Branding can be a painful process. Everyone has an opinion. I know of one organization that had such a difficult experience refreshing their brand and logo that it cost them a couple of board members. So, it pays to have a professional, either inside or outside your organization, manage the process and help it move as smoothly as possible.

Christy Batta is just such a professional. Christy says, “Branding is all about building the visual language you need to get your message across.”

Branding has a lot in common with developing top-line messages for an issue. We have all had the experience of working with an expert who feels the need to provide all the details on an issue to his or her audience. That can happen with branding too. Christy says many organizations struggle with a logo, because they want to include everything they do in that logo.

“Instead, your logo should be inviting and spark curiosity. It should look interesting, but it does not need to say everything about your organization,” says Christy. She encourages simple graphics that tell one little part of what you are doing and encourages your audience to learn more. Just like with top-line messages, less is better than more!

When Christy works with an organization, she looks at its personality, tone, and emotional quality. She encourages an organization to have a clear goal for what it wants to communicate. She says, “I believe design isn’t just about the typefaces and colors, but also creating a visual voice that people can recognize and trust.”

“You want your brand to have room to grow. When you are creating your branding materials, you are working in that one moment in time, but the world is going to change, your organization might evolve,” says Christy. “You want the brand to grow with it.”

Every organization should have an established set of branding guidelines, if for no other reason than turnover. You don’t want branding guidelines in the head of just one person; you want them written down so they can be referenced. Christy is a fan of basic branding guidelines that include color (Pantene numbers), fonts and photo guidelines, and instructions on how to use the logo. Organizations might also consider providing templates for flyers, fact sheets, business cards, signs, posters, and other commonly produced products. Not only does this help brand your organization, but it makes it easier and saves time.

Christy recommends that organizations conduct a brand audit every few years. This can be done in house or by hiring an outside designer for a fresh set of eyes. During an audit, you want to look at every visual you have and evaluate whether you are consistently honoring your brand. Look at the functionality of your logo: think web site, social media, baseball hats and t-shirts. A good brand gives you a lot of flexibility to be able to use the logo on all types of products. For older logos with lots of detail, it might be time for a refresh. You can use the same graphics but simplify it.

United Way is an interesting example. Their logo has evolved over time while still using the same idea of the hand with the person. They changed how the colors work and the typeface but still kept with some of the same design.

United Way logo United Way logo

Christy recommends people talk to their audience to see how they feel about the logo. Sometimes people might be attached to the history of the logo, but new people might not see it the same way. New and younger members might not connect to the logo at all. A designer can look at a traditional logo and provide ways to modernize it and show the organization is looking to the future while respecting the past.

Of course, if your organization’s mission or core services have changed, it is a good idea to evaluate your branding. No matter what the reasoning, once you make the decision to update your brand, you will want to create a team that represents the different people involved in the organization. Try not to create such a large group that you will get stuck in the decision-making process. Christy’s dream team would include someone representing top leadership, an on-the-ground staff person, an engaged board member, and a member of your audience. You don’t want to get to the end of the branding exercise and have a fatal flaw because a perspective was missing.

Developing or updating your brand can be difficult, but if done right, it’s a powerful tool to get your message and mission across.