How to Build a Strong Brand for Your Nonprofit Organization

Susan: Welcome! Welcome, everyone, to
our webinar, “Building a Strong Brand for Your Organization.” I’m Susan Hope
Bard, the training and education manager here at TechSoup, and it’s my pleasure to host
this event today. Before we actually get started bringing you the event, I’d like to talk a
little bit about the platform that we’re using. We do use the ReadyTalk platform. So as you’re
either logging in now, or you logged in earlier, you might have heard music coming from
your computer speakers. Most of the time you will be hearing music come
from your computer speakers. You can chat to ask us any questions
you might have. In the left-hand column, there’s a chat box. You will see us chatting
different things out to you; it could be a link to events or to some websites that we’ll be
referencing. You don’t need to raise your hand; you can simply chat into the chat box. All of the lines are muted. If you’re having
any difficulty seeing or hearing the event, please chat into the chat box, and we
will help you on the tech side of things. If you lose your internet connection, you
can reconnect using the link that was emailed to you. If you lose your phone connection,
if you’ve called in, you can just redial the phone number and rejoin. The call
in number for this event is 888-299-7210, and the code that you will use is 537889. Becky
will be chatting that out to everyone as well. Again, you don’t need to raise your hand;
you can simply chat into the chat box. As I mentioned, we are recording this event.
We will post this event in about a week on our archives. We will also be
putting this event in our course, Design for Nondesigners 101 in
our learning management system, and we’ll talk about that a little later. You
will receive an email with this presentation along with the recording and any
links we mention in a few days. You can find out about upcoming and
past webinars on the TechSoup website at
You can also tweet us @TechSoup or using hashtag #tswebinars. And
again, the call in number for this event, if you’re not hearing the sound come through
your computer speakers, that is the default, you can call in at 888-299-7210
with the code 537889. Let me talk a little bit about our amazing
speaker today, Gopika, who is the owner and creative director at Elefint
Designs. She started Elefint as a way to bring thoughtful design to
world-changing brands. In addition to leading a multi-disciplinary team and a
variety of print and interactive pieces, Gopika also teaches design at the University
of San Francisco. She curates events and leads workshops focused on design for
social impact. So for folks just like you. Her work has been featured in
Fast Company, Good Wired Italy, and Design Like You Give a Damn. She is
an active member of the design community and has given talks at Facebook’s
Women in Design and Net Impact. Also, Gopika has worked with us very closely
to develop a course for you, for nonprofits and libraries, and it’s our free course, Design
for Nondesigners 101. I will be navigating through that a little later on
today after Gopika’s presentation. As I mentioned, I’m Susan Hope Bard,
the training and education manager here at TechSoup. We also, on the back end, we
have Abigail Maravalli, from Elefint Designs. She’s going to be helping with
chat as you chat in your questions. And Becky Wiegand is also on the back end
from TechSoup. She is going to help you with any tech problems you have. Again,
throughout the event, you should feel free to chat all of your questions in. You don’t
need to wait for the opportunity for Q&A. We’ll simply queue those up for Gopika
to address during brief Q&A sessions. Also, if at any point and time, if
you have any issues hearing or seeing, just chat us in the chat box. The objectives of today
– We want you to understand the basic elements of brand design guidelines. We also want
you to understand the importance and value of branding your organization. Gopika
will also help identify core elements of your brand guidelines to help your
nonprofit or library create a strong brand. We will also have an opportunity
for a Q&A session. As I mentioned, we’ll be queueing up your questions throughout
this event. We will also be following up with an email that will have a link
to the recording, the presentation, and any links that we discuss during the day.
To get us started I’m going to talk a little bit about TechSoup. TechSoup is located
here in San Francisco, California. While I’m telling you about TechSoup, go ahead
and chat in where you are joining us from. So go ahead and chat in the city and the state
or the country that you’re joining us from. TechSoup is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit
just like many of you joining us today. And we work to empower organizations around the
world to help you get the latest tools, skills, and resources to help you achieve your
mission. And you can see from our map here, we serve almost every country in the
world. We have about 62 partner NGOs all around the world. Oh wow. We’ve got folks
joining us from – This chat box is going crazy now. Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Ohio, Georgia,
San Diego, Maryland. That’s my home state, same as Gopika. Gopika and I are both
from Baltimore, Maryland originally. So thank you for joining us. Very happy that
everyone is here. I am going to get us started. Oh! Some folks from the U.K.! I know it’s
like nine hours later there, so thank you for joining us at night. As people that are
chatting in, you will only be able to see chat that comes from the presenters. But don’t
worry. We’ll share everything with you. If someone chats in a tip, we can share
that out with you during the event. So now we’re going to have a short poll.
The question is: What is your experience with brand guidelines? Are you, what are
brand guidelines? You’re not really sure. Do you know what they are,
but you don’t use them? Does your organization have
formal brand guidelines? Or are you really a master, and you
could rock this webinar yourself? Go ahead and just click on the radio
button that best represents you. If you can’t click on the radio button,
you can go ahead and chat into the chat box. I’m going to give us a few more seconds to
answer this question. We have about 450 people in the event itself, so that’s a lot of folks.
