Case Study by Trevor Martin RGD, Senior Designer, Innovative Designs
For more than 50 years, the New Hamburg Mennonite Relief Sale has brought help and hope to those in need around the world by bringing together volunteers, businesses and visitors who care about poverty, peace and global needs. As this event approached its golden anniversary, the Relief Sale Committee took advantage of the opportunity to create fresh branding, which was then to be rolled out on signage, a responsive website, apparel, print, social media and other assets.
The owner of our company has assisted with many compassionate projects, and sits on a variety of not-for- profit boards, including the Relief Sale’s marketing committee. This remarkable event includes over 40 venues supported by 2,000 volunteers. Many people contribute to the success of the sale: donors of goods and services, supporting church congregations, auctioneers, venue coordinators and volunteers as well as thousands of visitors who purchase the merchandise. Since 1967, the New Hamburg Mennonite Relief Sale has raised over 12 million dollars.
People come each year because the sale is entertaining, it raises money for a good cause and they know it is run exclusively by volunteers with a passion for its purpose. All monies raised go to MCC, a not-for-profit Mennonite relief, service and development peace agency.
Our team’s ability to provide design-to-print oversight and quality control made us an ideal solution for meeting the client’s objectives from start to finish.
The primary goal of the brand redesign was to create a fresh, authentic and more current identity, while honouring its rich history of 50 years. Our team worked closely with the Relief Sale Committee to understand their organization and its needs as clearly as possible. We began the project by outlining the specific goals to help solidify the direction for the project. The 50th anniversary was very important to the client, and this juncture provided the perfect opportunity to take a close look at the Sale's attendees, the expectations for the event, and its shift from a local community gathering to a much more widely known and recognized occasion.
Through this information gathering phase of the project, we learned that supporters come from an incredibly diverse range of backgrounds including urban and rural, and that the audience spans a broad range of age groups. The new brand needed to appeal to this very diverse group and encompass the Sale’s history and future, all in one design. It also needed to work across a wide variety of layouts and applications, from digital to apparel, and from small-scale print to large-scale signage.
After listening, researching and brainstorming, we presented three new logo concepts, each capturing the essence of their organization with a different visual approach. Looking at the three proposals, the committee narrowed down the ideas to a specific focus on unity, collaboration and crafts as the key factors in the identity of the event.
The final logo design combines craft and quilt themes with a country quality. It showcases the nature of the products for sale as well as the values of the event itself. The intertwined pattern surrounding the star shape represents the unified effort of Mennonite denominations and communities coming together for one caring cause.
After establishing this new visual foundation for their organization, we set to work developing various promotional materials for the upcoming 50th anniversary sale.
One of the client's primary needs was a fresh online presence that would accurately reflect the new branding direction. The client's expectations for the online presence included a fully responsive website with consistent design and messaging that would be easy to use for both the visitors to the site and the staff members who would be updating the content. The home page content needed to include news and events, general descriptions and introductory messaging about the organization, as well as an acknowledgment of the 50th anniversary. Vendor information, activities and schedules needed to be organized in a way that would be prominent on the homepage and easy to navigate for anyone who visited the site.
We began the design process by creating a hierarchy of the content, ranking it from most important to least important. We also considered the importance of meeting the needs of both new visitors to the site looking for general details and repeat visitors who would be looking for more specific information. The new site also needed to feature a specific page dedicated to the Quilt Auction, which is a primary part of the Sale. This section needed to feature a catalogue of quilts to be auctioned, as well as an archive of featured quilts from previous sales.
The result was a fresh, responsive website that offered comprehensive information about the sale, relevant news and resources for donors and vendors.
Along with the new website, we developed print advertising and promotion. Signage, apparel and information displays were also created for the day of the sale. We were very careful that each application reflected the new brand consistently and showcased the 50th anniversary in a memorable, visually captivating way. A brand guideline document will be created in the near future to ensure consistency and overall coherence as the Sale progresses forward.
One of the main challenges became apparent in the early stages of the initial rebranding process. Considering the sale's 50-year tradition and deeply-rooted heritage, we wanted to ensure continued support from its faithful audience, while also honouring the Sale Committee’s request for a fresh identity that could position the organization into the future. Walking this line required ongoing dialogue with the Committee members, which ultimately strengthened the branding process.
Initial feedback from both the Sale Committee and attendees of the event has been very positive. The organizers have expressed a great deal of gratitude for our assistance through this process, which has been a very important milestone for their organization and its 50-year history. Going forward, we wish the Relief Sale many more successful decades and hope the vision and care it represents will continue to offer help and hope to those who need it most.
- Respect and honour your client’s history, their rich foundations and their established support base, particularly when working with non-profit organizations. Avoid self-motivated preferences and priorities, and the client will ultimately recognize your loyalty and continue to place confidence in your expertise.
- When working on large-scale projects that require a variety of design applications throughout different phases, less really is more. Organizing a project and working on portions at a time makes it more manageable and less exhaustive for both you and the client. Create a timeline or hierarchy of most critical to least critical tasks and work your way down. The end result will be a well-thought-out solution that is both methodical and very consistent.
- Clarify. Ask questions, then ask even more. The more information you are able to accumulate, the better. This gives you the opportunity to begin the process on the same page as the client, lessening the risk of surprises later in the process.
- Ensure that your goals and business objectives have been defined as thoroughly as possible before moving ahead with a project.
- If a committee is involved with a project, establish who the key decision makers will be. Placing the right people in key roles will produce healthier results and avoid unnecessary disagreements.
- Be open to suggestions and be willing to consider ideas that may appear uncomfortable at first, but could result in powerful solutions that you never considered.
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