Posts tagged ‘graphic design’

September 3, 2010

Interactive Integration

overview
Overall, organizations put more resources into websites than any other graphic category. Requiring an ongoing budget and sustained attention, an association’s website compiles and represents their largest projects. Allocating resources to the pages that are read the most, using templates for informational pages, and featuring visuals to augment versus dominate, the best sites are engaging.

A small percentage of organizations pair a strong website with a strong logo. A standard has been formed that places the logo in the upper left corner. Commercial sites can deviate but nonprofit sites are wise to follow viewer expectations. Having a site even provides the opportunity to closely study viewer participation. A marketing tool like no other, the interactive quality can build a cyber community. The best graphics create a personality and an experience, combining relevance, mystery, point-of-view, style, clarity, and focus.

Of the nonprofits that possess memorable logos (27 out of 700 Midwestern organizations), only 6 have truly exciting websites(view three currently reviewed). Then there are those with good logos but don’t realize the potential begun.

NOT THE BEST BUT COULD BE:

spiral bullet Chicago Symphony Orchestra
A moving target, this site changes often—a recent one has gone from warmer to more aloof. Of all sites that should be welcoming and demonstrate the personalities of their musicians, CSO could enhance online offerings.

spiral bullet Mainstreet Organization of Realtors
Illustrations used in logos run the risk of looking cartoonish, are stylistically dated, or become too complicated. MOR finds a great balance in their aesthetically pleasing and classically appealing symbol. But they don’t carry this exciting beginning into their website design which?

spiral bullet Strategic Account Management Association
Making a great use of icons, SAMA offers a website with easy navigation. But what it has in intriguing visual elements, it lacks in finesse. Confronting the viewer with many choices, the structure is average and the most interesting graphics underplayed.

spiral bullet Urban Gateways
Many websites depend on engaging photography to give the site a personality. Urban Gateways demonstrates the conceptual rift between photo image and the rest of the site. Though the information presented is appealing, how it is presented could match but doesn’t. Of particular interest that has potential to increase the online experience: meet the artists, use the blog for more than a news vehicle, and develop a graphic theme that supports the photographic images versus the opposite.

spiral bullet Word of Mouth Marketing Association
This site offers warmth, engaging content, and demonstration of their own expertise of using technology to connect. However, the parts are greater than the whole: individual elements are fun and upbeat, comprehensive offerings include guides, blogs, videos, and social media. It is unfortunate that the graphics don’t represent the vitality of this group.

Please see reviews of several other organizations with have graphically communicative elements that could be better integrated:

Giving Institute and Foundation: PreviewReview
Green City Market: Review
Madison County Chamber: Preview; Review
Metal Construction Association: Review
Water Quality Association: Review

spirals
The Sebastian Study: Midwest Nonprofits is completed in this blog. If  you wish to know if your organization was considered, please visit www.wofw.com and contact me; I will be happy to share the review ranking with you.

The Sebastian Study: Second Life Nonprofits now begins, so watch for reviews, overviews, and experiences shared in upcoming posts. The ten best presentations will be analyzed, the almost-greats critiqued, and new conclusions drawn to help evolve effectiveness.

the end

 

August 21, 2010

Deficits at the Top

overview
In times of prosperity, organizations want to show off graphically. In times of recession, organizations proudly do a lot with a little. Yet there is always a line of professionalism to uphold. Except for nonprofits. Amateur graphics run rampant, which can’t do much for a group’s credibility!

As digital tools allow groups to create amateur graphics more easily, the overall quality of design has diminishes. Ironically, design is more important than it has ever been due to the Internet. An even playing field allows small groups to compete with large groups, local orgs to compete with national, national with international. The scope has exploded!

In completing my evaluation of the Midwestern nonprofits, the 80/20 Rule is in full force. Of the 700 evaluated, 160 have graphics that score highly enough to discuss. Yet to find a consistently strong graphic strategy seems impossible. None score high in all five categories!

Beginning with the overall graphics of those who score the highest:

DEFICITS AT THE TOP:

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, preview, review, is strong in every category but publications.

Metals Service Center Institute, preview, review, could have a better website.