So I want to give you the opportunity to answer. It looks like a lot of folks are in the
top two categories where they’re not sure what brand guidelines are. Or they know
what they are, but they don’t use them. So you’re definitely in the right place today.
I’m going to give us five seconds. 5-4-3-2-1. And I’m going to show you the results. It
looks like about 83% of us really are new to this concept of brand guidelines, or
you may have them in your organization, but you don’t really use them. So you
are definitely in the right place today. I am going to turn the presentation
over to Gopika from Elefint, and she is going to share with you
today all about building a strong brand. Gopika, it’s all yours. Gopika: Ok. Great! Thank you so much
for that lovely introduction, Susan. And thanks, everyone, for joining today
for this webinar. My name is Gopika, and I am the founder and creative director
at Elefint. And like Susan mentioned, I set out to start Elefint as a way to bring
really high-quality design to social causes. We’re also based here in San Francisco.
It’s lovely to have TechSoup as our neighbor. And since we started out, we’ve worked with
more than 300 nonprofits around the world. Some of our specialties include branding
and web design and pretty much everything in between. So we’re a full service
studio. We recently launched our very first online design curriculum with TechSoup
which was so much fun to create. And hopefully, it looks like a lot
of you are interested in learning about what brand guidelines are. So
that free course walks you through that. It gives you some steps
to building out your own. Over the next hour or so, I’ll be discussing
what makes a strong brand and walking you through some examples of brands that I love.
Some of the examples are from our own clients, Elefint clients, while others are pulled from
my library of inspiration. So every designer will have a source or pool of inspiration,
so I’m going to share some of that with you. Definitely post some questions to the chat
group throughout as we go, and as time allows, I’ll pause and answer your
questions. Ok. So let’s get started. Alright. So we all want a strong, memorable
brand. It’s one of our favorite types of projects at Elefint because it relies on a deep
understanding of who you are as an organization and how you want to express yourself
to the world. Branding projects require a lot of teamwork, collaboration,
intuition, and creativity. This may sound like a lot, but the fact that you’re in this webinar is a
really great start. I’m hoping to cover the basics with you and get some of your creative
juices flowing on how you can tackle your organization’s
branding. So, what is a brand? We typically think of our website and
print materials, you know, all the things that you can see as our branding. But
it’s really much, much more than that. A brand is your personality, and it
extends well beyond the printed page. When done right, people understand who
you are. They can recognize your cause, and they remember you. Whenever we work on a branding project
at Elefint, we start off by personifying an organization. We ask our clients certain
questions that give us a better sense of its personality. Questions include: what
kind of music does this brand listen to? Where does it go for fun? What’s
your brand’s favorite outfit? These questions, however silly they may seem,
allow our clients to think outside the box and begin to see their brand as more than just
a logo. So this is a really fun part for us because we get into the abstract, the
aspirations. Maybe there’s a certain outfit the brand wears today, but there’s a certain
outfit that the brand wants to wear in a year from now. And understanding that and
thinking about the brand in terms of a person and those unique, sort of, interests
and preferences, helps me as a designer get into certain decisions. And I’ll walk
you through some of that thought process later on in this presentation. In essence,
your brand is a combination of soul, heart, and mind. The more you
understand about each of these aspects of your organization, the stronger your
brand will be. So let’s take a look at each of these levels in more detail. Your true north is the soul of your organization.
It’s defined by your values and purpose on this planet. And sometimes it’s a
little difficult to sum up in words. Most founders and executive directors will
have unique anecdotes and ways of thinking about the organization. Strong brands will
be able to integrate these powerful insights into every touchpoint of your brand. And
what I mean by touchpoint is any point where another person is interacting with
your brand. So it could be a physical thing. It could be a storefront. It could be a project
or a program you’re running on the ground; interacting with a staff member, or visiting
your website; getting your press kit; getting your business card. All of
these are considered touchpoints. Later in the presentation, I’ll walk
you through how companies like Patagonia have done this very well. The spirit of
your organization, or your true north, can also be found in your mission and
vision statement and should definitely live somewhere on your website. Sometimes we
forget to include this, but after this webinar, maybe do a quick check and make
sure this exists on your website. Whether you’re developing a brand from
scratch or looking to enhance an existing one, here are a few exercises that can
help you articulate your true north. We recently worked with a nonprofit who
was struggling to articulate what they did in a clear and concise way. To help
them out, we hosted a full-day workshop where their core team worked together
to develop a brand personality. Five people across departments in
different leadership positions spent the day brainstorming with us. Sometimes getting
to a point of clarity around your mission or your vision requires nonlinear thinking. In
order for us to get to their true north statement, we first looked to clearly define who
the organization was and what they did. It seems simple enough. Right? You can
typically say what you do in a sentence. But what was interesting is that everybody
on the team had a different way of explaining what the organization did in a simple sentence.
So finding that right language and tone can be challenging. And doing it with
a diverse team among your organization, getting the executive director to sit with the
communications person, to sit with an intern or someone who receives your
programming, can be really helpful to get to that “what” statement. Once
we developed a clear “what” statement for this organization, we then asked “why.” Why
do we exist? Why does this organization exist? A simple keyword exercise helped us
to further define the organization. So we had the very straightforward,
what the organization did. And some of these words came easily.
