Design Makes a Difference | npENGAGE

Design Makes a Difference

By on Sep 30, 2009


Wireframes and Finished SiteOne of the best kept secrets at Blackbaud Internet Solutions is our interactive design team. Over the years we've built up one of the largest and most experienced design groups serving the nonprofit sector. We've even branched out over time to add design experts in both our London and Sydney offices.

Process Makes Perfekt
Great designers are like magicians. They make the end result look spontaneous and effortless because they don't like to reveal how they really pull off the trick. The reality is that behind the scenes it takes years of experience and proven processes to create engaging designs.

That spark of inspiration comes after days of understanding a client's brand, message, goals, objectives, audience, and what sets them apart. When our team of designers starts in on a project they immerse themselves in the client's mission and the people the organization is trying to reach. Having focused objectivity is one of those secret ingredients to the design process.

Good design for the Internet requires a mix of both art and science. The science involves information architecture, taxonomies, wireframes, heuristics, and display design principles. The art involves shape, shadow, tone, typography, color theory, photography, and the right amount of motion and emotion. The medium is different than print or broadcast, but some proven fundamentals still apply.

Blackbaud's creative director Raheel Gauba likes to say that "every pixel has a purpose." This explains why a lot of thought goes into who, what, where, when, why, and how whether we're creating a new design from scratch, improving on an existing one, or doing a complete redesign. It's about bringing the right people, process, and pieces together. It also means leaving some room for creative expression. (Like a clever spelling choice.)

And the Winner Is
The proof is usually in the results. Having successful and happy clients is very rewarding — it's also nice when peers recognize the work too. The Blackbaud Internet Solutions trophy case is filling up these days with awards from a variety of client projects. The latest is a 2009 WebAward For Outstanding Achievement in Web Development from the Web Marketing Association for the New England Province of Jesuits website.

The design and development of the New England Province of Jesuits site wasn't left to chance. It took a client that had a clear and well defined strategy, a design team that took the time to listen, a good working chemistry between communications, advancement, and information technology teams, and a shared vision about making the project a success. To the unaided eye it looks like a magic trick. Everyone that worked on the project knows the real secrets. Congratulations to each of them.


Steve MacLaughlin is the Vice President of Data & Analytics at Blackbaud and bestselling author of Data Driven Nonprofits.

MacLaughlin has been featured as a fundraising and nonprofit expert in many mainstream publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, USA Today, The NonProfit Times, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Bloomberg, and has appeared on NPR.

He is a frequent speaker at events including the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), Association for Healthcare Philanthropy (AHP), American Marketing Association (AMA), Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), Direct Marketing Fundraisers Association (DMFA), Giving Institute Summer Symposium, National Association of Independent School (NAIS), Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC), Institute of Fundraising National Convention (United Kingdom), Civil Society Conference (Netherlands), International Fundraising Congress (Netherlands), Ask Direct Fundraising Summer School (Ireland), and a keynote speaker at several conferences across the social good sector.

Steve previously served on the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN) Board of Directors and is currently an adjunct faculty member at Columbia University.

He is a frequent blogger, published author of a chapter in the book People to People Fundraising: Social Networking and Web 2.0 for Charities, and is a co-editor of the book Internet Management for Nonprofits: Strategies, Tools & Trade Secrets. His latest book, Data Driven Nonprofits, became a bestseller in 2016.

Steve earned both his undergraduate degree and a Master of Science degree in Interactive Media from Indiana University.

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