Second City, review to come, has an unimaginative logo and scan publications.

Popcorn Board, review to come, has a confused identity but strong in all other categories.

International Association of Lighting Designers, preview, review, is compelling graphically but weak in publications.

Entrepreneurs Organization, preview, review, compiles a strong package that could go one step further to be truly distinct.

Churchill Centre, preview, review, offers a lot of online features but is weak in publications.

Perhaps the two organizations that come the closest to being a true blend of excellence are the Entrepreneurs Organization and the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. Both prove that big budgets and fancy approaches are not as good as following basic rules in good communication.

Each week, I will examine organizational graphics that are of the Not the Best but Could Be category. Visual communications include the most important membership benefits and the biggest ways to attract prospective members. If improved strategically, each group explored has tremendous, if not unlimited, potential.

spirals
The Sebastian Study 2010, national review will be available at the end of the year. If you want to be sure that your organization is included, please click here.

the end

August 12, 2010

Entrepreneurs Organization

overview
Few topics are more difficult to express than general business. Most organizations with such a wide range of constituents resort to horribly cliqued images of brief cases, conference rooms, coffee cups, and computer screens. It is hard to stand out. But the Entrepreneurs Organization brings a fresh and vibrant approach to express the challenges of entrepreneurialism.

Five Criteria for Graphics that Work:
Evaluating Entrepreneurs Organization

spiral bullet Use of logo: An organization’s logo has a story to tell—encapsulating the personality, philosophy, and tone of an entire organization.
Using the simple letterforms, the Entrepreneurs Organization’s logo embellishes simple letterforms with a few equally simple geometric shapes that convey time, success, business, measurement, and progress. It is quite remarkable how much can be done with so little! The single red color adds pizzazz and recognizability. Infinitely flexible, this image is a good example of ‘less is more.’

spiral bullet Theme: The visual first impression is dominated by the total gestalt—look, feel, purpose, and benefit. Further contact is consistent and supports personality and philosophy.
Building from the “O” in the logo, the Entrepreneurs Organization incorporates the symbol into other headers. The typographic style and use of black, orange, and white gives publications a clear geometry.

spiral bullet Content composition: Building from a recognizable theme, the presentation is easy to grasp, clear, and engaging.
Clear and crisp, the Entrepreneurs Organization’s home page does not allow the photography to visually dominate. Instead images accent the four major topics, organized under the main tabs. Although there are many choices, the composition simply groups selections, fitting the screen perfectly. Media choices are expertly handled and also don’t predominate but support the presentation.

spiral bullet Consistent style: A series presents a visual language and an ambient atmosphere, promoting a positive experience and relationship with the audience.
Entrepreneurs Organization blends a multimedia delivery in a seamless and consistent way through style and color. Their publications expertly use interactive platforms. Their newsletter builds from the blog structure. But their magazine mimics print, albeit technologically advanced, through the KnowledgeBase platform. Although it requires a lot of scrolling (and does offer a print version), this example shows the difficulties in trying to design one media through the principles and features of another.

spiral bullet Distinctive: The most successful presentations have a memorable twist—something extra that is unique.
Although they may not be the most innovative, the Entrepreneurs Organization’s graphics certainly are on the visionary end of the strategic design spectrum. Weaving various media delivery into a thematic cohesion is one of the marketing manager’s greatest challenges. A study of EO’s offerings is a lesson in what to do right.

See the Overview of the best Midwest organizations to present strong and compelling graphics.

the end

August 11, 2010

Metals Service Center Institute

overview
Creating a visual language is not complicated. The Metal Service Center Institute demonstrates how to convey a traditional industry in a contemporary way. Using visual variety that stems from a strong structural foundation gives a lyrical and engaging way to interact with their constituents.