It was through our conversations around their brand personality that we
discovered that their brand was also confident yet humble, excited and ready for the
future. So there were these little surprises; things that the team hadn’t yet thought
about, or words that they hadn’t yet identified as being really integral to their brand and true
to their brand. By identifying these five keywords, we were able to lay the foundation for a clear
and strong brand for this particular nonprofit. A series of exercises led us to this point
of defining guiding principles for the brand. Now that they know that every touchpoint
of their brand should be personal, warm, and exciting – I’ll just point to here – These
are the three main principles that we identified after a series of conversations. And why
that was important was, moving forward, outside of the engagement with Elefint,
when their team is going to create a new post on Instagram or select brand colors or make
their next hire, they can use these principles to ensure that they stay on point. In essence,
guiding principles provide you with a concrete, unwavering framework that ensures
every decision you make is well informed and tells an authentic story. And that’s
super important in establishing a strong brand, sometimes overlooked, and we want
to get straight into visual design. But I’m sure a lot of us have stared at
a computer and looked at all of the colors and all of the fonts possible and
then sort of stuck where you start. So these preliminary conversations can
really help you start to make decisions and narrow down options. This
high-level and philosophical thinking can also help you tap into something much
bigger and identify, at the end of the day, the goal of the brand. The second level of your brand is your
visual identity. With a clear understanding of your values, guiding principles, and
personality, you can start to create materials that reflect the spirit of your organization.
If you determine, for example, that your values are playful, warm, and delightful, then you
could choose brighter, more vibrant colors. If your brand is professional and
grounded in excellence, then a serif font and limited color palette could be
a better reflection of your values. And of course, this is all hypothetical. I’m
not saying that if you’re a perfectionist, you want to come across as professional,
use a limited color palette. There’s countless examples that would break
that. This is just to give you a sense of, if you start off the process by identifying
certain characteristics and adjectives that are very unique to your
organization, you can then start to hone in on certain visual elements
that speaks to those words. Let’s take a look at how this played out
for one of our clients this past year. So, let’s see here. New Door Ventures
is a nonprofit in San Francisco, and they provide job training
and entrepreneurship skills to youth in the Mission neighborhood.
Upon redesigning their website, we went to their headquarters, which was
so exciting. It was really inspiring to see. And the first floor was a youth community center.
It had lots of vibrant colors, a pool table, an area for workshopping. And the top
floor was a little bit more subdued, and it was dedicated to their C-level
offices, so it seemed appropriate. But they also were able to
intersperse some really fun elements. So for example, they had this bright
orange spiral staircase in the middle of an otherwise sort of regular office
space. They also had bright green columns and then some wood paneling with hand
lettering on it. So it added so much character to an otherwise, you know,
somewhat regular, corporate space. Visiting their actual office space helped
us to immediately get a better understanding of who New Door was as an organization. It
wasn’t coming across in their old website, and we actually just launched the new
website, so I’m unable to show you a comparison at the moment. But when we started
the process, it was clear that the org was deeply dedicated to serving its
youth. They had a super strong track record and really well established partnerships
that helped them achieve their mission. And the interesting thing for us was
that their personality, the friendliness, the way that they accommodate their youth,
was not coming across in their materials. There was a lighthearted and playful element
that we really wanted to be able to capture and integrate into the website and this
particular touchpoint of their brand. As I said, New Door had gone through
this redesign of their interior space, and they had identified certain
values that helped them do that. This is an example of a mood board.
Just a hodge-podge of example images they pulled for inspiration and some
keywords like youth friendly, welcoming, safe, dynamic, vibrant. And these same
keywords helped inform our design decisions when it came to the website. We started our
process off with a series of our own boards. For those of you who aren’t familiar with
them, mood boards easily translate emotions and ideas of feeling into visuals.
So this is a light example of that. They also act as inspiration and can
help facilitate really great conversations between you and your team. Pinterest
is a great tool you can use to build out your own mood boards. I’m sure some of
us have used it before to plan a party or search for that perfect cupcake design.
But we also use InVision most of the time to create our mood boards. So let’s
take a look at some examples here. Like I said, mood boards help you
and your team get on the same page and establish a mutually agreed upon
direction for your brand. In this example, it was important for us to create
a bold, vibrant community feel, and without even saying much. If you look at
this, the colors we chose, the font choices, the way things are arranged should
bring out those sort of feelings for you. There’s probably more. There’s probably
things that you agree with or things that you don’t agree with or
images that resonate with you and images that you’re like, oh I don’t really
like that. And that’s the point of a mood board. It’s not to have every single element
on the page be exactly what you want. It’s basically to spark conversation. And literally,
you can print this out, and with a Sharpie, cross off images that just aren’t working.
