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.

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.


  1. Thanks for the information. I actually think the Consistent Identity agenda is one of the most successful things the British General Assembly has done in recent years and it’s one area where I think we Brits were ahead of the UUA on. The British Unitarians’ curved chalice logo is simple, easily replicated and it makes us look modern, friendly and approachable.

  2. So if the UUA were to go in this direction and supply such a web management system, complete with logos and colors, there would be no need for a congregation to re-invent its own particular wheel unless it chose to do so?

  3. I think there was some effort this way early on. The Summit, N.J. church c. 1996 had this online tool where you could create a quite basic site. (The Brooklyn, Conn. church site is the last surviving example I know of, much modified: and it does the job.) The problem is domain management, unless you think is a good idea, because once you’ve gotten and managed a domain, standing up a WordPress installation and a custom church site (even from a standard template) becomes too close a technical option to trade off.

    The correct answer is to provide graphic resources to download, suggested copy, step-by-step directions with some major vendors (including likely costs) and the offer a small amount of free phone consulting. Coordinated district/region level volunteer working groups is probably the right level, since most churches have websites, and those tee-tiny ones that have poor ones are (I suspect) the ones with the hardest feelings about the UUA. (And that’s a different problem.)

    A possible second response is an updating of the Summit experiment with shared hosting and less complicated third and fourth level domains. A less-is-more site is better than some of the atrocities out there.

  4. My church in Stoughton, MA would be a ripe customer for such a regional level, volunteer working group, along with Brockton, North Easton, Canton and perhaps others. God knows, we all need the help. My dear ones are still worried about changing the letters on the sign board out in front of the building. I will be bringing such an idea forward as I meet with other colleagues in the area. Our part of the equation, for example, would be to ask the UUA to supply the kind of help you outline above and then make it work for us.

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