Design Equity: First Impressions are Everything

People notice design before anything else. So having a considered aesthetic is a big step towards holding someone’s attention.

Sarah Obenauer
Make a Mark
Published in
5 min readMar 21, 2018


This is part two of the Design Equity project. Haven’t heard of it? Catch up now.

Your aesthetic is the execution of your brand in the world. In many cases, this is the first interaction that a donor, volunteer or client might have with your organization.

A successful aesthetic evokes an emotional response and builds a connection with the audience. This can lead to increased engagement, increased funding and ultimately more people served.

Today we are going to introduce a few key visual components including logo, color, font and imagery, as well as some resources that you can access on your own.


A logo is the first and most clear visual representative of your organization. Having a logo that reflects your work is critical. If you don’t have a logo, start there! Logos create an identity and sense of professionalism for your organization. They display your organization’s dedication to the work that you do.

Resources: I would suggest hiring a graphic designer (if you have the funds), applying for a Make a Mark event, looking for similar events in your community or reaching out to us to see how we can help.

Something I want to highlight is that if you do work with someone to craft a logo, make sure you have the files that you need moving forward.

File types should include:

  • Source file (might be Adobe Illustrator, Sketch, etc.)
  • EPS file
  • JPG file
  • PNG file (with a transparent background)
  • PDF file

The files should be in both CMYK and RGB color modes. It also best to get logos designed both horizontally and vertically for different use cases.

Make a Mark logo from the rebrand completed in 2016

Our logo represents Make a Mark as a larger organization. Each group — makers, nonprofits, community — represents a circle in a Venn diagram and the place where these three circles meet is where Make a Mark lives. We could not exist without all three of these groups — the creativity of the makers, the commitment of the nonprofits and the generosity of the community. This shape is the true embodiment of what we do.

Your logo is an important part of your organization and should represent you to the fullest.


Developing a color palette for your organization creates consistency of brand, but also reflects your organization’s personality.

There are plenty of guides that tell you which colors evoke which emotions. For example, yellow spurs optimism, blue builds trust and purple impacts creativity. While you can use this as a guide, it is more important to find a color palette that best represents your organization as a whole and this will truly create the emotions you want.

Resources: Use a tool like Color Hunt, Coolors or Colormind to pin down a stunning and manageable color scheme.

Make a Mark color palette from the rebrand completed in 2016

Our color palette was developed to capture the energy of a make-a-thon, as well as the creativity that occurs leading up to and on the day of the event.

We keep our palette simple starting with white and charcoal that can be easily used across designs. We chose charcoal instead of black, because dark grey is softer and more pleasing to the eye than a true black. Our primary color is yellow and we use coral as an accent for calls to action.

As a word of warning, more colors don’t mean more exciting. I have seen organizations and companies go wild with too many colors, which detracts from the design and professionalism of an organization.


Typography (or font) helps establish and maintain your organization’s identity. It creates order and cohesiveness in an organization.

Choosing fonts can be a difficult process, but also a lot of fun. Your typography evokes emotion just like your logo or your color scheme. The best way to start is by identifying the attitude you want to convey. This should match the rest of your brand.

When we work with nonprofits, we select a couple of decorative fonts, but we also select standard fonts that can be used across everything from print materials to website and beyond.

Example of decorative, colorful typography in the header followed by a simple, legible body font

Decorative fonts can be captivating for graphics and headers, but need to be readable. All body text should be a more classic, readable font although it can be tempting to use the same overly decorative and thematic font on every word on all materials.

Resources: Google Fonts is an easy resource for free fonts. They are easy to download, use and support online. Lost Type offers crafted fonts on a pay-as-you-want scale, starting at $5 for personal use.


All imagery including illustrations, photos, etc. should follow brand guidelines. Most importantly, your imagery should be consistent.

Develop a pattern that represents your organization and that can be used across channels (print, website, social media). We like to use fun and whimsical patterns. We have incorporated our colors and even our logo shape within the patterns that we use.

Set guidelines on what you want to represent in your photography. We use photos that convey creative, active environments and avoid posed shots.

Example from our current website with pattern elements and strategic photography

Resource: Don’t have any patterns, photos or other imagery to use? Check resources like Unsplash and Creative Market for visual inspiration and assets that are free and/or affordable.

Spend some time to sit down, focus your internal brand, determine how you want to showcase your organization to the world and make a powerful first impression.

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Sarah Obenauer
Make a Mark

Founder & Director of Make a Mark. Passionate about using design, creativity, and technology to serve our world.