tricks of the trade

February 18, 2007 at 8:48 pm Leave a comment

When designing for nonprofits, it is not just important to be cost-effective. The perception of being cost-effective is as, if not more, important. Nonprofits need to cast the perception that they are spending their donated money wisely. There are a few general guidelines designers should follow when designing for a nonprofit.

• Materials should not be too flashy. I know this sounds self-evident, but green designers and marketing professionals make this mistake frequently, myself included. A brochure will come across your desk and eager to make a good impression, you ignore the audience and turn out a great “design-school” piece. But, it does not take the audience into consideration. No matter how well designed a brochure is, if it does not take the audience into consideration, it ultimately is not good as it is not conveying the right message to the intended audience.

• Personal Feel. Nonprofit materials usually require a more soft and warm feel than their for-profit counterparts. Using warm colors, elements of people and movements, positive associations and effective photographs of people help to achieve this personal feel. The font choice is also important in conveying this emotion. The font should be professional, but not too modern or cold.

• Use standard sizes. As much as I love designing something square or oversized, irregular sized pieces cost more to print, and more to mail. Even designing books in a horizontal layout as opposed to the normal vertical direction will increase costs.

• Two-color design. Nonprofit marketing materials are often designed in two-color, and you need to be well-versed in 2-color design. Nonprofit logos need to be two-color logos for this reason. Two-color design is fun to do, but can be challenging. Learn how to mix inks in your page layout program to maximize your color choices and use duotones and multi-channels properly.

• Do not assuming two-color design is the least expensive option. Although sometimes two-color design is the least expensive option (especially for letterhead and business card) it is a mistake to assume that it always is. Four-color work is often less expensive, especially when printing high-quantity brochures and mailers. If 4-color is less expesive, you can still design the marketing materials to look like two-color work, and it is often easier and less time consuming than two-color work.

• Avoid die-cuts and embossed graphics. Although there may be an occassion that warrants the price, overall, die-cuts and embossed graphics are expensive and do not yield a return on investment.

• Avoid using more than 4 colors (CMYK plus a Pantone color).

• Avoid glossy or glitzy papers and avoid metallic or flourescent inks. Once again, there will be a time and place to use these papers and inks. As a general rule, avoid them. Once you are experienced and can explain the benefit of a metallic ink or glossy paper for a particular job, an opportunity will arise where their presence is justified.

Adhering to the above guidelines will keep your designs cost-effective and yield responsible nonprofit design. At some point, you will probably do all of the above while working for a nonprofit. All rules are meant to be broken. The art is knowing when the break them.


Entry filed under: for designers.

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is a resource intended to help designers and marketing professionals in the nonprofit sector optimize their message while reducing their costs.

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