Parallel efforts and the UUA new identity

As it happens, another national Unitarian entity went through a similar branding process a few years ago, and we might learn from their experience. I’m referring to the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches, commonly known as the British Unitarians.

Back in 2007, the British Unitarians adopted a common visual identity, along with a new national website. That website (archived link), for reasons best known to them, seemed to treat the color palate as a challenge rather than a set of options: even now it makes my head hurt. It has since been replaced, and so I thought the branding exercise was a failure.

But it wasn’t, surely due in large part to DUWIT — “Development of Unitarian websites and IT” — whose DIY web management system has some of the design elements baked in. To riff on an old Unitarian joke, these sites have one color theme at most; also, their revised chalice logo was a much less radical change from those popular in the 1970s and 1980s. Most British Unitarian sites use this system, which makes appropriately-scaled brochureware (opposite of interactive) sites. But even custom sites often contain the logo or tag/strapline, and most stay on message. Two good examples of this later case are the Cheltenham & Gloucester Unitarians and the Brighton Unitarians.

So where can you find out more about this standard?  Download this PDF.

And I expect — or rather, hope — the UUA will release an identity standard of comparable scope, of which the logo is a part. (If so, I think making the color palate, typography and wordmark the teaser would have been less, um, shocking.)

As it happens, I’ve been following denominational identity standards for years and you can look at the British Methodists (290,000 members) and the Mennonite Church USA (110,000 members) for comparison, by communions of the same scale.

I’m not saying that particular Unitarian Universalist congregations and groups should follow a common standard, but — like a style guide — each congregation should have a standard. Write one, subject to your congregation’s decision-making systems. (The UUA should, of course, follow its own.) That would go far to keep every change on the church site from being an exercize in head-scratching and complaint, and improve the appearance and usability of your print and web communications.

Color and the UUA new identity

This is the second in a short series of blog posts about the new UUA identity and branding plan: the theme is color.

While I’m expecting a full visual identity and an color palette, I thought I would look at the released image of the new UUA logo to approximate what the colors options would be. On the side, I’ve put a vertical slice of the new logo so you can follow along.

I’m not a designer but we see the gradient running from coral at the bottom to a muted orange at the top. (Well, not all of us: several percent of men have a form of color-blindness that will make the coral a caramel or gray color.)

If I had to make a prediction, I think the greatest lasting legacy of this campaign — maybe for several years, possibly longer — is the color scheme. It’s the most obvious part that corresponds to the affirming cries of warmth and beauty. I look forward to the full treatment, to be released.


And of the colors, I think the deep coral at the base (and perhaps in the lettering; it’s unclear) is the winner and the least problematic.

The orange at the top of the flame is dangerously close to Crayola flesh (read: “lightly-tanned Caucasian”) if you’re old enough to remember that, and isn’t contrasty enough from the Standing on the Side of Love goldenrod to make an impact alone.

The various shades of tomato red that follow are attractive, but if you’ve ever had to buy a red shirt or sweater, you know how hard it is to match this color. Especially in Target, when you’re confused for the floor staff and kept getting interrupted while buying cleaning supplies.

The color right below it reads as Marketing to Women pink, tints of which sell yogurt, wholesome cereals and probiotics. Use it alone and you’d might as well say “shove off, guys.”

And a single color is important, for real world, not-on-the-web uses. It’s a lot easier to pick a single color, whether it’s t-shirts for a church outing; running orders of service on an old, taxed printer; finding cloth for a banner or what have you.

And the deep coral is beautiful. It’s also distinctive, less gendered and less likely to look bad on a range of human skin tones.

I’m guessing it’s at or near hex f3354f or RGB 243, 53, 79.

Correction: it’s hex cc243a or RGB 238, 46, 90.

And it can be expanded: if you add varying amounts of white, black or gray: scroll down at this page to see options (corrected).

(I’ll update this post when and if the color scheme is formally released.)

A thought. Someone who wants to identify or coordinate with a visual identity plan, but not use the logo (because they have their own, or they just don’t like it) might adopt Futura or a near-enough type and some variant of the coral color. 

On the other hand, it’s not a meaty issue. We’re getting to the harder stuff…

Type and the UUA new identity

Needless to say, I have some feelings about the new UUA branding; if the traffic on Facebook’s a measure, everyone does. Not just the logo, but the branding and what that means for the UUA. But I’ve been busy at work and it seems like one of those affairs that’s better to sleep on, rather than launch into blogging. Victoria Weinstein synthesizes many threads at her Peacebang blog, however, so I won’t retrace those steps, and suggest you read “A New Logo, A New Era.”

And this is a blog that focuses on church practice and administration, so there are some resources that need to be lifted up.

