How Designing for an Early Stage Organization Keeps You Light on Your Feet
We were recently asked to help a new nonprofit take flight by creating its brand identity and designing the first version of its web presence. We took on this project as part of a year-end goal to provide pro-bono services to an early stage organization working to make impact right in our own backyard.
There are some unique considerations to keep in mind when designing for an organization in its infancy. How can you provide them with a brand that supports the stage they’re in and also allows them room to grow? How do you deliver a web product that is easy for the client (who is most likely doing a billion jobs) to update? How do you design around the parameter that the organization will evolve in unforeseen ways? We worked within all of these constraints, and in six weeks named and branded an organization and designed its website.
Finding a Name
When we set out the organization was without a name, so that was first on our to-do. This process of naming could have been drawn out over several weeks, but it was critical to strategize swiftly so the client could be a step closer to operating and fundraising. We took to the white board, dumping all of our brains, associating words. We highly recommend getting a few people in a room and filling the space with ideas—the more minds, the quicker the process goes. In naming a new organization it was also essential to consider the current landscape of related and non-related businesses. We needed to ensure that they could stand out in a crowd, and also be identifiable as an organization in their field. The name would hopefully also encompass everything that they stood for. Prosper was the name we landed on, and used to go forth.
Prosper’s mission and vision involve alleviating hunger and poverty through meal programs and job training. Ultimately, helping people thrive. As with any organization that is striving to improve lives, the work is partially centered around harsh realities—homelessness, hunger, lack of access to education. We determined that as the Prosper brand grows, what will always remain is their ambition to offer an uplifting air around these realities. As the brand was constructed, we chose color palettes and photographic directions that conveyed hopefulness, and balanced that with logo options that communicated the organization’s expertise and perpetuity. While Prosper isn’t tackling all of the initiatives that they plan on implementing at this early stage, we built them a brand that reflects what they’re achieving today, and also what they plan to achieve in the future.
Finally, it was a no-brainer for us to turn to Squarespace to deliver a well-produced, easily managed website to the client. Thorough branding helped us design with Squarespace at light speed. Having already defined a color palette, photo direction, etc. allowed us to fill in the blanks of a Squarespace template remarkably quick. From there, we made minor adjustments and were able to train the client on Squarespace’s very user-friendly backend.
It’s not always necessary to turn projects around at this pace, but it’s especially valuable to a client who can start raising money as soon as they have a dependable brand or website to support them. Even when we’re not working with such a narrow timeline, it’s constructive for us to apply some of these methods to ensure projects avoid any periods of stagnation. The bigger the scope of a project, the more opportunity there is for standstills, and brain dumping exercises, for example, can help push the needle forward.