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Why I’m A Stickler For Graphic Standards

 

NOTICE: THE VIEWS, COMMENTS, STATEMENTS, AND OPINIONS EXPRESSED ON THIS WEBSITE DO NOT NECESSARILY REPRESENT THE OFFICIAL POSITION OF THE SALVATION ARMY.

For the longest time, I’ve always been a bit of a design nut.  Ever since I took a web design class in junior high and started on social media, I’ve always cared about how things look to others.  What does my content reflect?  Does the design fit the content?  More importantly, does the design detract from the content?

Of course, this may mean spending extra time on a design just to make sure it looks good.  For example, I spent quite a bit of time on this logo for an event.

I used an existing primary logo on top but needed to add the words “Sing Along” below.  I could have just used any font that would look good (and I’m sure I could have found one on my computer), but I went on the hunt to find a font called Oz’s Wizard – Tin Woodman.  This style font better reflected the theme because it had been designed after the fonts used for the movie.  I also had to design it to reflect the original logo, so I matched the yellow and red colors and toyed with the inner and outer strokes to have the size match the logo above.  All this was placed on a slightly textured, green-striped background that I designed.  That’s just for one logo, but it looks a lot better than a logo on a white background with the words “Sing Along” added in any font that comes standard on a computer.

Graphic Standards

When I began my journey of web design, I started by working on my corps’ website.  This was pre-Wordpress which made design tricky already.  I came across a manual of graphic standards that had been produced for The Salvation Army.  Officers and employees have access to the current manual via Red Shield Toolkit.  This manual had everything a person would need to know for good design of promotional materials, website graphics, social media graphics, and even letters and signs in your corps building.  It includes things such as copy tone, fonts, typography style, logo usage, colors, layout styles, and what not to do (which can be more instructive than what to do).

Since discovering this manual and following it (which I’ve been doing for over a decade), I’ve found that following the graphic standards has helped me immensely with not only simplifying my designing process, but also giving me the satisfaction that my designs look good, professional, and cohesive.  Let me give a few reasons why every corps and corps officer should use graphic standards in everything they produce.

1. Professionalism

When you make graphic standards a part of your everyday work, it adds a level of professionalism.  The graphic standards were produced by a consulting firm to make sure The Salvation Army has a consistent, professional brand.

I’ve used graphic standards for just about everything in officership.  Letterhead, letters, bulletins, signs, promotional materials, handouts, social media, website, etc.  Once you familiarize yourself with the graphic standards and put them into practice, they become second nature.

When there is consistency in what you produce, it adds to the professionalism of your brand.  Graphically-minded people like me will take notice and appreciate the extra effort you’ve put in to add to your professionalism.  Plus, it looks better than having 20 different things with 20 different fonts and clipart (NEVER USE CLIPART!).

2. Cohesive Branding

As mentioned above, professionalism comes with cohesive branding.  When our brand is consistent, people will notice it more regularly.  One way we can be cohesive in our branding is by use of logos, specifically the shield.

Yes, I know we have a bit of a logo crisis – do I use the shield, the shield with the “Doing The Most Good” line, or the crest?  Let me share a bit on each of these:

The Crest

I love the crest!  Many people love the crest!  It has a rich history and has been a significant part of The Salvation Army.  Many of us have the crest on our buildings, on our sweaters, and throughout our corps.  I don’t want to downgrade the crest, but it is something that hasn’t necessarily helped with graphic standardization.  It’s a complex logo that, unless you take the time to look at it, doesn’t really explain who we are.  I have a crest on my corps building – in fact, it’s the only logo on the building besides “The Salvation Army” spelled out.  Unfortunately, the crest is not as well recognized.  Because of this, I tend to not use it as much as the shield.  It is more appropriate for corps-related publications because those people are familiar with the crest, but even then, I tend to use the shield for my corps because I do not want to have a distinction between the church of The Salvation Army and our social service ministries.  We are One Army, so that is why I tend to revert to the shield as a primary logo. Ultimately, this is a personal preference.  There is nothing in our graphic standards manual about the crest, but I suggest using the same recommendations for sizing, spacing, and color as presented for the shield in the graphic standards manual.

The Shield

WARNING: contains some minor profanity.

