This one has been coming down the tracks as reliably as a Japanese bullet train. Since taking on basically every other form of civil society logo — even think tanks came before this — I’ve been trying to figure out how to approach charities, because I find myself reluctant to punish them too hard for their design decisions.
This is on some level quite irrational — there are plenty of bad charities, including some pretty big ones, and plenty of charities that are basically just tax dodging schemes for rich people whose societal contribution is far less worthy than, say, a decent local authority.
But it’s equally worth remembering that lots of the charities I’m about to tear into do brilliant work and effective and innovative campaigning, and that if you feel angry at me for yelling about their bad graphic design, you should turn that energy towards donating to them to buy some better logos instead. Good design can be a force multiplier on good campaigning — it buys more eyeballs, more donations, more membership, and ultimately more credibility when carrying out the activities the charity exists to pursue. It shouldn’t come at the expense of core functions, but in times where cash is not critically short, it can help expand an organisation beyond keeping the lights on.
Partly to minimise this effect, I haven’t chosen to rank all the tens of thousands of charities in the UK, which would be patently peculiar — instead I’ve managed to find the 100 highest income charities as of 2017*. This means two things: they’re big enough to have access to design talent in-house, or to bring in freelancers, so if their logo is bad that’s their own fault; and that they’re big and ugly enough that they won’t get too mad at being critiqued. I’ve also wedged in a few big names that curiously don’t appear on that list, which ruins the neatness of a top 100 but also means I don’t get letters.
Charities present an interesting challenge because unlike universities, councils, and think tanks, their purpose and target audience vary much more widely. That means that the criteria for what makes something good is much more related to suitability for purpose — what might be appropriate for the Royal Society won’t be appropriate for Dogs Trust.