. (By the way, I’ve eliminated non-essential text and graphics from the page to avoid visual distraction).

It’s a challenge to visualize data clearly, effectively and attractively. Comprehension is critical (We find the amazing graphic work at GOOD magazine is always an inspiration).

But first, we need to know what this organization does. What’s their mission? School Food FOCUS works with the largest school districts nationwide to advocate for school meals that are more healthful, regionally sourced, and sustainably produced. “FOCUS aims to transform food systems to support students’ academic achievement and lifelong health, while directly benefiting farmers, regional economies, and the environment.”

In studying the old graphic carefully (above), we could see that FOCUS is reaching a lot of kids in the country’s big city districts. But that was only part of the story this organization needed to tell. The new design also needed to visually represent the following core concepts:

  • FOCUS works with many of the nation’s public school districts, including the largest ones
  • A lot of these districts offer a high percentage of free and reduced lunches to needy kids
  • The nation’s largest districts convey the strongest market pull
  • This buying power affects how school lunches at public schools are procured
  • FOCUS is successfully helping the most students in the nation’s neediest schools eat better

The Creative Process
Round 1

In this initial solution, we dispensed with the clip art schoolhouses and decided to break up the main messages using several graphics:

  • USA map showing locations of participating districts
  • Highlight the total number of students reached by School Food FOCUS in large point type
  • Emphasize the high percentage of free and reduced meal eligibility rates within School Food FOCUS’s partner districts

Plus we took a stab at drafting copy for a main headline and sub-headlines, enabling the reader to put the data visualizations into context.

(Note: for this round and subsequent rounds, data and text does not represent final numbers and copy.)

Round 2

However, the “donut” graphics, 32 in all, proved overwhelming to digest, so we removed those. And there was a big ol’ typo in the title. Also in this round:

  • On the map, we highlighted not only all the participating districts with a red dot, but also emphasized which of these were very large, with over 100,000 students, using a red dot within a circle
  • Made further changes to the second part to try to convey more effectively that School Food FOCUS helps those children most in need of healthy lunches
  • Added a photo

Round 3

In this round, we responded to the following client feedback:

  • They liked the addition of a photo, but requested one where the child is not eating a banana, which is not sustainably sourced (oops!)
  • In the graphic comparing the Free and Reduced percentages of FOCUS districts vs. the national average, the little people figures weren’t working too well, because they wanted to see something that showed more clearly that the two percentages are being compared to one another. So we developed this version using a lunch tray, where the data is together in one graphic.


This project is a work in progress. As designers, we take pride in our creations that offer visual appeal. But is it functional? How successful have we been so far in communicating our client’s core messages? Has your organization produced a compelling infographic you’d like to share?

For more about infographics, with several great examples, see Smashing Magazine’s post on Data Visualization and InfoGraphics).

(*”FOCUS”: Transforming Food Options for Children in Urban Schools)

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.


Your important contribution of PAELLA to the International Brotherhood of Handy Husbands (IBHH) helps us to do good work these holidays. With your generous sponsorship we have been able to maintain a historical rural American home. Here are some of the exciting recent projects we’ve completed:

• fixing the fireplace insert fan
• aligning the hot and cold shower handles
• weather sealing the bottom of the barn office door

Your continued support will enable us to try bigger and better projects this year including:

• installing a laundry room floor and
• designing and building a sink enclosure.

Thank you for keeping us in mind this holiday season and for all you do for your very local IBHH chapter.

Your very local IBHH representative.

laptop, on the porch
sweet scent of spring hyacinth
self employment ROCKS

I was highly gratified to learn that Richard Grefé, the Executive Director of AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts, our professional organization) caught wind of NEA’s RFP (see previous post), and wrote them an excellent letter explaining the position of the design community, and our concerns over the contest.

“The approach you are pursuing is one that seriously compromises the quality of work you are entitled to and also violates a tacit ethical standard that has long standing in the communication design professions worldwide.”

Kudos to them, and also to designer blogger Kelly Lea in her post, “Take Your Spec Job and Shove it” who also opined about this debacle.

NEA has written a lame letter in defense of their RFP here, but it does not seem to address any of AIGA’s concerns.

I recently reviewed the NEA’s (National Endowment for the Arts) RFP that they issued this month for a logo design for a new ‘Art Works’ initiative.

It was the usual pages of boilerplate, and statement of budget ($25k – nice!), but then I got to the submission guidelines. I was amazed and horrified to find that they ask for logo design submissions, which makes it a design contest, in which designers are asked to deliver their work on spec. The NEA will choose one logo/firm, and only the “winner” receives compensation.

I am totally against this, and think you should be, too. Asking designers to work on spec trivializes and de-values the work we do, and I believe is unethical. I could write a lengthy treatise about ALL of the reasons a design contest is a bad idea, but it has all been presented before me, and done very well, at the site, which I urge you to visit.

When I come across these design contests, they are usually issued by small organizations that don’t know any better. I always take the time to do a little education by contacting them and explaining my objections. But the National Endowment for the Arts? THEY should know better.

Do you think I am being unreasonable? That $25k they are offering IS compelling, isn’t it? As a designer, is there a line you would cross if asked to work on spec?


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