Five Criteria for Graphics that Work:
Evaluating Metals Service Center Institute

spiral bullet Use of logo: An organization’s logo has a story to tell—encapsulating the personality, philosophy, and tone of an entire organization.
Metals Service Center Institute has a very classic, albeit retro, logo. Although the symbol sets up a visual style, the design of their collateral and publications doesn’t reflect such an older look and feel. Compelling in its geometry, expressive of an integrated industry, symbolic of metal treatment and uses, the logo does exemplify flexibility; even in tiny sizes and one color, it can still read. Though looking late-60’s-industrial, the logo perhaps best conveys longevity.

spiral bullet Theme: The visual first impression is dominated by the total gestalt—look, feel, purpose, and benefit. Further contact is consistent and supports personality and philosophy.
Although the thematic direction of MSCI’s graphics tie into the logo design, it imparts a more contemporary approach. The treatment of background illustration, choice of photographic images, and color all provide a strong visual foundation. Unlike the majority of organizational approaches, MSCI uses design to dominate the photographic images versus the other way around.

spiral bullet Content composition: Building from a recognizable theme, the presentation is easy to grasp, clear, and engaging.
All of MSCI’s variables are presented in a unique home page. It has more selection than it seems because the composition is well organized, broken up, and anchored with visual clues.

spiral bullet Consistent style: A series presents a visual language and an ambient atmosphere, promoting a positive experience and relationship with the audience.
Color unifies the variety of MSCI’s offerings. Black and white photography is favored, allowing a strategic use of red to guide the eye. Although the magazine is not a link under “Publications” online, with the cover of the most recent issue on the homepage, it is easy to find. 

spiral bullet Distinctive: The most successful presentations have a memorable twist—something extra that is unique.
MSCI’s best graphic feature is its magazine. With a strong online presence of the current issue, the pages are interactive versus trying to mirror print. A well presented table-of-contents portal page leads the reader further. Unfortunately the strong visual beginning dissipates deep into the pages. MSCI’s priorities to focus design emphasis on the most visual portions of communication, both the magazine and the site don’t carry through their distinction as well as they could. Like most orgs, the only visual tie-in is through the banner at the top.

See the Overview of the best Midwest organizations to present strong and compelling graphics.

the end

July 27, 2010

Giving Institute

overview
As a leader-development source for nonprofit managers, the Giving Institute must exemplify excellence as their own example. When consulting to nonprofits, they must practice what they preach. Presenting a simple but effective graphic environment, they successfully express a focused range of activities. Their mission and communications inspire leaders to inspire philanthropic growth.

Five Criteria for Graphics that Work:
Evaluating The Giving Institute and Giving Foundation

spiral bullet Use of logo: An organization’s logo has a story to tell—encapsulating the personality, philosophy, and tone of an entire organization.
Blending two related organizations is tricky. The Giving Institute and Giving Foundation have sister logo that applies the same design to both: built from the “G,” the same lettering and composition apply but are color-coded. Ordinarily, this pie-shaped illustration would not look like a “G” when viewed by itself. But it does read within this context. Flexible for scaling, this graphic approach grows modularly.

spiral bullet Theme: The visual first impression is dominated by the total gestalt—look, feel, purpose, and benefit. Further contact is consistent and supports personality and philosophy.
Philanthropy is symbolically abstract. Photographs can represent it literally—especially in the places where donations are applied. The Giving Institute and Giving Foundation attempt to integrate both—placing more visual weight upon the photographs than on graphic symbolism. Using black and white in both the photos and as the palette for materials, the colors of the Institute and the Foundation stand out.

spiral bullet Content composition: Building from a recognizable theme, the presentation is easy to grasp, clear, and engaging.
A great example of a website home page that represents the two related groups, the Giving Institute and Giving Foundation express their purposes through simple selections. Featuring member logos at the bottom gives a visually engaging action to the page while choices are being made.

spiral bullet Consistent style: A series presents a visual language and an ambient atmosphere, promoting a positive experience and relationship with the audience.
The black and white theme and color palette are consistent throughout the Giving Institute and Giving Foundation’s presentation. Although the home page is elegant and simple, such care isn’t carried as much into subsequent pages as may be expected from such a beginning. What does give visual interest are photographs from a contest held a few years ago. It would be nice if these were updated as a growing collection.

spiral bullet Distinctive: The most successful presentations have a memorable twist—something extra that is unique.
Few groups integrate visually as well as The Giving Institute and Giving Foundation—much less two groups together. With a tremendous potential for more visual depiction of giving, hopefully they will give us more to see when revisiting. But if the side doesn’t evolve, then an opportunity to increase dynamic interest begun will be underutilized.

