Vignelli | Graphic Design for Non-Profit Organizations

Graphic Design for Nonprofit Organizations

by Marlon Fuentes | Design Strategist, verynice 

Reeeeeewind! It’s been nearly 40 years since the great Massimo Vignelli and Peter Laundry wrote Graphic Design for Nonprofit Organizations.  And while the tools of production have certainly evolved, the discipline and ethos behind this classic stand as a reminder that great design is not only attainable through study and practice, but also something all organizations, regardless of tax status should aspire to achieve. Whether you are the in-house designer or a manager working with an agency, knowing the fundamentals can go a long way. Have questions or need help with a project? Connect with our team.

"A common misconception about design in the non-profit sector is that it is a "nice to have" as opposed to a "must have." The reality is that design can be one of the best possible tools an organization can use to bring clarity to their mission and vision. If done well, then, design can truly elevate an organization's potential and allow for even more impact in the world.”
– Matthew Manos, Founder, verynice

There’s no better assignment for a design maestro like Vignelli. After all, many nonprofits like other lean running organizations prioritize the reduction of waste and the optimization of value and durability. Vignelli was strongly opposed to what he called the “cults of obsolescence, waste, and the ephemeral.” Elegance for him was not a matter of frivolity. His use of few typefaces, grid layouts, and international paper sizes was all done in an effort to reduce the need for anything that would require more than the necessary resources. He was a conservationist in a sense. 

vignelli nonprofit design

The first part of the book is a set of guidelines. The second part reviews the application on two prototypical organizations. Theory and practice. At the bottom of this post you can find a few of the design principles Vignelli has championed in this book. And if you are a true scholar, the PDF is available and was approved for distribution by Massimo before his passing.  

“The main purpose of this manual is not to generate sameness or fads but to provide the tools to develop individual programs to fit individual situations.”  – Massimo Vignelli


  • "The grid is the most important tool that can be used by the layout designer. It is an invisible structure that provides disciplined and consistent look while increasing production efficiency and maintaining the flexibility needed to solve a wide range of layout problems."
  • "For most applications, a ragged right setting is best because it has the advantage of uniform word spacing; shorter lines are not lengthened by adding space between words." 
  • "Typography is closely allied to the fine arts, always reflected the taste or feeling of their time."
Marlonnonprofit, graphic design