The shield is a primary logo that has become my standard.  Its simplified design makes it recognizable and doesn’t overwhelm whatever it’s put on.  This video about flag design may be helpful in understanding why I revert to the shield over the crest.

The shield is a symbol recognized by many people in our communities.  When we use it consistently and within the parameters set by our graphic standards, it will present a cohesive brand and a cohesive message to the public.  Along with this is following the correct spacing and color for the shield.  I even try to make other elements, such as colored lines or text, match the same color as the shield for sake of cohesiveness.  Not just any red will do!

Generally, I use the shield if I need something to be quickly recognizable or if it is going to be viewed from a distance.  For example, outdoor signs, advertisements, scrolling signs, etc. would use the shield because the brand needs to be recognized in a matter of seconds.  Also, if I want a simplified logo for any sort of print material, I will go with the shield.  I use this most frequently for social media because the brand needs to be recognized in seconds as someone scrolls through Twitter or Facebook.

The Doing The Most Good Shield

The last and newest of the logos is the Doing The Most Good Shield.  This has been part of our brand for a number of years now.  Though it came with some hesitation by the field, I believe this brand has grown on people.  I often use this logo on print materials, promotional materials, and other items in which people are able to see it and come back to it.  For example, I use this on my business cards and letterhead because people can take the time to read the tagline.  I would also be willing to use it on things that are big enough and static enough to be seen at a distance.

What I love about the Doing The Most Good Shield is that it is adaptable for whatever design you need it for.  Need the logo to be square, there’s one for that.  Need the logo to have a short height and long width, there’s one for that.  The logo can be adapted into many forms to fit the project.

One of the recent confusions on this logo is whether it is supposed to have the SM (service mark) or the ® (registered trademark).  Though it was originally a service mark, the Doing The Most Good Shield is now a registered trademark and should appear with the ®.  Many of us probably still have and use the service mark logos.  They can be fixed by either removing the SM and replacing it with the ® or by downloading the updated logos from Red Shield Toolkit.


Ultimately, when it comes to cohesive branding, it’s up to the individual as to which logo they use.  The important thing is to follow the basic guidelines in the graphic standards manual for spacing, sizing, and color.  It is a registered trademark, so any alteration would be a violation of the trademark.

3. Decluttering

You’ve probably been to one of those corps before.  There are 15 signs taped to the door and each one uses a different font (especially Comic Sans).  Inevitably, 4 of them have some form of clipart “just to make it look pretty”.  Instead of simplification, we tend to clutter our lobbies, doors, and waiting rooms with stuff and information.

Graphic standards can help us reduce the clutter by using a consistent font with consistent graphics to show professionalism in what we do.  If we eliminate the clipart and other tacky elements, we may be able to combine things on signs and reduce the number of things hanging on the walls of our waiting rooms or on our front doors.

Ask yourself a few questions about the things that clutter your corps:

  • Do I need it?  Do I really need to have this sign hanging?
  • Do I really need more than one?  Will one in the lobby be sufficient?
  • Will people read it?
  • Can people read it (font sizing)?
  • Is it worded positively (does it sound like someone giving me information or yelling at me)?
  • Does it look good?
  • Does it match with other things?

Decluttering through design will make our corps more welcoming, more informative, and more consistent.  Graphic standards are just part of that process.


I love graphic standards – maybe in a slightly unhealthy way.  Some people are sticklers for grammar – I’m a stickler for graphic standards and good design.

Some would say that they have bigger things on their plate than worrying about graphic standards.  While that may be true, I believe graphic standards helps us build a church and organization that shows we care about what we share with the public.  Plus, once you know the graphic standards and put them into practice, they become second nature.

Graphic standards add to our professionalism and cohesiveness as an organization.  They also help the families we serve get the information they need in a simplified way.  When we use graphic standards well as an organization, coupled with our message, we can have a great impact on the communities we serve.


What’s your graphic standards nightmare?  What’s made you cringe?  Leave a comment below!

About the author
Blake Fewell
Blake Fewell is a Salvation Army Lieutenant serving as the Corps Officer in Marion, IN. He grew up in Rockford, IL attending The Salvation Army all his life. Blake is passionate about Salvation Army theology and ministry. Other passions include running, brass band music, social media, reading, writing, and preaching. He holds a Bachelor's degree in systematic theology from the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, IL and is working towards his Master's degree at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, IL.