Our earlier conversations with the client around their brand voice and personality
helped us identify keywords and pull together an assortment of images that spoke to those
qualities. It’s a little bit small, probably, on your screen, but over here on the left-hand
column, we pulled out some of the keywords related to their tone and then offered a little
bit more context. They’re in San Francisco; we had the ability to meet with them in
person and have plenty of conversations around the images that work for
them. But if you’re emailing them out, if you want to get the input from your
friends, your family, your colleagues that are in other offices, definitely including
some sort of insight around the image selection will be really helpful. We put together a series of boards
focused on unique aspects of their brand, starting with imagery. For imagery, it
was really important that we captured both the individuality of a person as
well as the community aspect of the org. So these were two things that were
really emphasized and were coming from the organization. So this is where
all of that preliminary conversation around what’s really important to
you as an organization is important. There’s so many different ways of understanding
community or individuality for that matter. And my goal in putting together these
images was to give, you know, a nice variety that met the client’s criteria for what
community is and what individuality is. This opened up conversations. We
had a little bit of a design critique and some really great discussions that served
as a valuable next step in the design process. In this particular example, the client
really liked the image over here. They particularly liked this because of
the different color hands and the motion and the liveliness of it. They loved all the
different colors, and their previous brand was stripped of color. I think they
were just using black, white, and green. So there was a certain dynamism to this image
that actually opened up a lot of conversation. At the same time, they really gravitated
towards this image. So it was a combination of an individual person, a photo,
and fun illustration. And you can see that there’s a pretty large contrast
between this sort of style and this style. So even that was great, from a
design perspective, to discuss that. What is it about this particular image
or collage that really spoke to them and spoke to their brand? By selecting and ruling out certain imagery, we
were able to conclude that original photography of their target audiences
– in that case it was youth between the ages of, I think it was like 16 to 24
– would be crucial in establishing an authentic brand. So stock photos or generic images of any groups or
individuals just wouldn’t work for them. By identifying this visual design criteria
early on, they could then plan next steps like scheduling a photoshoot or
identifying images they already had that met their new-found criteria. Moving on to the next board in the series.
This board was dedicated to typography and needed to reflect a bold, professional, and
clean look. The client really valued accessibility, and their brand values dictated the same.
So when we pulled font examples together, we went for written text that was easy
to read and that would translate well across print and web. While there is a science
to typography and choosing the right font, a lot of this is subjective. There’s
also thousands of fonts to choose from. So mood boards that narrow down
the options are extremely helpful before entering the process of
actually selecting a font. These boards included mostly sans serif fonts.
And what I mean by sans serif font is you can see that they’re super clean;
they don’t have what’s called arms and legs. This font that’s used for the headline up here for
Workbook, I know might be a little tiny for you, that’s an example of a serif font. So this
client was definitely gravitating towards the sans serif font and liked a
little, just a splash, of character. You can see here with the “k”, while the
typeface is really simple, more or less, there were these unique little qualities built
into the font that the client really loved. When you know where on the spectrum your
brand falls in terms of simple to ornate, you can then start to narrow down
and identify the right fonts for you. The last mood board in the series, and
then I’ll maybe pause for questions, is dedicated to illustration style.
There may be some elements on the board that really stand out and resonate with you
and your team, while other images or elements, not so much. Being able to articulate what’s
working for you and how a particular element relates to your brand and brand
values will help keep you on track and ensure the visual direction
for your brand is on point. What typically happens when we show mood
boards to a client is there’s some things that people agree upon, and then
there’s definitely points of disagreement around a particular image or style. You
want to take these points of disagreement as an opportunity to [indistinct] and understand
why we disagree. So don’t try and convince the other person that this is the way we
should go. Right? That could be another stage in the process. Really use the
mood board as a conversation opener. You want to be an observer, a listener. You
want to understand the rationale of others on your team. And why that’s helpful
is, if you’re wearing the designer hat, and you’re ultimately creating assets
or materials for your organization, you want as much buy-in from others
as possible. You want people to use the brand book that you create. You want people
to love the brochure that you’re designing. And the more people feel part of the
process and that they’re listened to, the more they’re going to respect
your work and your point of view. With this illustration board, what happened
was there was part of the team that really loved this style. Line-based illustration with
just a splash of color. Very simplistic. And then there were some people that really liked
this style. Now, you might think it’s similar, but this actually opened up a lot of
conversation around the type of character and the form of the character. If you
look at this illustration in the top area, you can see that the illustrations are a
little bit more abstract, different colors, definitely not realistic, and it had a youthful
feel, same with here, a very youthful feel. And it was important for this brand that
they didn’t come across as too young. They wanted to seem professional and
authoritative but also acceptable. So we had these really great
conversations around why this form actually spoke to some people, and it turned
out that everybody was on the same page; it was just that the visual spoke to each
person in a different way. So that’s why I say it’s really important to not shoot someone
down or say, “No. No. No. We’ll never go in that direction,” because often we’re
saying the same thing, and we’re just speaking a different language. So the more you
can understand the language of the people on your team, the better off you’ll be. I’ve definitely come to really enjoy disagreement,
and it’s these moments that make me pause, and I can play devil’s advocate and push
people to articulate their thoughts and ideas. It’s really the disagreement that let’s me as a
designer achieve clarity and ultimately help me deliver visuals that are very much in line
with my client’s goals and those of the brand. So much of what we’re discussing is subjective.
