When a new nonprofit is founded, it’s usually someone’s cousin or friend who gets the task of designing the new logo. They do the best job they can and the organization eagerly eats it up, grateful that one more thing is done. Even if they don’t realize it, the staff quickly adopts a brand identity created around that logo. With flyers and websites and presentations all using the same fonts and color schemes, they strive for making everything look like it has a sense of belonging. But after a while, the organization usually comes into its own and that old look just can’t keep up. Who the organization is now no longer matches the colors, fonts and visual style that it needs to represent itself to the world.
MAF, the nonprofit in San Francisco where I work, is no exception. About seven years ago, we were started by an amazing group of community advocates. When the Levi Strauss Company, a long-time neighborhood employer, closed its last factory in San Francisco, community leaders and the company forged together to imagine a new kind of future. With proceeds from the sale, they would create a new nonprofit to help low-income residents of the Mission District. And so Mission Asset Fund was formed. And a spouse of one of those community leaders created our first logo. When I look at the first logo, I imagine our members looking at the growth of their bank accounts over time, meeting various milestones along the way.
But that was seven years ago, when the nonprofit had two employees, a few dozen clients and brand new programs. Now it’s seven years and several awards later and our social loans can still be found in the Mission District, but also in six other U.S. states. The old look with rigid building blocks has broadened into a larger tapestry of people, communities and nonprofits working to build a fair financial marketplace, together.
What colors your organization wears are meaningful.
Pink, a color that in the 19th century was reserved for the clothing of young boys, is now “only for girls,” according to my five-year-old son. Pink is also now associated with a nationwide network of breast cancer advocacy. For MAF, the dark blues of our first logo indicate knowledge, power, integrity and seriousness. But as anyone who knows us, we’re also agile, community-based and not afraid to change the conversation.
If a brand is everything someone says or knows about your organization, a logo is like a team uniform.
So year after year, even as your body grows and your mind matures, you can still be stuck wearing a uniform stitched together in 2007 back when the Sopranos faded to black. This time, we know where we’re going and we know how to get there. So we worked with the amazingly creative team at Digital Telepathy to come up with a uniform that fits who we are now.
We’ve traded the rigid shapes and dark blues for vibrant Pantone colors of varying sizes, energetic aqua blues, bright grass greens, rich purples.
We think our new look does a better job of showing the world what our vision for change is all about.
What does it say to you?