“A company’s logo is its shorthand, a visual cue that tells a story of the brand’s culture, behavior, and values.” – Su Matthews Hale, Senior Partner at Lippencott

Think about some of the big brands in the world. McDonald’s. Apple. BP. Starbucks. Coca Cola. Walmart.

How long does it take you to imagine these brands in your head? You can probably visualize their logos in an instant upon saying their names. That shows the power of a great logo.

These companies have created logos that have the ability to be recognized internationally, for the most part, even without their name attached. When you see the “golden arches” while driving down the interstate, you know it’s a McDonald’s. When a laptop has a glowing apple on it, you know it’s a Mac.

“A logo is a simple and functional signpost to help people find and identify your business” said Rebecca Battman, an independent brand consultant.

What makes a good logo – the essential elements

There are five essential elements to consider when creating your logo:

1. Appropriate: Your logo should be appropriate to what your organization represents.
2. Memorable: Will people remember it when they see it?
3. Uncomplicated: Less is more. Don’t try to be too complex.
4. Original: Research, research, research! Make sure you’re the only one with your logo design.
5. Timeless: Choose a font/style that will still be in style 10, 20, or 30 years from now.

Over two thousand years ago, Aristotle said “The soul cannot think without a picture.” Nonprofits need great imagery and well thought-out design bundled up in a small icon to represent their organization. This is how great logos are born.

Colors

Did you know that colors have a huge impact of how people perceive your logo? Using different colors as your primary logo color can drastically change the message that it’s transmitting, as explained below:

  • Red is associated with the intensity of blood and fire and transmits action, emotion, passion, trust, love, intensity, and aggressiveness.
  • Blue is associated with the depth and stability of sky and sea and transmits comfort, faith, understanding, conservativeness, clarity, confidence, calm, and trust.
  • Yellow is associated with the energy and joy of sunshine and transmits joy, liveliness, energy, and freshness.
  • Green is associated with the harmony of nature and transmits calm, relaxation, trust, peace, and hope.
  • Purple is associated with the luxury of royalty and transmits glamour, power, nostalgia, romanticism, and introspection.
  • Orange is associated with the happiness of sunshine and the tropics and transmits enthusiasm, creativity, determination, and stimulation of mental activity.

Font

The font you choose for your logo is a critical decision that determines the identity of your logo. It’s something that can drastically change your audience’s perception of what your organization is about.

There are a few important aspects you should consider when choosing your logo’s font:

  • Consider the thickness/thinness of the letters with relation to the amount of words in your logo. This is important because different proportions of the logo could cause it to be illegible if the font is too thick or thin.
  • Finally, be sure to keep in mind what type of logo you want, which could affect the font you use and the overall impression of your logo:
    • Symbol/icon – Uses an image as the primary symbol of the company
    • Word mark – Text logo that spells out the company or brand name
    • Letter mark – Uses a symbol representing the company through the use of its initials or the brands first letter
    • Combination – Combines a wordmark and a symbol or icon to give the flexibility for the use of either or both elements across a variety of applications.
    • Emblem – Encases the company name within the design

Where to use your logo

“Your logo should be front and center in any venue where you interact with customers,” says Andrew Coulter, senior marketing director of MushKush Integrated Marketing. “You’re not really branded until everybody knows your logo and associates it with you.”

Mr. Coulter is absolutely right – if you have a great logo, don’t be afraid to show it off! The opportunities to display your logo are limitless, and as a nonprofit you should focus on creating a strong brand awareness so people will know who you are. Large nonprofits like Unicef, the American Red Cross, and the Salvation Army all have logos with a powerful presence that can be recognized despite the country, language, or format with which it’s portrayed. Here’s our short list of design ideas to help you build your nonprofit’s brand and showcase your logo:

  • Nonprofit website
  • Social media profiles
  • Signage and banners
  • Newsletters and stationery
  • Packaging
  • Apparel
  • Business cards
  • Mugs/water bottles
  • Promotional items
  • Presentation templates

Charity: water, Barbells for Boobs, To Write Love on Her Arms, and This Bar Saves Lives do a great job of using their products to display their logos, as seen below.

The value of a great logo

Now that we know a little more about what makes a great logo and how you can use it, your nonprofit should seriously assess whether or not your logo is effectively representing your organization or if it’s time for an upgrade.

Remember that your logo should provide people with a glimpse into your organization – a visual cue as to why they should care about you. Ask yourself if your mission and values are coming through the design and if it’s easily recognizable to your donors. Decide today if your logo is being used to its full potential and is benefiting your organization. And if you need some extra inspiration, check out the best nonprofit logos here.

Sara Lowe

Sara Lowe

Communications and Partnerships Manager at Elevation
Sara Lowe is the Communications and Partnerships Manager at Elevation, a full-service nonprofit web design agency. Sara began volunteering with nonprofits at an early age, including helping her hometown military community at the USO, teaching useful skills to inmates at a local jail, and traveling to Cambodia to help implement sustainable farming practices in a small village.
Sara Lowe
Sara Lowe

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