November 16, 2015
You probably noticed that it's been a while since the last Cause-Driven Design® article. My apologies! While it is my goal to have a new article for this column every six to eight weeks, in July I decided to rebrand our firm to coincide with its sponsorship of an annual nonprofit conference. Going from a blank slate to a new website in three months meant that, unfortunately, along with my social life, the column had to be put temporarily on hold.
So, after fifteen years, Matthew Schwartz Design Studio is no more. Today, we are Constructive. And the experience of rebranding my own firm has only served to increase my focus on what we do, who we do it for, and why we do it — increased clarity that I hope to put to good use here in our Cause-Driven Design conversations.
Picking up where we left off in July on how branding can help your organization strengthen its social impact, let's now examine how branding theory and process are made tangible.
Improving Nonprofit Brand Alignment
As I noted in an earlier article, maximizing a brand's potential requires "a strategic framework for thinking about, creating, and managing the different ways the brand is understood and expressed." This starts with an organization having a strong understanding of itself and its relationship to the individuals, organizations, and networks that comprise its ecosystem.
Nonprofits typically understand and define themselves through a mission statement and theory of change, using both as a foundation for organizational strategy. Branding is the way this understanding is reinforced and communicated. It both informs and articulates this foundation by establishing conceptual clarity and by creating greater intentionality in the experiences the brand delivers — whether online, in print, or in person.
At Constructive, it's our mission to bridge the gap between branding theory and practice by aligning an organization's ideas, actions, and culture with its use of design, messaging, and technology. We help translate concepts and dynamics into a clear narrative and engaging experiences that reinforce a nonprofit's value. And, like much of the work nonprofits do, this process calls for a systems-based approach.
Seeing the Forest and the Trees
In order to create engaging brand experiences, designers, copy writers, and technologists must apply their skills to the difficult job of translating a complex issue and an organization's efforts to address it into something that resonates with a public that, in most cases, has only a passing knowledge of the issue. To accomplish this, we apply synthetic thinking, uniting the conceptual and tangible elements of a nonprofit's brand to create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts — and whose individual parts also function effectively on their own, in any context.