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nonprofit-logo-design

Why Nonprofit Logos Are Important And What Should Be Considered In Their Design

Jules

When starting a nonprofit, taking the time to customize an eye-catching logo may not be on the top of your organization’s list of priorities. However, a logo can convey key messages while also acting as a visual representation of your organization. 

You may be wondering how to create a design that grabs attention and will stay relevant, and recognizable, for the life of your organization. Well, there are five key design principles to follow when crafting the perfect nonprofit logo. We will cover why logos are important, provide an overview of the crucial concepts, and discuss how to find inspiration along your journey. Let’s get started!

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Why Are Nonprofit Logos Important?

When you design a logo for your organization, you want it to be attractive and appropriate for your audience. All graphic elements work together to bring your messages to life. Nonprofit logos in particular are so important because they grab attention and form the foundation of an organization’s overall brand identity.  

They Grab Attention

Logos have the ability to capture attention at a glance. These symbols, and potentially an accompanying tagline, also have the ability to maintain that attention over time as your organization grows. 

First Impression

According to Forbes, people and their businesses have seven seconds to make a first impression. While that statistic is often referenced in relation to how long it takes to formulate an opinion on a person, organizations also have an extremely brief window of opportunity to grab attention and convey information. If you have a solid logo, the human tendency to judge quickly may actually work in your favor.

nonprofit-logo-design-first-impressionEva definitely wants to make a good first impression!

For example, if your visual branding is well-designed, you may pique the interest of potential members, donors, or volunteers who then decide to learn more about your mission. Additionally, a non-profit logo that looks professional will help you cultivate credibility and trust while allowing you to be seen as an authority in your niche. 

Lasting Impression

Logos are a symbol of your brand. The goal is for people to connect the image with what your organization stands for and how it makes them feel. A logo with lasting appeal will grow with your organization. As members, donors, and volunteers see these symbols, they instantly connect the feelings they have for organizations with the logo itself. Ideally, they will no longer need to hear the organization’s name, just seeing the logo will be enough to bring about those same feelings. 

Focusing on today’s trends when designing a logo may help you evoke a positive reaction and be recognizable. However, fads change. Following classic rules will help ensure that it does not look outdated in a few short years. Consider the Goodwill charity logo, which was created in 1968. The logo is 50+ years old but has a design that has stood the test of time. 

They Form Your Brand Identity

An organization’s brand identity includes all of the combined elements that make up its brand. This includes the vision, mission, values, messaging, and visual communications like colors and, at the base of it all, a logo. A strong brand identity has the ability to help an organization differentiate itself from other entities.

Logos typically form the foundation for brand guidelines. This style guide is essentially a rule book on how to communicate your brand to external audiences. Key aspects include colors and fonts that are often taken from, or chosen to accompany, your logo.

Pro Tip: Once you have designed your logo, an excellent tool to customize a color scheme for your brand guidelines is Coolors. You can upload your logo into the color palette generator and have a color scheme ready to review with the press of a button.

As you look to create additional branded assets like a website, business cards, email signatures, flyers, letterhead, or a PowerPoint presentation template, you may find yourself at a standstill without a logo to set the theme. 

Now that we have covered why logos are important, and what they can do for your nonprofit, let’s dig into the components that will make your logo successful. 

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What Are The Key Nonprofit Logo Design Components?

Let the following five core design principles help steer the direction your logo takes.

Balance

When design elements are evenly distributed, viewers can better absorb the information. Note that balance does not equal symmetry (although symmetry is certainly a good way to achieve balance). Let’s compare the following well-balanced logos. 

The first is the American Red Cross, where the focus is a perfectly symmetrical cross. Humanity & Inclusion (formerly known as Handicap International), has attained balance without utilizing symmetry.  

                    The alignment of the letters, the use of white space, and the fact that the "thumb" is in just the right place, (jutting out slightly) makes the logo feel just as balanced as that of the Red Cross.

Color

Colors have the ability to conjure up emotions and are generally attached to our subconscious. For example, red makes many people think "stop" while green means "go." As you consider the feelings you want the public to associate with your organization, know that "warm colors" like red, orange, and yellow are often associated with energy and excitement whereas "cool colors" like blue, purple, and green are often connected with peace or nature.

If you are looking to use several colors, consider choosing either an analogous, complementary, or tetradic color scheme. 

Complementary 

Complementary colors sit across from one another on the color wheel. Because they are polar opposites, they bring out the richness in one another. In this Frederick County Humane Society logo, you see they successfully paired blue and orange, which are complementary colors.

Another way to capitalize on the fact that opposites attract is to forego color altogether and opt for a black-white logo. Consider the world-renowned World Wildlife Fund panda logo. Contrast in design, whether with color or in black and white, creates a wow factor that makes an image stand out. WWF’s pictorial mark has been so successful it can stand alone, without the WWF accompanying it, and is known across the globe.