I commented on Cynthia Landrum’s blog, Rev. Cyn, in a post (“An Open Letter to the UUA“) where she praises the initative and points out how hard (but essential) web development is for non-pros. She ask for nuts-and-bolts helps. I replied to the typeface part:

…I couldn’t help but notice your quandry about the very attractive Scala Sans. Very attractive and very expensive.

You can buy it here:

But splash out for the $509 set? I’d think not.

Open Sans, a liberally licensed (free to use) and free of charge typeface, is available for print and web, is attractive and (to my mind) close enough.

For your computer: choose the varieties your want here, and press the small down arrow button to download.


Here’s what that download button looks like. Google Fonts download button

In a follow-up comment, Cynthia Landrum asked what the font associated with the new UUA logo.

It looks like Futura, nicely spaced. Perhaps a close variant. (I know some people think Futura is cliche or passe; I am not one of them.) But I do think it gets oppressive in running text, so I wouldn’t bet on setting an order of service in it.

A professionally supplied version is much less expensive, but I’ll scout around for free-but-good-enough: we’re unlikely to use all the features a designer would anyway. And particularly a web font. If I see the new (or old) logo with Arial, I’ll probably scream.

This is where I should point out that I recently blogged about a really good typographical resource: a place for non-pros to learn the basics quickly, and to use ordinary word processing software and a reformed design sense to make better, more usable print and web documents. Do yourself a favor: get a warm drink and read this introductory part: “Typography in ten minutes.”

An old order of service at the old church

A little Google-noodling lead me to this order of service from Universalist National Memorial Church in 1939. Yes, the service is on one leaf — very different than the norm (in most any church) today. Indeed,

  • an outline pasted in the hymnal
  • hymns and readings on the hynmboards, and
  • announcements from the lectern would produce a similar outcome.

The difference is what the congregants then expected to receive, which is (I suspect) why today’s order of service idiom is essentially the same, bun only more elaborated. Add color, pictures, the full content of hymns today, say, … but is the printed bulletin any more useful or helpful to newcomers, who surely rely on it more than the old hands.

Community Wayside Pulpit recap

Following up on the Community Wayside Pulpit thought — and the Twitter-ed news that it lives in Britain — I thought I’d start with some background from the Unitarian Universalist Association. Some history, the old sayings and the most recent (but not the newest thing…) series of posters as PDFs for printing locally.

Read these first before we consider what comes next.

Those Orthodox books: an unlikely feature

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about two books I got from the British Orthodox Church. But not from Britain.

That church uses Lulu to publish and fulfill their book orders; it’s a leading print-on-demand service. No back stock to get dusty, volunteer time stuck in mailing books and — as a nice side effect — your books may be made closer to the reader. (Mine were made and shipped within the United States.) They were inexpensive (presumably the British Orthodox Church wasn’t making a profit on these) and the quality of manufacture is good.  (The typesetting wasn’t good, but traditional printing doesn’t fix that.)

The only downside — such as it is — is that it makes booktable sales less practical. But given what a resource hole that is, even in the age before e-book readers, I can’t say I’m sorry.

Type matters

This recent blog post from the New York Times spells out how some typefaces (particularly Comic Sans) make facts seem suspect while others (Baskerville is the winner of a small selection) inspire confidence. Baskerville isn’t my favorite — if you need a open-licensed version, see here — but it speaks well that every church should try to put its best (type)face forward when it wants to be seen as compelling and truthful.

First thoughts about the Union Prayer Book, Sinai Edition Revised

It’s hard to judge this book. I’m not Jewish. I’m not accustomed to flow and customary options within the services. The work comes from a small organization. I expect I will be inspired by it and find several prayers or ideas for prayers when I become more accustomed to the text.

So just two observations now.

First, interleaf photos of historic Classic Reform synagogues gives the prayer book a historic feeling, and can’t afford to be seen as a relic. Coming from parallel movement within liberal Protestantism, I know it is a reputation to be overcome.

Second, I wish it were more attractive. Book design is a tricky art, and would be costly. But there is something too plain about this service book. It was dropshipped to me from GIA, a hymnal publisher. I’ve never found GIAs work to be terribly pretty. (They published the hymnal of NACCC, which I wrote about sometime back.) But following the publication last year of New American Haggadah, (NPR) a notable work of liturgy, scholarship and art, so pedestrian a publication of a long-lasting prayer book seems like quite a waste.

And a cautionary tale for Unitarian Universalists.

ObscuraCam to help build church web sites

ObscuraCam is a phone app for Android to help citizen-journalists obscure faces in crowd photographs and videos, say, in undemocratic societies.

It might be helpful in building your church’s website. You can use it to hide the faces of minors and other vulnerable persons, should your church’s policies require or recommend it.

Two examples:


Your blogger, anonymized.


Your blogger, who doesn’t want his book choices known. (It isn’t perfect.)