Mood boards help you dissect the nuance and ambiguity around these ideas and
personal preferences. I’ve found them useful in pretty much every design project
whether it’s a logo or a website or even a themed impact report. Another tip I should mention is that there’s
a certain vocabulary you can start to develop by reading design articles or publications.
You can check out Communication Arts or Behance and even Dribble. Behance
and Dribble are both online communities. Communication Arts also has an online
component, but I think you have to have a subscription to read all of the articles.
But the more you read and the more you learn in terms of design vocabulary, the more you’re
going to be able to speak about your work and your brand and your design decisions. And
people will just inherently have more confidence in what you’re doing and creating.
That’s a little bit of a tangent. It’s more about design leadership and owning
your decisions. You wouldn’t, for example, want to put together mood boards,
and someone asks you a question, and you’re not able to back up your ideas.
It’s definitely helpful, like I said. Include some notes and just provide context
so people understand your line of thinking in the event you’re not
presenting them in person. I’m just going to pause for a moment
and see if anyone has some questions. Susan: We do. We have got about 20 questions in
the queue, so I think we’ll take a few right now and definitely save 10 minutes at
the end for some more questions. Margie asks – Or Marjorie – sorry – asks,
“Once an organization has identified its brand, does it ever change? Does the organization’s
strategic plan have any connection with its brand?” Gopika: That’s a really great question. The
short answer is yes. I think that a brand that sticks with what was – I mean, we worked
with a lot of organizations that were founded 15, 30 years ago, and there’s certain
principles that remain true today. But then there’s so many new programs or
services or offerings that your organization now offers, and your brand doesn’t really
encompass the full suite or that full spectrum of what you’re doing. So every once in a while
– And that timeframe – It’s hard for me say, “Ok. After a year, you want to do this.
After five years, you want to do this.” Typically, at the end of the year, it is a point
of reflection. Right? Individually we kind of look at our life and say, this is what has worked,
and these are my resolutions for the future. I think the same is true for an organization.
It’s almost like a gut check where at the end of the year you can say, “Yeah. We’re moving
in the direction that we want to be moving in, and because of whatever has happened in
the past six months, we’re now changing our strategic plan.” That doesn’t necessarily
mean that you need to change your logo and your website and your brand from
a visual standpoint; it could mean looking at your content and looking
at how you’re talking about your brand. That’s kind of a shorthand version of it. But
I’d say that what we’ve seen with our clients is probably every three to five years
there’s a larger gut check that happens where they do want to revisit their logo or
branding, and it could be a slight modification or a complete overhaul. And that’s
really dependent on the direction that the organization is taking. Susan: Thank you. That’s a super helpful
explanation. The next question comes from [indistinct], and I hope I’m not butchering
this person’s first name. So my apologies. They wonder: how do people working
on defining brand guidelines address generational
differences in their community? Gopika: That’s a really good question. That’s
something that’s true for every single brand. Right? You’re designing and creating
something for a wide range of people. There are a lot of exercises that can
help you identify your target audiences and be really clear on who that is. While
aspirationally, we want to serve everyone under the sun, realistically, you
could probably group your main audiences into one to three types of people. There’s
personas that can help you develop language or aspects of your brand that speak
to a specific demographic or age group or type of subset within your audiences.
There’s also what’s called archetype. Say there’s a hundred different types
of people that you’re trying to serve. If you really analyze those people, you
can group them based on their interests. That’s what I mean by an archetype. Maybe
there’s a group of people that it doesn’t matter what age they are; they’re all curious in learning.
There’s a hypothetical for a nonexistent brand right now. But this whole group is interested
in learning. So what does that mean for you as an organization? How do you provide a
platform or a portal for learning on your website or in your materials? While there
might be gaps in generations, a learning curve to a certain technology,
there are ways for you to start to group your key audiences and develop personalities for
them. Personas is one exercise that’s really fun. We can send, as a follow up, some helpful
resources to develop those for yourself. Then I guess the other part to that
is, if specifically your question is, there’s this gap in generations and
maybe a learning curve because of that that needs to happen internally. Then the
more you’re stepping in the shoes of the people you’re designing for or creating for, the
more you’re going to understand them as people, not as an age group or as an archetype per se
but as an actually living, breathing human being that you can relate to. If you can do that as
a person, then you can translate those insights into your design. Susan: Thank you. I think one more for this
break, and then we’re going to transition to the rest of your presentation. Very
quickly, a lot of folks have chatted in: what tool did you use to create these mood
boards? And perhaps, define mood boards one more time. I know there are three that you
covered: typography, imagery, and illustration. So if you could just talk about how you
did that, what tools you recommend they use to do one of their own. Gopika: Sure. Mood boards – I use InDesign
because it lets you crop images really well. You can also use Pinterest as a tool where it
might not look exactly like what you see here, but definitely gives you a nice compilation
of imagery, and then you can make comments and have it be very collaborative.
What a mood board is, is they basically translate emotions, ideas,
and feelings, all of the intangible aspects of your brand, into visuals. And they also
help you facilitate conversation between you and your team. You can look at these
pulled, found examples. So just to clarify, on this mood board here for illustration, I didn’t
create any of these illustrations from scratch; they were all pulled from sites
like Behance and the internet and different design inspiration sources
that I have, and I use them as talking points throughout the process. The way you
break down your mood board can change. For this particular client I chose to
do imagery, typography, and illustration. You could have a mood board just on color.