See the Overview of the best Midwest organizations to present strong and compelling graphics.

the end

July 14, 2010

Madison County Chamber

overview
Every good logo establishes a graphic foundation. Few use visual language as well as the Madison County Chamber. With the goal of creating a welcoming personality, the logo symbolizes the natural and human attractions of their location. Their stylistic imagery carries through their graphics as unifying and recognizable elements.

Five Criteria for Graphics that Work:
Evaluating Madison County Chamber

spiral bullet Use of logo: An organization’s logo has a story to tell—encapsulating the personality, philosophy, and tone of an entire organization.
With a clear identity block, the Madison County Chamber’s logo incorporates the imagery of nature and people in a harmonious composition. Crisp and identifiable, the brush-stroke style is friendly yet has a professional sophistication through the geometric shapes. As a unit, this logo works in a variety of sizes, limited in smallness by its tagline that supports the visual message. The images are understood even without the words.

spiral bullet Theme: The visual first impression is dominated by the total gestalt—look, feel, purpose, and benefit. Further contact is consistent and supports personality and philosophy.
Few organizations build a theme upon their logos as well as MCC. The colors, the white swash style, and the geometry are used throughout their materials. Online, icons for the various topic components extend the visual language. The colors are strong, through conservative.

spiral bullet Content composition: Building from a recognizable theme, the presentation is easy to grasp, clear, and engaging.
Although MCC uses a standard template structure on their website, the various audiences are well defined and content targeted appropriately. Simple and direct, they use every opportunity to include and engage the community. Features, such as the calendar and e-newsletter, are easy to access. The template does prohibit a better use of space, but the whole holds together as greater than its parts.

spiral bullet Consistent style: A series presents a visual language and an ambient atmosphere, promoting a positive experience and relationship with the audience.
With a clear visual language developed, consistency comes easily. MCC meshes the visual images with their mission of unifying business, community, and agriculture: the symbolism is simple, direct, and easily understood. All graphics continue the style throughout the great variety of offerings.

spiral bullet Distinctive: The most successful presentations have a memorable twist—something extra that is unique.
MCC’s graphics have a friendly elegant appeal that is timeless. Demonstrating their communication expertise, unlike other associations in this Study, they offer such services through an internal department. They demonstrate through their graphic strength how they support their goals to “improve every aspect of our community.” Rarely is seen a better integration.

See the Overview of the best Midwest organizations to present strong and compelling graphics.

the end

July 8, 2010

American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery

overview
If any group should look good graphically and understand the importance of first impressions it should be an association comprised of cosmetic surgeons. So the warm and well-presented image that the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery presents is expected. Appropriately, it is polished, attractive, simple, and elegant. Generally, to call graphics ‘pretty’ is condescending—but here, it is a compliment.

Five Criteria for Graphics that Work:
Evaluating American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery

spiral bullet Use of logo: An organization’s logo has a story to tell—encapsulating the personality, philosophy, and tone of an entire organization.
Combining the letterforms (C and S) with brush stroke swashes creates an elegant and humanistic logo for the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery. Somewhat flame-like (which doesn’t feel as appropriate as the other references), its configuration is distinctive. Although the typography is very conventional, as a classic unit, the logo block has flexibility. However, the logo presents best in two colors.

spiral bullet Theme: The visual first impression is dominated by the total gestalt—look, feel, purpose, and benefit. Further contact is consistent and supports personality and philosophy.
Beautiful faces gaze at the viewer from AACS’s pages. Gorgeous photos rotate on the website which encourages visual intrigue. The theme of cosmetic perfection, though obvious, is enhanced with a color palette, geometric borders, and strong use of a white background.

spiral bullet Content composition: Building from a recognizable theme, the presentation is easy to grasp, clear, and engaging.
Probably the easiest way to make static templates interesting is through photography. AACS uses them with expertise and appealing composition—distinct from fashion yet exuding glamour and health. Though their publications are limited to members-only, the website content is targeted well to the viewer groups of both patients and surgeons.

spiral bullet Consistent style: A series presents a visual language and an ambient atmosphere, promoting a positive experience and relationship with the audience.
AACS’s design strategy is simple and easy to implement. Although they invite readers to share cosmetic surgery stories, what happens to these stories? It is not clear. Yet other information, such as the Myth and Fact section is educational and helpful.

spiral bullet Distinctive: The most successful presentations have a memorable twist—something extra that is unique.
There are more exciting graphics to be found from other organizations, but few that are more elegant or tasteful. AACS uses the basics well, imparts a crisp professionalism and accessible presentation.

