September 26, 2018

25+ free (or low-cost) design resources for nonprofits

Filed under: Design & Art — Tags: , , , , , — lidia @ 3:08 pm

Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

When I present my branding and marketing workshops to nonprofits, I inevitably get asked the question: “Is there any way we can do some of this stuff on our own? (preferably for free or not a lot of money!)”

Well, with a little bit of digging, plus my own huge list of resources (I’m a research junkie), I put together this list of free or low-cost design resources for nonprofits and higher education.

Fonts

Fonts are intellectual property, so they must be licensed before you can use them, so I don’t recommend downloading free fonts unless it’s from a reputable site that sells fonts (see below). Most font sites offer free fonts or inexpensive bundles, which is a great way to test drive fonts and build your collection.

Always make sure you have licenses for the computer(s) you are using your fonts on, and don’t share them unless your license allows usage on multiple computers. Read Monotype’s guide to font licensing for more info.

Stock Photography & Illustrations 

Just like fonts, images are intellectual property. Never—I repeat—never use an image that you “grabbed from the web” (i.e Google Images, blog posts, etc.) I have personally known colleagues who have been threatened with legal action for using an unlicensed image. It’s no joke.

Always make sure you have a license appropriate to the usage you need, or choose royalty-free. See my quick overview of stock photo usage, or head over to StockPhotoRights.com for more in-depth information.

Also, if you are using images from a free stock photo site, just remember that lots of other people are also probably using that same image. So save it for social media or other casual usage, and use licensed stock photography (or even better, hire a photographer) for images that are more critical to your organization’s branding and marketing.

Cision has curated a huge list of websites with images that are not protected by copyright laws and/or in the public domain (i.e. historical images, images created by the federal government, etc.)

Design Templates

Of course, I would always encourage you to hire a graphic designer (hint, hint) to design identity and marketing materials for your organziation. But I totally get it: sometimes timing and/or budget just doesn’t allow for it. In that case, I’ve given my stamp of approval for using a template from one of these sites.

Design Learning

My clients at smaller organizations often ask how they can learn design basics or related applications. The resources below are perfect for diving into a design topic or application.

I also offer onsite design and branding workshops that can be tailored to your needs. Reach out to me to learn more or schedule one for your organization.

Graphic & Video Editing

Images and video are crucial for getting noticed in print and social media. For important organizational marketing materials (identity, brochures, reports, event invitations, etc.), I do suggest working with an experienced graphic designer. But for editing a photo on the fly or creating a social media video, these sites make DIY fast and easy.

Did I miss something? Let me know so I can add it to the list. And be sure to bookmark this page—I will update it as new resources are available.

Stay tuned for the rest of my series, Free (or Low-Cost) Design & Marketing Resources for Nonprofits, as it becomes available.

April 25, 2018

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

Filed under: Branding — Tags: , , , , , — lidia @ 5:13 pm
Why your nonprofit needs 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!

January 29, 2018

Recap: how I made an impact in 2017

Filed under: Featured Design Project — Tags: , , , , , — lidia @ 11:07 am

How I made a difference in 2017

2017 was a great year for Lidia Varesco Design. I’m proud to to have collaborated with organizations who are making a difference by:

  • Helping Veterans discover their full potential
  • Responding to children in need
  • Providing housing for the elderly and adults with disabilities
  • Preventing homelessness of individuals, families and veterans
  • Bringing development opportunities to underserved and at-risk young people
  • Educating young professionals to interact, grow and prosper through actionable education
  • Promoting a passion for learning and a commitment to local and global communities

I have always loved working with organizations who are making a difference but now that I’m a mom, I’m even more passionate about making the world—my kids’ world—a better place.

Other ways I had the opportunity to make a difference in 2017

I was able to connect with local nonprofits and small business owners and share my expertise by:

Now booking speaking dates for 2018!

If you are interested in hosting or attending a 10-Minute Marketing or Branding 101 workshop, send me a note.

September 21, 2017

Featured Project: Event Branding & Marketing Design

For 10 years, All Stars Project of Chicago has brought growth opportunities to young people and adults living in the poorest communities. They needed event branding and marketing materials for their 10th Anniversary Benefit Luncheon—where they were unveiling plans to reinvest growth into the city by “Connecting Communities Downtown.”

I developed a design that expressed their mission of connecting communities across Chicago with business partners in the downtown community—as well as a special 10th anniversary logo.

I designed the Event Logo, Sales Pack, Invitation Package (Invitation and Mailing Envelope, Reply Card and Reply Envelope), Program and Insert, Power Point Presentation, and Onsite Signage.

See all of the designs here.