You could have a mood board on pattern. It really depends on your organization and who
you’re working with and what the brand requires. Susan: Thanks so much. Gopika: Ok. I think we’ll just jump into the rest
of the presentation. The last layer of your brand is your action. Just as your true north and visual
identity tell a story about your organization, so do the people and policies behind your
brand. This is often an overlooked element of the branding process. I’m not going to spend
a terrible amount of time talking about it, but it’s definitely a very
important aspect to consider. Say, for example, you’re an
environmentally conscious company, but your office uses Styrofoam cups.
If part of your mission is to bring more compostable materials into the
world, but your own office hasn’t changed their purchasing policies, then there’s an
obvious disconnect that dilutes your brand, and it’s not a very authentic story. At Elefint
we value excellence, care, and playfulness. These are three of the values we hold as our
true north, as a studio. So when we’re hiring, we look for these qualities in a candidate.
So you might be an amazing designer, but you don’t really care about the work that
you’re doing or the clients that you’re serving, and you don’t bring a sense of humor to the
office. That type of person is going to affect our studio culture, and it’s going to
dilute how people feel about Elefint when interacting with us in person. That’s
just one example of how your brand, the people, policies are all coexisting to tell your story.
I’m just going to flip to a few other examples. Here is a shoe company called Allbirds
that uses ZQ-certified Merino wool. This means that they meet really high standards
of sustainable farming and animal welfare, and at the same time, they care about
your comfort. I don’t work for Allbirds, nor do I have an understanding of their
internal policies, so these insights are pulled primarily from my
experience as a potential consumer. So I’m looking at it from the outside. I’d like
to highlight, basically, how their brand ambassador has successfully – And in very little time.
The company launched, I think, maybe a year ago or so. In that amount of time, these
ambassadors have shaped a very powerful and authentic story for them.
These are images that I pulled from their Instagram account. Without reading
anything or talking to any of their employees, I got this immediate feeling of what
they’re about and what they value. They’re fun; they care about the environment;
they value comfort and excellence in design; they want you to be you in their shoes.
Whether you’re on their Instagram account or show up at one of their popup locations,
there’s a seamless and uniform brand story. The product is minimalist. They only
offer a certain number of colors. But the personality comes out in
these unique stories behind the photos, behind the packaging, behind their people.
We’re not official Allbirds ambassadors, but yes, this picture in the middle with the
elephant is definitely one of our favorites. The reason I first heard about Allbirds
is actually from my colleague Abigail who stumbled upon their shoes in a popup
in San Francisco. She told me she would have never remembered anything about this company
if it weren’t for their memorable brand. How many organizations can you list as
memorable, not because of what you read or what they do, but because of how
you felt when you interacted with it? At the end of the day, that’s the goal. A thoughtful brand – And for someone
who’s worked with brands every day, I’ve put a lot of thought
into what makes a strong brand. For us, a thoughtful brand is
authentic; it’s memorable; it’s reliable. And we often associate great branding with only
the biggest and sexiest companies like Apple or Nike or Gatorade. We truly believe
that the same guiding principles that make big brands memorable can
also be applied to your organization, to this for-good space. So I’m just going to
look at a few examples within this nonprofit space that has strong branding and therefor
have highlighted their cause to millions. I love this panda. For me it doesn’t
just represent the World Wildlife Fund; it’s also a symbol for animal rights
and has been in use for about 50 years. Most of us recognize the panda. There are
a number of design notes I could discuss right now, but I’ll save that for another
day. The one thing I’ll note is that the reason the panda is so memorable is
because they stepped out of the norm, choosing not to use an image of
the world, a tree or holding hands; logos we see a lot in the nonprofit space.
While it’s extremely difficult to create such an iconic mark as this, our goal
with any brand is to create something that’s just as memorable and authentic.
One thing to note, and something that you would want to include in your
brand guides, is the rules and constraints around your mark. The reason why this
mark is so memorable is because the panda never changes. You never see it in
color. You never see it stretch or flip. It never sits alongside other illustrations and
animals. There are certain rules and guidelines that inform how this logo is used.
And it’s important with any brand to have strict guidelines on logo
usage. This ensures consistency across all of your touchpoints. And if
you want a little bit more information on how to construct a brand book or what goes
into it, then remember to check out our level 2 course, because it goes into all the steps and
elements in creating your own brand guidelines. It can definitely be tricky to stand out from all
the noise. There are thousands of organizations, for example, that are working to bring clean
drinking water to remote regions of the world. Yet Charity: Water is one of the most
widely known from a brand perspective. When someone mentions Charity:
Water, I immediately think yellow, plastic water containers. They’ve successfully turned their physical
product into an icon and universal symbol for water quality. Again, one that is
widely known and recognized across the globe. I’m just going to go back to that slide. And
I think we’re going to pause and go to a poll. Susan: Yes! Great! We’re going to check and
see. We’ve got lots of questions in our chat box as well, but just a quick poll question
to see, everybody that’s been listening: what is a true statement about a thoughtful
brand according to what Gopika just shared? A thoughtful brand is authentic.
