Posted by Rod Lemaire on January 22nd, 2020
Posted in Blog, Nonprofit Branding, Nonprofit Design
Contrary to common misconception, your logo is not your brand. It’s a powerful symbol for your brand.
Think of your brand as your organization’s reputation, one built as the people who encounter it experience how you act, what you do, what you say, and how you look. At heart, brand is the big idea you want people to associate with your organization. And your logo is a front-line, powerful tool you can use to kindle (or re-kindle) those positive associations.
For many, an organization’s logo will be one of their first interactions with you. That’s why your logo has to hit the right notes and convey the right information immediately.
A logo is an abbreviated expression of a brand—and there are all different kinds of logos. Some, like the PBS people or Nike swoosh, are graphic icons. Others take the shape of a letter (as in the Netflix “N”) or present the organization’s name in stylized text (Think Google). And then there are emblems or seals, which combine letters and graphic elements in self-contained symbols, as the Salvation Army or Starbucks Coffee logos do.
There isn’t one kind of logo that’s better than another. It all depends on your organization and who your target audience members are.
If you’ve given any thought to it—which you hopefully have—your logo is part of a deliberately crafted package of visual identity elements. Those elements should include fonts, colors, photography style, and other visual treatments you use to reinforce your brand.
You might, for example, have a palette of colors you use in all your materials so that people recognize your communications as yours. Target uses red and white. They have a typeface they always use, and a visual aesthetic they apply consistently, so even if you just see a second of a Target commercial, you can recognize its provenance and remember the brand.
Taken all together, visual identity elements help communicate what kind of organization you are. They reinforce your personality and create a shorthand through which you can engage your audiences.
You probably already have a logo, and—intentionally or not—a visual identity as well. The question is: is that logo and visual identity sending the right messages?
To know what kind of logo is right for your organization, first you need to be clear on your brand strategy. What’s the one big idea that underpins all your work and distinguishes you from other organizations?
If your logo and visual identity advances that brand, it’s a success. If it doesn’t, it’s time to invest in a change.
At Mission Minded we help our clients evaluate their visual identity as part of an overall evaluation of their brand. It’s not simply whether it looks good or bad; it’s whether a logo says what you need it to say. Is it engaging your audience effectively, or have you inherited something slapdash, or from a previous incarnation of your organization when priorities were different?
When we assess a visual identity, we ask the following questions from the perspective of both brand strategy and design experts.
If a logo or visual identity refresh is in order, we’ll consider just how intensive a reworking is needed. Some organizations’ logos are in reasonable shape, only needing some refinement to serve as effective brand tools. Take, for example, Drew. An independent school in San Francisco, Drew used a stylized wordmark of their name as a logo. The general idea was on target, but the colors and the font were out of alignment with their evolving brand. Switching to green and switching to a cleaner font better represented a school known for valuing individuality.
For an example of more dramatic change, consider Santa Rosa Community Health Centers. As that non-profit health service organization grew and changed, its old logo and visual identity no longer communicated its personality and desired reputation. A complete redesign transformed the feelings conveyed and the story told. Look at their old logo and their new one and see if you can, instinctively, read the story the new one encapsulates.
While you may lack the brand strategy or design experience to develop a new visual identity for your organization, you likely have the experience and intelligence to assess whether what you’re using currently works. We recommend you ask yourself the following five questions:
If this exercise points you in the direction of a new or refreshed visual identity, we’re glad to help. At Mission Minded, our visual design work all springs from brand strategy. We don’t just want your new logo to look stunning, we want it to tell the right story and evoke the right emotions so that your organization’s brand gets broadcast loud and clear every time people see it.
Rod Lemaire is a Mission Minded Partner and Creative Director, overseeing our award-winning design studio. Rod delivers more than a decade of art direction and communication design expertise for mission-driven organizations.
See all posts by Rod Lemaire