Design is how a nonprofit’s brand strategy is made visible and tangible. Of course, the more accurate and authentic design is in translating this strategy, the more aligned the designed experiences a nonprofit creates for audiences will be—online, in print, or in person. The key is to ensure consistency and cohesion—because consistently meeting people’s expectations of what the brand stands for is how a nonprofit builds trust with their audiences.
To help design teams translate the essence of a nonprofit’s strategy into well-designed experiences, it’s essential that the core ideas be front-and-center. Brand strategy documents can be dense and it’s important that everyone who contributes to designing the brand has a shorthand to envision, explore, and evaluate how well things like logos, websites, and events represent what the brand stands for.
That’s where design principles come in. But what are they and why are they so effective?
Design principles are concise, strategic, actionable statements that focus attention on a brand’s values, the value it creates for audiences, and in the case of social impact organizations, the value it creates for the world. When put front-and-center in your design process, design principles establish the strategic roots needed to grow a strong and healthy brand. They center everyone responsible for contributing to the design of the brand on what matters most—resulting in a more consistent and values-aligned design system.
All the above is why establishing design principles that are based in brand strategy are central to Constructive’s strategy and design practice. For our last Constructively Curated of 2021, our Design Director, Karla Despradel has collected the following resources for those interested in learning more about what they are, how they work, and why they matter. From a How-To to an open source library of resources and her own article on the topic, there’s a lot to explore on how to make design principles an important part of designing a strong nonprofit brand.
This article by digital designer Shane P. Williams offers a thorough outline on creating design principles in an organization through a collaborative workshop environment. The workshop framework is easy-to-follow and allows designers & non-designers alike to bring their perspectives to the table.
In this insight, our very own Design Director, Karla Despradel, shares her perspective on putting design principles to work for your social impact organization. She breaks down the basics of design principles, why your nonprofit should have them, and she talks implementation & best practices.
Principles.Design is a large open source collection of 1,448 design principles included in 195 examples from 167 creators. The project, created by independent product designer Ben Brignell, aims to build out a history of design principles and analyze what makes a design principle good?
A great way to learn more about design principles and begin to brainstorm principles for your own organization is to digest as many effective examples as possible. Here is tech giant IBM’s principles that are clear, unique, and have further prompting questions to evoke effective implementation.
The next useful principles at use example we have included is presented by Apple for IOS developers looking to develop apps to add to the Apple app store. These design principles for developers are heavily UX focused, user-centric, and clear, making them effective.
While the two above examples include principles that are more abstract, the principles offered by Google for their product icons are much more visual and straightforward. These principles might seem granular to non-designers, but they are key to maintaining consistency across Google’s web presence.
Now that we’ve laid out basics, it’s time to discuss the benefits of design principles, and an entire design system. This article offers one important benefit. Design systems prepare your organization to iterate and change over time without forcing you to reinvent the wheel that is your design identity.
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