3 things you should know about logo design for social impact

We work a lot with organisations who are just starting up. They usually have a name, and a bit of a sense of identity. However for us, the brief to come up with a logo for a social impact project is usually a pretty big job. This is both in terms of a logo’s importance to the organisation going forward, and the amount of creative thinking and design time we have to put in. There is an art to crafting something that endures and is representative of everything an organisation is and hopes to achieve!

Recently we worked with Violence Prevention Network (aka VPN) in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales on developing two logos – one for everyday use, and one for use as a circular stamp. Using VPN as an example, we want to take you through three of our biggest tips about getting a logo.

1. Branding vs. logo: Is there a difference?

Hands up if you think your logo and your branding are the same thing? If you put your hand up, you wouldn’t be the only one. This is one of the biggest mistakes clients make when they come to a creative designer for help – thinking that by designing a logo, their branding done and dusted.

Lucky for you, it’s easy to understand the difference once you get your head around it. As Brand vs. Logo: The Mystery Solved states –

A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service, or organization.

Branding is who you are – it is what people say about your organisation when you are not there, it is how they think about your organisation, what they think you do, and how you do it. As far as a logo goes, a logo is just one part of your overall brand, which may also include (but not limited to): your mission; your people; your work; your colour and design themes; your website, etc.

Therefore we have a few recommendations for organisations before you decide to design or redesign your logo.

  • Go through and establish who you are, how you want people to feel about you, and what adjectives you want people to use to describe yourself. It can help by running through something like our quick questionnaire to establish brand identity – this is just the bare basics, but is a must for anyone we work with around logos and branding.
  • While telling a creative designer that you don’t have anything in mind, and to “come up with something you think would fit” or to “surprise you” sounds like a really great idea and like a lot of creative freedom for the designer, it is almost always better to tell your designer things you like and don’t like. As our mentor always says to us, what is in your head isn’t what is in my head. Generally, giving some parameters and ideas for your design is almost always better than giving your designer total free rein, because sometimes creative differences just can’t be resolved, no matter how good your designer is!
  • If you have some concepts already, why not share them. You might have a great idea but need a designer to do all the tricky bits to bring it to life. We can do that!

2. You’ve included the right elements, but is it the right message?

Before coming to us to have a logo designed, one client in the domestic violence prevention space went to another designer. As a DV service provider, their main clients were women who had experienced DV. The brief was simple, and the designer developed a logo they thought suited – it had a woman, and a keyhole. As far as two elements go, they seemed great – the service provided women with a ‘key’, so to speak. Nothing wrong with that, right?

Not necessarily. To anyone in the DV sector space, or who has experienced DV, picturing a woman behind a keyhole had many negative connotations – trapped woman; can’t escape; locked away; isolated.  This presents us with the second vital message. Just because you have all the ‘right’ elements, doesn’t mean you have the right logo. To us, this example reinforced why we are a specialist creative design agency helping specialist communities. Through our experience of being on the frontline of social causes, we can focus on helping organisations to not isolate or damage their connections with vulnerable populations or complex social issues. As we know, branding and design is everything when it comes to attracting customers/clients and on-boarding funding and other supports.

3. The importance of telling a story.

Back to VPN. VPN is what it stands for – a violence prevention network – and delivers everything from training to resources and support around confronting, interrupting and preventing violence. We knew that there were a few things that were going to be essential for this resource: it had to be intersectional (that is, anyone in the community regardless of race, ethnicity, sexuality, gender, age, or ability had to be able to see themselves in the service); it is a service that is leading the way and at the centre of the community, so it had to represent that leadership; and they wanted it to be bright – something accessible and positive.

This is the story these logos tell.

We used circles to connote inclusion, community, and the idea of circle work. Circle work is a well-recognised historic way in which group leaders could work in, providing platforms for gathering, sharing ideas, debating, challenging, and coming to resolutions. They connnote an equal platform for everyone to have a democratic way to contribute to solutions. They have great historical and ancestral significance, as ways our common ancestors from long ago gathered, conducted counsel, shared stories and yarns, and carried on traditions. For VPN, these are all highly positive connotations. Circles also reinforce the nature of the work you do – workshops and training, which is often conducted in circle.

The different circles may represent different parts or groups of the community. They are distinct, yet they fit together. Being of the same shape, it represents that we are all one, and we have tried to use circles as a way of connecting with anyone who may view them. We wanted anyone who approaches VPN for help to be represented and be able to see themselves in the work you do. As concentric circles, they may also represent how a single drop can cause a ripple effect through communities. Here we really wanted to work off: brightness, inclusivity, and VPN ‘leading the change’ at the centre.

 

At the end of the day, we want to deliver good design for good causes. Logos are a vital part of design and a vital part of your branding. Together, we can tell the right story for your organisation. If you follow some of these tips and have a think about your organisation and how you want to be represented, we can guarantee you will walk away happier with the result every single time.