A little while ago I received an email from a young designer working with a charity asking for tips on branding for the charity. We get a lot of requests from charities, non-for-profits and cash strapped start-ups for help so I thought putting the tips together online would help him and others. While there is no shortcut for good strategy and great design, as Dave has pointed out for bigger charities brand is no longer something you can just let happen, these tips will hopefully get you on the right path.
Tip 1: KISS: Keep It Simple Stupid
The less you have, the simpler your process, marketing and message must be. So start by refining the brief to what you absolutely must do. Then find the most direct route between you and the real decision maker. With them refine the brief into an essence: one sentence of no more than five words, that will express what you want your brand to visually portray. Be ruthless, Be Brave. Now design an identity that achieves these goals and survives in the most brutally simple forms: sprayed, stencilled, etched, faxed etc. The biggest problem brands like yours will have is trying to say too much with the identity or having confused, long-winded messaging which is usually guided by a disconnected committee of good intentioned busy bodies. Cut out all the fluff, all the meddlers, find the passion that started the organisation and express it.
Tip 2: Plunder Iconography
Learn from the best brands that have ever existed and plunder iconography for your identity. Find something that relates to your essence, customise it in a way that makes it unique and relevant and build on it. An icon that needs no words to work as a brand is priceless and probably a bit much to ask for, but it worked for Gerald Holtom and CND, so don’t stop trying.
Tip 3: Beautiful Type
A good type mark can be just as strong for an identity. If it’s got something to it, like the FedEx arrow, all the better. It doesn’t have to be the full corporate name but might be a key word or what you want to be known as (think Salvos). Ligatures, Abbreviations, Ampersands, there are lots of typographic elements that you can employed to create a distinctive, beautiful and simple type mark.
Tip 4: Be Positive
Express the optimistic side of what you’re doing. Be charming. There’s nothing wrong with small brands with big personalities. Just keep it simple, so it stays on track. As my mother used to say; ‘you catch more bees with honey’. For a brand in your position that human contact is vital, after all your brand is the emotional response to your organisation, so use emotion but be positive about it. There’s no bigger turn off than a preachy brand or a guilt trip.
Tip 5: Learn from the best
Find brands you admire, who are doing smart stuff and look good doing it. (See Dave’s post for a start) Use them as inspiration and guidance. Inspiration, to start your process off: decoding or breaking apart what they’ve done so you can glean some insight. Guidance, so you can see the new identity you creating beside them, judge it against best of breed and know you doing something good.