A thoughtful brand is memorable. A thoughtful brand is relatable. And you
should be able to choose as many as you want. I think a lot of the chat questions that
have come in, too, are a lot about logos and copyrights, Gopika. If you do have a chance
to talk about that, that would be awesome. Gopika: Sure. Are there questions about logos?
The use of logos, or how to create a logo? Susan: It’s about the use of a logo
and copyrighting. If you could cover some copyrighting issues with designing
logos and some of the challenges folks may have in nonprofits. Gopika: Sure. Obviously, you want to do a
good amount of research in terms of what logos and marks are out there and being used.
Taking time is definitely worth it to print those examples out and just make
sure that you’re not creating anything that’s already been in use. There’s definitely
outside consultants and design studios that help facilitate this process and
make sure that anything that you’re making isn’t already trademarked or
used widely in circulation. In terms of logo, and really differentiating
your brand, I think one of the biggest things is making sure that you’re also
not using the same or similar colors than similar organizations in the space.
Even putting together like a swatch board of the common used colors that are for
clean drinking water or animal rights or ocean conservation can help you add
a little bit of an element of surprise, to use something slightly different.
It’s hard. I don’t know if I know enough about content writing and trademarking, but
there’s definitely, especially if you’re engaging an outside service, there are specialists in
this. I wouldn’t try and tackle that all in-house. Susan: Great. Thank you. If you chose
any one of these, you would be correct. And I love the fact that people
thought a thoughtful brand is memorable. Gopika: Yeah. That’s great! Definitely, thoughtful
brands are authentic, memorable, relatable, all of those things. A thoughtful brand
speaks to who you are and who you’re not. A thoughtful brand is well executed.
It will legitimize your cause. And it will tell an authentic story.
We don’t have a terrible amount of time, so I just want to flip through a
few of the remaining slides here. But just to leave you as a takeaway, here is
some of the core elements to a strong brand. We talked about having a clear mission and
vision statement. Having a visual identity that speaks to your values; that means your
logo, color palette, font choices, image style. Creating a brand book that outlines some of
the rules and guidelines around these elements. Making sure to share your brand
book widely across the company. It’s helpful to inspire people and
get people excited about working. It’s a fantastic training tool for new
hires to get them on board, and in turn, creates brand ambassadors, people within the
organization that feel so connected to the cause that they actively promote and advocate
for your organization on their own time. I think we have maybe a few minutes,
and I’ll walk you through one more common or big brand, one that I love, which is
Patagonia. We all probably recognize this logo or know the name. I started to – I’ve been a big
fan of Patagonia since I was in middle school. It was because my friend shopped
there, and growing up on the east coast, it was the perfect sleeve. They gave me
the perfect sleeve for east coast winters. The more I learned about the company, the
more committed I was to buying from them over other outdoor companies. This is
because I read, before starting Elefint, I read Yvon Chouinard’s book, Let My People
Go Surfing, and I realized there was so much more to this product than just the jackets and
amazing outdoor photos in every, single catalog. I started to pay more attention to their
branding and quickly recognized how authentic their story was from its
founding. Patagonia is a B Corp. They actively counter consumerism, but they
sell products that use natural resources. It seems counter intuitive,
but they’re exactly on brand. Because they have such a deep understanding
of their values, they can put out controversial ad campaigns that change behavior while
directly promoting their organizational values. The point here is, basically, the more you
know yourself, yourself being the organization, the more you’re able to create authentic
messaging and make your mark on the world. Here is an example of how they’re doing
this online. One part of their website – and this goes back to the question
around copyrighting and content – but here, one part of their website
is dedicated to showing consumers the environmental footprint of the clothing
they sell. This dress is partially made up of recycled polyester and partially
spandex. They state why they aren’t able to trace the source of their spandex.
They’re super transparent about it. I think it’s important to note that strong
brands aren’t necessarily aiming for perfection; they’re aiming for authenticity. I feel like
I have a little bit more in my presentation, but I’d love to leave some time now
for any last, remaining questions, and if there’s time to go through
another example, I can do that. Susan: Great! Thanks so much. We
do. We have quite a lot of questions. Rhonda asks
– She has heard that modern design is “flat with no use of embossing and shadows.” Is that true, or is
that just a statement somebody made about their particular brand? Gopika: No. Definitely, we’re seeing a big trend,
especially in product design and web design, towards what’s called flat
design. Google released something that’s called Material Design. They have a
really great website where you can actually walk through and understand that better.
