April 25, 2018

Why your nonprofit needs brand guidelines—and how to create them

Filed under: Branding — Tags: , , , , , — lidia @ 5:13 pm
nonprofit brand guidelines

Photo by Kaboompics .com from Pexels

I work with many nonprofits in Chicago, and one of the reasons they choose to work with me is because they need help bringing consistency to their branding and marketing materials.

For an established organization (or even a new one), branding can start to become diluted over time, with marketing materials using multiple versions of logos, colors and images that are not on-brand, and messaging that is not targeted or audience-focused. This is where brand guidelines can make a big impact.

What are brand guidelines?

Brand guidelines (also sometimes called brand standards, style guides, identity guides or graphic standards) provide a detailed overview of your organization’s branding—from the graphic look and feel to the overall voice and tone. It assures that everyone in your organization—as well as outside partners and vendors—are expressing your brand consistently and accurately.

Since many nonprofit leaders or managers handle most (if not all) marketing tasks internally, having strong brand guidelines can make marketing and promotion of your organization much easier as there is always a reference point. Plus, it keeps everyone inside and outside the organization on the same page (literally!) And most importantly, it allows you to focus on what you do best—sharing your mission and serving others.

Why your nonprofit needs brand guidelines

  1. Consistency: It keeps your branding and marketing consistent across all print and online media.
  2. Efficiency: When you have a reference point for your marketing pieces, you can create them more quickly and efficiently.
  3. Professionalism: When all of your marketing materials are consistent and on-brand, it helps to emphasize your experience and competency
  4. Convenience: When everything is in one place, it helps your partners and vendors (such as graphic designers, photographers, writers and print vendors) do their job faster and easier
  5. Budget: When design elements and other brand-related files are easily accessible, projects can be completed faster and more economically.
  6. Accuracy: When brand details are easily accessible, it helps to avoid costly mistakes such as using the wrong color or font on a printed piece.
  7. Timing: When everything is in one place, necessary brand assets (i.e. logos or brand colors) can be easily accessed when needed and project delays can be avoided.
  8. Onboarding: New employees (and vendors) can get to know your organization quickly and easily, so they can get to work faster. It also provides them a constant reference as they get acquainted with their new job and assures that they are sharing your message accurately.

What should be included in brand guidelines

A good set of brand guidelines will assure everything people see and experience related to your organization is an accurate expression of your brand. So, what should be included?

Before getting started, think about how your organization will use the guidelines:

  • What types (and channels) of marketing do you use? (i.e. print, digital, social media, in-person events)
  • Will your in-house team mainly use them or will you share them with outside vendors?
  • If you work with outside vendors, what types of work do they produce? (i.e. brochures, flyers, advertising, email marketing, social media, video)

At the very least, the following should be included in brand guidelines:

  • Mission statement and vision statement: including verbiage about how they relate to your overall brand.
  • Logo usage: including sizing requirements, clear space (the space around the logo that separates it from other design elements), logotypes and icons, logo lockups (i.e. if the logo should always appear with another element such as a tagline, date or URL). It’s also a good to include misuse examples, for example: the logo should not be stretched disproportionately or used smaller than ¼”.
  • Taglines: including when and how to use the tagline, and where it should be placed in relation to the logo.
  • Fonts and typography: including allowable primary and secondary fonts for both print and online usage. Optionally, include examples and/or suggested usage for headlines and body copy.
  • Color palette: including primary and secondary color palettes for print (Pantone, CMYK) and digital or presentation (RGB, HEX) usage.
  • Imagery: including suggested types of photography and illustration that should be used, as well as when images should be used. May also include recommended website for purchasing stock photography or illustration and/or image guidelines for in-house or contracted photographers.

Depending on your organization’s needs, you may also want to include:

  • Voice and tone: including writing guidelines for print marketing, as well as digital marketing such as blogs and social media outlets.
  • Sample layouts: including commonly-used marketing templates such as business cards, stationery, flyers, print ads and social media posts.
  • Social media/content marketing guidelines: including an overview of how your brand will be expressed on social media or content marketing (if available, include an overview or links to the organization’s social media/content marketing strategy and editorial calendar)
  • Guest author guidelines: including guidelines for writers who will contribute articles to the organization’s website, blog or social media.
  • PR reference: including organization blurbs (several versions ranging from a 5-word blurb to several paragraphs), staff bios, headshots, and other materials that may be needed for PR opportunities. Include filenames and shared drive locations for easy access by all staff members and contractors.
  • Email signature: what should be included (logo, name, title, email, phone number, legal verbiage, other relevant links) as well as the specified format (text, HTML). Have a template handy on a shared drive to supply to new employees or contractors.

This may sound like a lot of work, but it can be as simple or complex as your organization needs.

And enlisting the help of a branding designer can make it much easier. Believe me, it will all pay off in the end. As a designer, I know how frustrating it can be to search for logos, color specs and other necessary design elements when working on a project.

Want to see examples?

Sometimes the best way to get started developing brand guidelines is to see what others are doing. A good place to start is by Googling “nonprofit brand guidelines”.

Or check out this roundup of 80+ brand and identity guidelines from various organizations and brands around the world.

If you need help developing your org’s brand guidelines, reach out to me—I would love to help!