Analogous

Analogous color schemes pair any three colors that are touching one another on the color wheel. Analogous schemes are often seen in nature, so they are typically pleasing to the human eye. Mount Sinai Health Systems pairs light blue, dark blue, and bright purple to achieve a simple but striking design.

Tetradic

A less known but equally powerful color scheme is tetradic. Take any four colors on the color wheel that form a rectangle and you will have a combination of two pairs of complementary colors to work with. For organizations that are looking for a bold palette, this may be the ideal option. Feed The Children found just the right colors in a tetradic combination to maintain interest without overwhelming the viewer with too much color. 

Pro Tip: When working with a tetradic scheme, consider selecting a main, bright, color and use the others to accentuate it. While having four powerful colors is certainly not forbidden, allowing one to dominate helps the eye to focus on what is important and keeps the logo from looking too busy.

Aligned Elements

For some organizations, an icon is not quite enough. Adding the organization name or a tagline may be more your style. When adding text, consider ensuring that the layout of text, along with any elements from the logo itself (including the white space) is even and centered. This helps the logo feel balanced. 

Consider the Carolina Thread Trail logo. The organization’s perfectly aligned name balances the logo itself. The logo is larger in height but well-balanced with white space in each corner. Despite the logo being quite busy, the text alignment makes it feel harmonious and keeps the logo from feeling overwhelming. 

Typography

Another thing the Carolina Thread Trail Logo has going for it is excellent typography. Typography is nothing more than the style and appearance of text. Your logo may be the most beautiful graphic ever created; however, if your text is underwhelming your logo simply will not have the lasting impression you are looking for.

Readable fonts will make your logo seem polished. Ensure you opt for a web-friendly font so that your logo can be easily read regardless of what devices or browsers your audience is using.  

Pro Tip: Before you type your company’s name 181 times and apply a different font to each to see which one looks the best, consider utilizing Wordmark. The site does the hard work for you. Just type in a name or a tagline and Wordmark will help you customize your look by letting you compare the fonts on the screen.

White Space

White space, which is also commonly called negative space, is the space around (or in) graphic design. Although the space itself does not have color or text, it is not without purpose. White space is extremely helpful in balancing what is in the space and allows the eye to be drawn to key elements.

The Global Green Growth Institute uses micro white space in their logo. This is the space between small elements, paragraphs, or even between letters.

What is the alternative to micro white space? You guessed it, macro white space! Other logos, like the design below, which was used to advertise the 2016 West Virginia nonprofit leadership summit, use a much greater amount of negative space. Even simple logos designed with a massive amount of white space will draw the eye. They also make for eye-catching billboards in a world filled with busy designs and, typically, an overwhelming amount of text.

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How Can You Get Inspired?

Now that you have the key design elements under your belt, consider doing just a bit more research to give you the inspiration needed for your design.

Other Businesses and Nonprofits

While copying may be the most sincere form of flattery, we are certainly not recommending it here! One thing we do suggest, however, is taking a look at the logos of others whether they are foundation logos, businesses in search of a profit, or the best charity logos out there.  

nonprofit-logo-design-get-inspiredSalma is ready to get started on her nonprofit logo design!

When looking at these logos you are searching for inspiration. Which logos resonate with you? Once you find a few that you really like, try to determine why you like it. Perhaps the logo uses color effectively or maybe it works because of the asymmetrical balance they achieved. Understanding what key components give you the feeling that you want associated with your organization will help you with your development.

Social Media and Tools

Put social media to work and get inspired! Look no further than Pinterest or We Heart It. The goal is not to find an image, customize it with your nonprofit’s name and call it a day. These sites allow you to find inspiration based on the themes you want to convey.

Perhaps your organization is centered around preserving nature. What is the benefit you want people who interact with your organization to take with them when their time is done? If you want them to feel relaxed and rejuvenated, type those words in and check out the output. None of the resulting images will be "the one," however, they may spark an idea that gets you to your ultimate logo more quickly.

Your Team

Staff, members, and volunteers are great candidates to help design your logo. If you run into a bit of a roadblock, encourage the people who know your organization the best to suggest design elements that represent your shared mission. Who knows, maybe one of your volunteers has a graphic design day job! 

Perhaps you have too many seemingly perfect logo designs. If so, congratulations! After a well-deserved pat on the back, set up a contest where members can help you choose the winner from a handful of finalists. Given that the people who support your organization each and every day know it the best, they are one of the best places to source ideas. Incorporate all of the essential design elements and whichever one you choose will set you on a path to creating a lasting brand identity for your organization.

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Communication & Marketing
Jules