The Union Method Round Up

The Union Method Round Up

If you’ve taken our advice on getting started with your annual report (even though you just finished), great job, you’ve given yourself some time to think strategically and thus be more active about your report for next year.

This week we’re helping you get into the strategic mindset by sharing some posts about our method and how it guides people through their project with ease and purpose.

Intention and intuition are vital values here at Union Design, so it should be no surprise that this is where our process is rooted. Design, like a business, is art and science. The highest goal is finding the intersection between form and function, continually assessing our efforts against our goals.

Becuase we want to see our efforts pay off, we have to get to the core of the problem we’re trying to solve. The dialogue starts there, what’s the specific problem? What are the tangible solutions that we can move forward right now?

Rooting our progress in our values is where the strategic magic happens. Next, we explore the depth and breadth of the project, taking what we understand about the specific problem we’re solving, and then aiming to understand the people we’re trying to help.

After digging deep to get a fresh perspective, we take a look at what already exists and evaluate it in an audit. Once an audit is complete, we move forward with the current project with our strategy, goals, and audience all in mind.

We’re always happy to talk with people during their planning process, the sooner a designer can get involved in the process, the more thorough their understanding of the project is, and the better the final product will be.

 

 

 

 

 

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Competition

Competition

The word “competition” can bring up very binary responses. Some think “win, superior, survival of the fittest!” Others might muse, “unnecessarily aggressive, scarcity mentality.”

Whatever your attitude about competition, knowing where your non-profit fits in the competitive landscape, and having the design that supports your position, is vital to getting the attention you need to rally support and achieve your mission.

Consider how your branding and identity materials fit among your peers. Gather logos and examples from all organizations in your niche. Looking at your peers and competition from a high level can show you what you (and your competitors) have not addressed. While taking a broad view might seem intimidating, strategizing with a clear understanding of the landscape will help you solidify your position.

But if we tend to understand what is familiar, then what makes design both fresh and easily understood? If your logo looks out of place when viewed side-by-side with your peers, you should take a more in-depth look. Do any materials stand out as particularly well- or poorly- designed? Seeing your articles in context with other organizations can bring any design issues into focus.

Also, consider what you might like about brands and organizations outside of your niche. Comparing across different sectors can also emphasize what works and what doesn’t.

Competition does not have to be a threat: especially in the non-profit sector, where everyone aims to help. Your competitors can also be your peers, your community, and your support system. Comparing yourself to other organizations can highlight your weaknesses, but there is also an opportunity to reveal your strengths.

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Is your design working for you?

Is your design working for you?

At some point, you may wonder if your design is working against you. If you saw our previous post about the success of design-driven organizations and felt a sinking feeling wishing your organization was more design driven…don’t despair! We’re going to give you some things to think about when putting some razzle-dazzle back into your design.

Strategy.

The best identity systems are those based on solid strategy. Consider your overall business objectives and review your logo, brand, print materials & website from a strategic perspective. Has the organization’s focus shifted from the original designs? If you have grown significantly or are reaching a very different audience, it may be necessary to redesign to more accurately reflect your current (and future) growth. We’ve covered strategy here, here and here.

Professionalism.

Is your design professional? Often, smaller organizations launch with materials designed by a volunteer or a student. While that may be appropriate in the early stages, as the organization grows and seeks greater opportunity and influence, the quality and professionalism of the design need to keep pace.

Equity. 

Not all logos need updating. Consider your audience’s relationship with the logo. How much equity does your logo have? If your audience is very comfortable with your current logo, it’s wise to tread lightly when it comes to redesigning. In some cases, a beloved logo that would otherwise benefit from a revision might be better off with the most modest of updates.

Usability.

A logo that is difficult to read or does not reproduce well is a good candidate for a redesign. Consider how the logo is used and note any difficulties you have in its application. Usability extends to the pain points that might prevent an organization from fully employing all of the materials and tools available to them. Knowing what you want your tools and materials to do is as important as having them in the first place. 

Consistency.

Do you have too many variations in your materials? One type of font & color scheme for one event, and something entirely different for the rest? While this is not an issue for smaller organizations, larger companies with many departments may find that they’ve lost control of the brand. This is an excellent reason to revisit the design — and create a reliable Identity Standards Manual — and then make one person responsible for managing consistency.