See the Overview of the best Midwest organizations to present strong and compelling graphics.

the end

July 2, 2010

Water Quality Association

overview
Few organizations have such a well-defined niche as the Water Quality Association. It is enviable. Monitoring the most basic of resources, they graphically use the obvious water theme through a variety of photographs. Their logo is exceptional in its symbolism and recognizability. Deepening the level of their visual priorities can further enhance their message.

Five Criteria for Graphics that Work:
Evaluating Water Quality Association

spiral bullet Use of logo: An organization’s logo has a story to tell—encapsulating the personality, philosophy, and tone of an entire organization.
The topic of water can be expressed in many ways, usually using wave forms. WQA symbolizes the subject in a surprising way—three simple swashes form a W or a Q—one form represents two letters. Simple and flexible, this logo is both classic and contemporary.

spiral bullet Theme: The visual first impression is dominated by the total gestalt—look, feel, purpose, and benefit. Further contact is consistent and supports personality and philosophy.
The water theme for WQA is too obvious to need discussion. However, their graphics could use it more expansively rather than as a touch now and then. The template shows a droplet splash, the features in the right column illustrate various projects. Some of their strongest visuals are the photographic backgrounds of rippling water on selected pages.

spiral bullet Content composition: Building from a recognizable theme, the presentation is easy to grasp, clear, and engaging.
Divided into the two categories of commercial and residential, WQA’s site needs to cover the spectrum of water providers, users, and legislators. The site has comprehensive resources from Hot Topic articles for any viewer and features for target audiences. Unembellished graphically, unfortunatgely all content is treated the same. This site is a good example of prioritizing visual emphases and not carrying through beyond the first level.

spiral bullet Consistent style: A series presents a visual language and an ambient atmosphere, promoting a positive experience and relationship with the audience.
The use of prioritized graphics shows the opportunities for WQA’s approach. Established with color and basic imagery, this visual language could be taken further. Nowhere is this more exemplified than in their newsletter design. Without an inviting overview, samples, or previews, WQA treats this important benefit as less important. It makes sense that their key publication should be for members only, but there are many ways to visually entice a prospect. In a filter-down strategy, they could improve further than the initial impression.

spiral bullet Distinctive: The most successful presentations have a memorable twist—something extra that is unique.
WQA’s logo and imagery is strong. Their overall presentation is crisp, professional, well-organized, and consistent. Although they could push their visual language further, they have a great beginning. The relevance of their organization can only grow in the future, so investing in their growth potential can keep pace. Their presentation can help visibility and education to use and preserve the most important human resource.

See the Overview of the best Midwest organizations to present strong and compelling graphics.

the end

June 30, 2010

Metal Construction Association

PLEASE NOTE: MCA has changed its logo since this review. Unfortunately, the new one lacks the distinction of the one they let go.

overview
Graphics must be viewed and evaluated for appropriateness by industry. The Metal Construction Association presents what is expected for an industrial group: visuals that are bold, geometric, classic, direct, and structural. They infuse the theme of metal construction into a strong strategy. With a fine line between looking classic and looking old—at their best, the presentation is classic. But at its worst, old.

