The Strauss Blog

Associations by Graphic Design: What to Think About When Taking on a New Association

People often struggle with change—change is hard and can force people away from what they are used to—but change happens. When there are big changes in association staffing or service providers, or even how an association is managed, it can be challenging for association members, board members and staff too. Big changes can happen for a variety of reasons, but regardless of the reason, this is something that everyone must adapt to.

One example of big change is when an association goes from being managed by one association management company (AMC) to another. Changing AMCs can be a stressful ordeal for everyone involved. Processes and procedures change and adapt as associations and AMC’s grow and work together. Records can be stored differently at each AMC, and therefore the new AMC may need to come up with different filing systems or adapt previous ways of filing to fit with current ways.

Changing AMCs is like packing up to move into a new house. You make plans for the big things: living room furniture, bedroom furniture, and small kitchen appliances you haven’t taken out of boxes yet. You may even think about the items you don’t use on a daily basis, like the files in your home office. It’s not until you have all of those big things packed up that you realize your basement is still full, and you forgot about your broom closet, the garage and the shed!

My colleague has written a blog about some of the big issues that may come up with changing Association Membership Management Systems, but there can be many other things to think about when associations change the way they are managed.

Transferring an Association’s Graphic Design Files

As a graphic designer, I’m not often involved in the day-to-day management of associations. When I was recently asked to start managing all the design files of a new association client, I realized I would need to use a system created by the previous AMC. To make sure I would have everything I needed so that we could prepare to take over the running of the association, I started making a mental list of files to ask for. That list grew quickly though, and once I received the hard drive of their graphic design files, I realized there was a bit more involved than what I’d originally thought.

Association Logos & Branding

First things first, let’s start with logo files, stationery and other branding. I received a zipped file with the normal logo files in variations, colours and formats, as well as a brand guide. Great, I thought, this association was very organized—this will be easy! Then I found another folder with 15 other logos, and I had no idea what they were for. Luckily I received all these files early enough so I could ask the association’s former graphic designer questions about the logos. If you don’t have the advantage of talking to someone previously in the role though, then you may need to improvise, or ask around with board members or volunteers.

Graphic Design Files

I received an external hard drive with all the projects the other graphic designer had been working on, as well as archived files. Thankfully everything was well labelled and organized so I was able to fairly easily find things I needed. This isn’t always the case though: I’ve received files in the past that are just called “final.pdf”. Again, looking through these files while you can still talk to the outgoing designer is great.

What the Font?

I opened a few files with no problems, and everything seemed to work fine. A few days later I went to work on a project, I opened the InDesign file and got the dreaded “Missing Fonts” warning, and then I realized that I didn’t think of getting any fonts. I sent the designer an email, and shortly after that I got a 465MB zip file with 1,200+ fonts. I always forget about the fonts until it’s too late!

Websites: More than Just a Couple of Passwords

When getting information about the association’s website, I found that these were the most important things to consider/collect:

  • Who does the admin work for the websites?
  • List of all websites used
  • Administrator access to the website
  • What platform the website is built on
  • Website hosting information & login
  • Domain hosting information & login
  • Cpanel access to all sites
  • Google Analytics
  • Working files for website graphics

If the association had a staff member working on their website maintenance, finding this information can be pretty straightforward. However, if there is a mix of people working on the site, and the association pays a hosting company to maintain it, getting some of this information can be really tough.

Other Assets

So far, we’ve covered packing up the living room, bedrooms and office, and now it’s on to the basement. This is where things get complicated. Some items down there you want to keep, some you want to throw away, and a few will stay behind. The same goes with graphics. Here are some considerations:

  • What is the association currently doing for eblasts? There’s a possibility that they use a different platform from your AMC, so that is something you will likely want to transfer to your system.
  • Do they have a stock photo account anywhere?
  • Are there websites/programs do they use that you’ve never heard of?
  • Do they advertise in external publications, and if so, how often?
  • What are the various types/sizes/styles of graphics that are used? Will you need to create graphics for websites, social media, etc.?

You now have everything you need in mind to take on the challenge of doing graphic design for a new association. There’s still a lot of work to do, and you will still need to learn all the ins and outs of the association and get to know its members and processes, but starting with all the information you can is a great start to adapting to this big change.