But it is stripped of a lot of shadows and things that make an icon or a logo
feel realistic. And that shift was a trend, and it’s still going, and that’s not to say
that every, single brand needs to follow that. I would actually recommend – This is where
understanding your values is really important, because you don’t want your brand
to not withstand the test of time. And that’s why that panda for the World
Wildlife Fund is so powerful for me. Because this form, it actually was a
little bit different 20, 30 years ago. It was a little bit more realistic, and then
they cleaned it up to have these clean edges but still a very defined panda. So while
your brand might shift and change over time – Even if you look, historically, at our
elephant in our mark, when we started out it was a little bit crazy looking, and then
in the past year or two we cleaned it up to make it flatter and scale better. I wouldn’t
just go with a trend or read one article and say, “Ok. We need to follow suit.” I would
really understand your own values and then make decisions accordingly. Susan: Great. Thanks so much. We
also have a question about rebranding. If you have an organization that has
shifted, and perhaps it’s too [indistinct], and you want to make it appeal to a younger
demographic, is rebranding a good idea? Gopika: Yeah. Because I don’t have
the details, I can’t necessarily say whether a complete brand overhaul is
required, or if some aspect of your brand could be enhanced. There’s pros and cons
to both. If you’re looking at your brand, and you just want it to be fresher and livelier
and just speak to the organization of today and the future, then perhaps a brand
overhaul is important. We’ve definitely worked with organizations to not only tackle their
brand but also their name. So they want a new name that speaks to where they’re heading in the
next 10 years. Those are really good questions and conversations to start asking and having.
Again, it’s hard to definitively say in this webinar whether that’s the right approach for you.
But if you’re finding that there’s a huge part of your audience that isn’t being spoken to,
and something is very dated about your content or your look, then some sort of
refresh or rebranding might be needed. Susan: Great! Thanks. One more or maybe
two more questions. Also letting folks know that these questions will be shared with
the presenters for them to respond to and to get back to you. Some of you
have some very specific questions about your particular nonprofit. Gopika and
Abigail can certainly respond to some of those questions individually. One question
that came up is, is there a difference between experience with developing a brand for
a public library? Are there different challenges that you could see for a library
branding than for a nonprofit? Gopika: You know, for us it wouldn’t necessarily
matter that you’re a library versus a nonprofit, because ultimately you’re there to serve a
certain demographic. You have key audiences just like a nonprofit does, just like a
B Corp would or just like for profit does. So instead of comparing yourself to other
nonprofits, you have to ask yourself, what are your goals? What are the goals of
the library? What are you trying to achieve? What are the goals of your audiences,
and where are there points of intersection between the goals of you, the library,
and those of your target audiences. Then you can start to think about
what sort of decisions you can make and whether that means putting
some more attention on your brand or how you’re giving people access to
books or periodicals or information. Ultimately, you are providing a space where
people can learn, so learning environment. I would kind of step out of this. Ok.
Is it important for me as a library versus a nonprofit and start to ask the question,
what do we want to do in this amount of time that we have and how do
we go about doing that? Susan: Great. Thank you. We still
do have a lot of questions in queue, but we have run out of time. As I mentioned, we
will be forwarding these questions on to Gopika and Abigail to answer and get back
with you. They’ve agreed to do that. And some of these more specific
questions about your nonprofit, they may want to channel those right back
to you to ask some additional question, or if you’re interested in working
with Elefint as a design team. Thank you so much for this. Obviously, folks are
fascinated with the information you’ve shared, and we could probably do three or
four of these webinars about design. Really quickly, can everyone just chat
one thing in that they learned today? I know it’s probably difficult to identify one thing,
but just chat one thing in that you learned today or you may try to implement. And keep in
mind that we will share a list of resources, particularly around logos, branding,
mood boards, how to develop those and some best practices, in addition to trying
to address some of the more general questions, in our follow-up email which
you will receive in about a week. We do have a free course that
Gopika has developed that will answer many of the questions that you had
in the chat box, and you can find that on It is
Design for Nondesigners 101. It is a free course. We really encourage you to go there. You will
actually begin to build your, it’s like a starter kit for brand guidelines, and she’s done an amazing
job of building videos, PowerPoint presentations, and exercises to help you think through some
of these processes that she’s described today. Also coming up, check out our webinars.
We’ve got lots and lots of webinars in the month of March. Easy for me to say.
Join us for any of our QuickBooks Desktop for either new nonprofit users or existing
nonprofit users. Those of you here joining us from libraries, how to protect patron privacy
in public libraries coming up next week. And also a TechSoup tour about technology
donations coming up at the end of the month. I am so sorry. We have run a little bit
over time. I do want to remind everyone, there is a survey we want you to take
that will pop up as soon as you X out or as soon as you leave this event. Please do
tell us the things that you liked about this, things that we can do better,
and suggestions for other topics. I want to really – A most sincere and
heartfelt thank-you to Gopika and Abigail. They have worked very hard to create the
free course, Design for Nondesigners 101, and we will also come out with a follow-up
course, Design for Nondesigners 201, in a few weeks. That will also be
available on our TechSoup Courses. They are amazing resources, and I do hope that
folks do follow up with them to find out more. And I know that Abigail will chat out their email
and website and perhaps their twitter handle. Also, a huge thank-you, on the back end, to
Becky for handling all the chat questions, tech challenges, and also,
re-chatting out some of your comments. And a huge thank-you to all of you for hanging
in there. Sorry we went a little over time. We know your most valuable asset is your time,
so we appreciate the hour and four minutes you spent with us today. Thank you so
much. And thanks to ReadyTalk, our sponsor. So have a great rest of
your day, everybody. Bye-bye.

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