Five Criteria for Graphics that Work:
Evaluating Metal Construction Association

spiral bullet Use of logo: An organization’s logo has a story to tell—encapsulating the personality, philosophy, and tone of an entire organization.
The geometry of MCA‘s logo supports interesting visual effects, like the background stacking on the website’s left column and newsletter. Classic and bold, the flat geometric shapes represent the materials that they promote. It is imagery that MCA could develop more.

spiral bullet Theme: The visual first impression is dominated by the total gestalt—look, feel, purpose, and benefit. Further contact is consistent and supports personality and philosophy.
MCA’s logo begins a crisp professional presentation. Because their mission is to promote the use of metal fabrication in architecture, their materials must appeal to a spectrum of viewers from architects to contractors to developers to suppliers. So using a template that unifies all content is the easiest technique. But the approach allows little visual interest beyond the first absorption.

spiral bullet Content composition: Building from a recognizable theme, the presentation is easy to grasp, clear, and engaging.
Like most organizations, MCA uses a static template on their website. The most interesting portions are the showcases of member projects. Much more can be done with second and third level pages to better use the online space. Under their Publications segment, they give a choice between viewing in fast low resolution or downloads to print in high resolution. Demonstrating their sensitivity to the range of viewers, they delineate audiences at the top, allowing content to be tailored.

spiral bullet Consistent style: A series presents a visual language and an ambient atmosphere, promoting a positive experience and relationship with the audience.
Sometimes consistency can be overdone. MCA graphic strategy is at its best when showcasing member projects. It is at its worst in the static presentation of content—where the template dictates format so strongly that everything looks the same. However, their bold color, logo as illustration, and concise navigation, the overall effect is crisp yet inviting.

spiral bullet Distinctive: The most successful presentations have a memorable twist—something extra that is unique.
The most recognizable and distinctive aspect of MCA’s graphics is their logo.  It is used to anchor agraphic decisions, though not beyond backgrounds. To build more distinction, they could incorporate the geometric forms of square, circle, and triangle to greater symbolism.

See the Overview of the best Midwest organizations to present strong and compelling graphics.

the end

June 29, 2010

Green City Market

overview
Raising awareness of local food resources is a community responsibility. In Chicago, Green City Market assists this effort through a friendly communications strategy—linking farmers to chefs to the public through programs and online. Although their graphics are simple and basic, they are fun, easy, and engaging—presenting a range of attractions.

Five Criteria for Graphics that Work:
Evaluating Green City Market

spiral bullet Use of logo: An organization’s logo has a story to tell—encapsulating the personality, philosophy, and tone of an entire organization.
Though thin and light, the balloon images represent the positive and upbeat personality of Green City Market. Simple and flexible, the tag line integrates well with the symbol, but the name overpowers. Though the three elements function as a compositional unit, the stylistic blend could be more creative.

spiral bullet Theme: The visual first impression is dominated by the total gestalt—look, feel, purpose, and benefit. Further contact is consistent and supports personality and philosophy.
Although Green City Market’s theme of balloons, begun by the logo, is not expanded upon, the typefaces, colors, and burlap textures set up a friendly environment.

spiral bullet Content composition: Building from a recognizable theme, the presentation is easy to grasp, clear, and engaging.
From the pictures of farmers to the recipes of Chicago’s best chefs, the Green City Market website is fun and educational while it supports an environmental cause. The site is a good introduction, but could be enhanced with more highlights, features, and interaction.

spiral bullet Consistent style: A series presents a visual language and an ambient atmosphere, promoting a positive experience and relationship with the audience.
Throughout their website, Green City Market’s template is static. The typeface, though strong, is not enough to push towards a visual potential. The organization’s goals are to create an “inviting ambience and sense of community.” Though the pages have engaging content, they don’t change often. And their blog indicates a “post and ghost” problem with old entries and few comments. They demonstrate a pattern that affects many organizations: excitement with new opportunities but difficulty in sustaining the communicative projects once begun.

spiral bullet Distinctive: The most successful presentations have a memorable twist—something extra that is unique.
Few causes affect more people that sustainable food sources. Throughout Green City Market’s materials, their dedication to promoting local produce oozes from their pages. With perhaps the greatest potential of any organization covered in te Sebastian Study, a graphic foundation could sustain communications as their mission can sustain food production.

Viewers want more than a one-way presentation. This organization offers a platform to showcase members by offers chefs’ signature recipes—leading the viewer through key information.

See the Overview of the best Midwest organizations to present strong and compelling graphics.

the end