Ask the Experts: Branding and Design

Each month, I'm inviting guest contributors to speak about additional timely, relevant and sought-after topics that are important for cause-focused organizations to be aware of as they grow. First up, we have my friends, Madison and Dusty Beaulieu, who expertly designed my branding and website!

Mad & Dusty is a creative team for nonprofits and purpose-driven brands.

Q. What are the latest trends in your industry?

A. There’s definitely been a leaning toward illustration and texture. (YAY!) Flat design is huge, but now designers are taking that minimalism and giving it over to the artists. The desire for perfection in design is being replaced with a need for history and personality. We want to see the human hand in design now. Watercolor, paint, printmaking, hand lettering . . . the arts are showing up in a big way through design, and we love it.

Q. What is the biggest mistake you see people making in terms of their brand?

A. People give logos more credit than they deserve! Your brand is your tool box. Your logo, type, colors and patterns will help show your customers who you are in the same way that the clothes you’re wearing tell others a bit about who you are. Think of your logo as an accessory. If your purpose and brand values are not clear, appealing, and meaningful, an amazing logo won’t be able to fix that. Purpose and values are the foundation for your brand, and a good designer will help you clarify them before jumping into the logo design. Design that comes from the core of your business will work no matter what’s trending.

Q. What is your best piece of advice for people during branding and design, especially for those who are new to, or overwhelmed by, the process?

A. Be sure you understand the investment and what it will mean for your business. The branding process is not something to jump into half-heartedly. (We would make How to Style Your Brand by Fiona Humberstone required reading if we could.) The first six months of any business are unpredictable at best. I recommend that you quick-design a temporary logo using a template from Canva or another app, and build a one page site on Squarespace. After six months, sit down with a designer and discuss taking your business to the next level with an original brand. The branding process should feel like a celebration of your hard work and hustle. It’s an exciting time!

Also, find a designer that you trust and enjoy working with, even if you technically don’t need one now. It’s kind of like finding the right doctor. When something comes up, it will be good to know who you’d turn to.

Additionally, don’t be afraid to talk honestly about your budget. If a designer is passionate about what you do, they may be willing to find an agreement that works for both of you.

And, finally, not all design is branding design. We work with several clients for 5-10 hours per month on designing emails, social graphics, and those random little items that come up. We love partnering with them, and they love delegating those would-be headaches.

Q. What is one thing readers can do this week to improve their brand presence, either online or in print?

A. Make sure you’re using all the same fonts on documents. (No more than three different fonts.) It’s the smallest thing, but it will instantly give your brand a sense of cohesiveness. Typography works very subconsciously. Make sure it’s working for you!

Q. Anything else we should keep in mind for our brand, website or graphics?

A. Be true to your values. Be consistent with your community. Be honest about your capacity. Simple, purposeful things done consistently make a brand shine.


Mad & Dusty is a creative team for nonprofits and purpose-driven brands. Starting in 2015, Madison and Dusty Beaulieu have worked with over 40 purpose driven organizations to tell important stories through art and design.

Find them online at


Mad & Dusty is a creative team for nonprofits and purpose-driven brands.

Kristi Porter, founder at

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.