Competition.

Consider how your branding and identity materials fit among your competitors/peers? Gather the logos from all organizations in your niche. Do any stand out as particularly well- or poorly- designed? If your logo looks out of place when viewed side-by-side with your peers, you should take a more in-depth look.

Resonance.

Beyond the specific design elements, a strong logo furthers positive associations with your organization. Do you feel that the logo accurately represents the organization? Do you like it? Are you proud of it? Does the logo —and the broader brand system— trigger positive emotions?

Undertaking this type of analysis of your materials and assets puts you in a perfect position to make more strategic and practical design decisions.

For more information or to enlist Union Design to provide a Design Audit of your logo or other marketing materials, send a note to hello@uniondesignstudio.com.

 

 

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Managing Your Brand: Appoint an Identity Czar

Managing Your Brand: Appoint an Identity Czar

No, we’re not talking about a police state or identity theft.

An Identity Czar, also known as the Identity Police or the Branding Guru is the go-to person in your organization who can assess whether any communications material conforms to the brand standards. The Identity Czar is, essentially, the keeper of the brand.

Brands can deteriorate over time if they are not maintained. Just like a mission can drift, so can a brand. It may seem refreshing to send out a fundraising appeal that departs from the brand standards. But too many variations add up to a fractured identity, and a confusing client or donor experience. If nobody is keeping an eye on the message and tone of the materials you send out, it becomes difficult to be unified.

The role of the Identity Czar is to ensure that the brand is accurately represented across mediums. This is especially critical in situations where an outside design firm develops the brand and the organization employs freelancers for ongoing work. An Identity Guide is an excellent reference, but it can’t cover every possible branding circumstance. This is why it is so helpful to have a single person in charge of interpreting the Guide.

This person doesn’t have to be a designer. She also doesn’t need to be called the Identity Czar. (Branding Ninja, anyone?)  Often, the Director of Marketing, Communications or Development takes this role. Sometimes it is the Executive Director. Anyone who participated in the branding process and is familiar with the intimate details such as tone, message and persona can do this job. If you’re working with an outside design firm, they can teach you to learn what to look for.

Giving one person this responsibility makes it easier to keep an eye on the variety of materials being produced. It is important that the person is officially appointed so that their role is not questioned. The Czar is not creating the brand. The Czar’s role is simply to enforce what the entire communications team has already agreed upon.

After investing time and money into developing your organization’s brand, appointing a brand czar will help maintain the consistency (and therefore trust) that you’ve put so much work into developing.

 

 

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Snail Mail

Snail Mail

Union Design is excited to be working on some fun things to send your way this year, and we think you’ll be excited about it too!

We invite you to click here and leave your mailing address for some sweet surprises.

Don’t delay, the first item is set to go out soon!

*it should go without saying that we respect your privacy and will never sell or share your information, but the internet is a weird place, and we don’t want you to have any concerns about your privacy.

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You can still use your phone to call people.

You can still use your phone to call people.

You know that feeling you get when you’re reading some important article on your phone, or scrolling through Instagram, and suddenly, the phone rings interrupting your important business?

You might feel disgruntled at having your bubble burst, but then you remember: phones are for calling people! I think we all forget.

In 4th grade, my teacher would go on and on about the importance of writing skills, and how vital writing would be in our everyday lives as adults. I’m not here to get into a conversation about the loss of proper spelling, debate the double space after a period, or discuss my favorite new slang terms (savage). I do want to say, my teacher was right — given the prevalence of texting, email, and social media, writing is more important than ever.

The problem is, with email being omnipresent, we feel pressure to write and respond quickly, not always giving ourselves the time we need to process information. While it’s true that some people process and express best through writing, many people benefit from a conversation. I was reminded of this when I called a client with a question instead of responding to their email.

Over the phone, we were able to quickly get over the obstacle with the revisions I was working on — and it was something neither of us had thought of until we spoke to one another.

Design is a conversation. It’s a visual conversation with the audience, and that is why good design is rooted in real conversations between real people.

 

 

 

 

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