3 Dead Giveaways that it’s Time for a Visual Identity Upgrade

by Sophie Huber Savage

Logo. Icons. Imagery. Color pallet. Typography. Layout and grid. All of these things and more make up your organization’s visual identity system. That visual identity has the power to communicate credibility: that your nonprofit’s work is valuable and worth trusting. Pretty big responsibility, right?

Why it counts

There are a lot of reasons why people behind nonprofits hesitate to upgrade or change this identity. Maybe we’re attached to what exists, have limited funds to do something new, or fear that people know us by what we look like now—so why refresh?

These worries make us stop and think that the work of upgrading isn’t worth it. But, start believing that it is. We know that 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual, and visually interesting content creates huge spikes in engagement. The truth is your future volunteers and future donors are visual learners, just like the rest of us. And, they are going to make a split-second decision about whether or not you’re worth it based upon initial—almost purely visual!—stimulation.

Bottom line: how something looks can make or break engagement, and that’s critical.

Seeing the need

Whether it’s cohesive or not, your organization actually already has a certain look and feel. But recognizing when you need to refresh is the hard part. Sometimes: 1) we can’t see through our rose-colored bias, or 2) we’re too distracted by our do-goodery to notice.

However, it’s important to take the blinders off and think objectively: can our look and general presentation be holding us back from meeting a certain goal? Here are some giveaways that it’s definitely time to upgrade:

You're Dated [Savage]Dead Giveaway #1: People look at your stuff and think they’ve traveled back in time.

We know that trends and tastes change, so beware: what was once modern and compelling can lose its power overtime.

You've Evolved [Savage]Dead Giveaway #2: You’ve evolved, and it doesn’t represent all you offer anymore.

Take note that you’re probably not the same organization today as when you started. It’s possible that pieces of your identity are no longer a good match for what you do and who you do it for.

You're Adhoc [Savage]Dead Giveaway #3: Your look is ad hoc and inconsistent.

It’s tough enough to break through the noise in our age of infobesity. (P.S. did you know we created more content in the last 10 years than in all of human history through 2003?) Heads up that visual inconsistency across products and platforms can send confusing, disjointed messages to those you’re trying to reach.

Do it for less?

Recognizing something should be done is half the battle. Unfortunately, it’s just not realistic to pretend we can all pay a super-star agency to guide us through our upgrades and redesigns. So, check out my webinar to learn how an overworked, under-resourced organization can take some practical first steps. Identify the pieces of your visual identity, learn the dead giveaways, and walk away with four in-house tips on doing it for less.

And don’t forget: Giving visual communication a seat at the table is an important part of running your nonprofit and inspiring others to join you.

3 Dead Giveaways

Sophie Huber Savage is a communication strategist and visual designer with six years of experience in the field of global health and development. As a social-change enthusiast, Sophie thrives on helping mission-drive organizations recognize their strengths and communicate their unique role in fixing up the world.

Continue the conversation on Twitter: @sophiemhsavage