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Eight design principles for nonprofits

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I was reading a post on mashable.com this morning and saw a list of design rules for nonprofits that I thought would be appropriate to share in this post. These tips were gathered from designers and creatives who work with nonprofits. The original post included 10 rules, but I think these eight are the most important:

1. Highlight the organization’s positive impact.

This is kind of a no brainer so you can see why it’s the first rule. Telling your story by sharing the impact your organization makes is critical to getting donors to engage and want to help.

2. Let the design tell compelling stories.

Design is more than just the visual elements of your site or materials. It’s the combination of the visuals with the information. Does it draw audiences in and communicate the message in a way that resonates with the reader? If it does, we’re doing our job well.

3. Empathy first: Design for people and let them lead.

Justin Ahrens, founder and principal of Rule29, explained this perfectly: “Design has the power to shift people’s perspective and opinion. Take it seriously and honor the people and message you are serving, the goals of the organization and the experience you want the viewer to have.”

4. Don’t be afraid to continually try new things.

I particularly like this idea. Things change so rapidly so I think it’s important to be open and eager to try other ways to reach your audience. And don’t be afraid to fail. The knowledge gained by failure can guide your future attempts. Great things are often discovered from past failures.

5. Add a human, personable touch.

Connecting with your audience is critical to the most effective communications. If they feel like they are part of your community and are connected to the cause through your organization, you’re doing your job well.

6. Leverage aesthetics thoughtfully.

Elements like typography, colors and imagery can make all the difference in gaining or losing support. An effective and experienced designer can help guide your aesthetic direction to create impactful communications.

7. Design for impact.

Impactful communications are effective communications. Thoughtful understanding of your audience, their needs and your goals are the building blocks for creating design that makes a difference.

8. Find a design firm you trust and align with culturally.

This ties in with #4: Not every nonprofit organization and design firm are going to fit well together. If you find your current source for your design materials doesn’t align with your organization’s needs, search for something new.