U is for usage

Filed under: Design & Art — lidia @ 10:00 am
A to Z of Design: U is for usage

Photography by Adrien Coquet from the Noun Project

Image usage rights are generally available in royalty-free or rights-managed options.

Rights-managed (RM) images are basically “rented” from the image owner, so they are limited by things such as duration of use, type of use (i.e. editorial, print, online), geographic location, or number of impressions.

Royalty-free (RF) images allow (nearly) unlimited use, in any application for as long as you like, based on the terms of the license agreement.

There are also now multiple online sources for free stock images licensed under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license, which means they can be used anywhere without attribution required.

But always check the licensing information on the website for any photo or illustration you purchase or download before using them.

And most importantly, just because you find an image online doesn’t mean you can use it! Research the image first to see if a license or attribution is required.

See this website for more information about image usage rights.

April 23, 2018

T is for tint

Filed under: Design & Art — lidia @ 8:29 pm

A to Z of Design: T is for tint

A tint is formed when white ink is mixed with a color to make the color lighter. It’s also called “screening back” a color and is indicated by a percentage. Using tints allows you to include multiple colors in a design when a project budget only allows for 1-color printing.

A shade is formed when black ink is mixed in with a color to make the color darker.

April 21, 2018

S is for serif

Filed under: Design & Art — lidia @ 10:00 am

S is for serif

Serifs are the small lines or flourishes that extend from the beginning and end of a stroke on a letter or symbol. Serif fonts have this decorative element, while sans serif fonts do not.

Serif fonts are usually easier to read in printed works, which is why most books are typeset in a serif font. However, sans serif fonts can be more readable online, due to the lower resolution of computer monitors and digital devices, which can make thin serifs difficult to see.

April 20, 2018

R is for resolution

Filed under: Design & Art — lidia @ 10:00 am

A to Z of Design: R is for resolution

Resolution is a way of measuring the quality of an image. In general, the higher the resolution, the higher the quality. A high-res image will be sharp and detailed, while a low-res image will be pixelated or blurry. A high-resolution image results in a larger file size due to the larger number of pixels captured within the image.

For print projects, 300 dpi (at 100% of the desired size) is usually the minimum resolution recommended for quality output, while for online images, 72 dpi is recommended.

April 19, 2018

Q is for quote (or pull quote)

Filed under: Design & Art — Tags: , , , , — lidia @ 10:00 am

A to Z of Design: Q is for Quote

A pull quote is a quote or excerpt “pulled” from the main text to set it apart or highlight it in some way. Pull quotes are usually styled differently (i.e. bold, italic, color) and larger in size to stand out from the body text. They are commonly used in magazine and brochure design.

A pull quote may be a sentence that has been removed from the main text, or one that has been repeated for emphasis.

Personally I’m a big fan of pull quotes, especially in blog posts. They help to keep the reader’s interest and move the eye along the page.

See all of the A to Z of Design posts here.

April 18, 2018

P is for print

Filed under: Design & Art — Tags: , , , , — lidia @ 10:10 am

A to Z of Design: P is for print

Print is not dead! In fact, there are more ways to print affordably now than in the past.

Offset printing is a method that transfers ink from a plate to a rubber blanket then to paper using a different printing plate per color. It is best used when precise color and print quality are needed. If Pantone colors are used in a design, offset printing will assure the most accurate color match.

Digital printing is method where a digital-based image is printed directly to paper (or another substrate such as plastic or metal). It is useful when quantities are low or a quick turnaround is needed, as there isn’t as much set-up required as for offset.

Letterpress printing is a type of relief printing where an inked raised surface (printing plate) is pressed down onto paper in a printing press. This results in a slight indentation of the paper, so heavier and higher-quality paper stock should be used. Letterpress is best used for fine line work and typographic designs.

See all of the A to Z of Design posts here.

April 17, 2018

A to Z of Design: O is for orphan

Filed under: Design & Art — Tags: , , , — lidia @ 10:00 am

An orphan is a word or short line of text that appears by itself at the top of a column (i.e. when a paragraph flows onto the next column). Similarly, a widow is a word that appears by itself at the bottom of a text block or paragraph.

It’s always a good idea to manually adjust a text layout to avoid orphans and widows as they can distract the reader and create spacing issues.

See all of the A to Z of Design posts here.

April 16, 2018

A to Z of Design: N is for negative space

Filed under: Design & Art — Tags: , , , , , , — lidia @ 10:00 am

A to Z of Design: N is for negative space

Also called “white space,” this refers to the areas of a design that are empty, or don’t contain any design elements. Negative or white space gives a design “breathing room.” Using adequate negative space allows design elements to stand on their own, prevents a design from looking cluttered, and helps to guide the viewer’s eye successfully around the design.

See all of the A to Z of Design posts here.

April 14, 2018

A to Z of Design: M is for monochrome

Filed under: Design & Art — Tags: , , , , , , — lidia @ 10:00 am

M is for monochrome

Monochrome refers to a design that only uses one color, or shades of one color. A grayscale (or black-and-white) design is considered monochrome, as well as a design printed using one Pantone color (see example above). Monochrome designs are sometimes chosen to keep printing costs down as only one ink color (and related printing plate) is required.

See all of the A to Z of Design posts here.

 

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