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Taking Care of Your Visual Brand: Part 1 – Handling Your Nonprofit’s Logo

By Nick Pascuzzi

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If you’re a nonprofit or small start-up, chances are you don’t have a big in-house design or marketing team that keeps watch over the visual elements of your brand (photos, logos, fonts, etc.). If you do, great! If not, you’re probably the one getting your hands dirty building presentations, compiling reports, updating social media, ordering t-shirts, and creating signage. That also means you’re the one that has to make sure materials look presentable and consistent.

You also may realize that the handling of these assets is paramount. After all, the visual side of your nonprofit’s brand is the outward expression of your organization’s personality. Since first impressions are everything, these visual assets must be handled with consideration and consistency. Think about some of your favorite brands and their efforts to stay uniform. Typically all of the photos are professionally shot in the same style, the fonts are the same in various applications, and the logo is consistent in every circumstance.

In this three-part series, I’ll provide some tips to help you or your team protect and use the visual assets of your organization’s brand to maintain a professional appearance.

The Logo

As your most recognizable feature, your nonprofit’s logo is the signature of your brand. It has all of the personality of your organization wrapped up into one little graphical element.

The cardinal rule: Keep It Consistent.

Some companies and nonprofit organizations have multiple logos – ones with taglines or without taglines, stacked or horizontal, old versions and new versions – the list goes on. An easy solution is to pick one as your main logo and be sure that decision is communicated to everyone on your team. If you must have various logos for different applications, set rules for their use. Archive your old logo and be sure others do the same. Also, police your print material, web, and social media presence for inconsistencies.

Don’t alter your logo.

Resist the urge to add your own personal touch or change the logo’s composition to fit a specific use. Times change and companies do outgrow their logos, so if you’re considering undergoing a re-brand, contact your friendly neighborhood design agency.

Be mindful of your nonprofit’s logo placement.

When inserting your logo into a document or presentation, keep an eye on where it’s being placed and ask yourself these questions:

  • Does your logo have dark colors? Avoid placing it on similar shades. Use a white version of your logo if it’s available.
  • Will you be placing your nonprofit’s logo on top of patterns or complex photography? It’s easy for a logo to blend in with those types of backgrounds. You want your logo to be recognizable, legible, and easily seen.
  • Will there be text or other objects nearby? Keep ample space as a buffer around your logo. Text and shapes can crowd it out and detract from its impact. Give it room to breathe!

Be careful while sizing.

You placed your logo into your document, but it’s bigger (or smaller) than you want it to be. Now what? It’s common (and extremely easy) to make mistakes at this point.

  • Don’t squish or stretch your logo. In most programs, holding the SHIFT button while sizing your logo will maintain its aspect ratio. A distorted logo simply looks sloppy.
  • It’s better to reduce than to enlarge. Enlarging a small .jpeg or .png logo will result in a loss of quality (it will look pixelated or blurry). Use a size that’s closest to your need and go from there.
  • If the program you’re using supports vector graphics, use the vector versions of your logo (.eps or .ai) for resizing. These types are fully scalable without loss of quality.
  • Designer pro-tip: Bigger isn’t necessarily better. You want your nonprofit’s logo to be seen by your viewers, not scream at them.

Keep your logo files organized.

It’s typical for your logo to exist in numerous file formats and sizes, so keep your files organized and in one place. You’ll thank yourself later.

Train your people.

Now that you’re equipped with all of this logo-handling knowledge, pass it along to your team members and communicate your decisions on branding. Enforce these decisions after the fact, and never stop policing your material for inconsistencies. ­­

In part two, we’ll discuss creating a basic branding system.