A rather interesting article popped up over at Design Observer about the now "controversial" Cordoba Initiative. The logo as you can see below is a Moorish star made up of peace signs. It did everything it could to incorporate the ideas of the melding of different cultures and peace and togetherness and thinking of the future. Everything.
And yet more people than not, according to the polls that get trotted out, don't seem to care about the stated mission of the Cordoba Initiative. They don't care that right in their logo is eight (!) peace signs. The logo is not enough. They don't see a melding of culture they see a clash.
Obviously there larger issues at stake, there are some rather powerful voices making their opinions heard and there are some relevant and irrelevant variables throwing wrenches (and screwdrivers and chainsaws) in the mix here. But this is perhaps the most gloriously extreme example of what design cannot do for clients (for- or non-profit). It cannot overcome certain things, whether that's lack of delivery on the clients part and occasionally the tsunami of public opinion. Not even if it's clever and obvious.
Here's hoping clear heads prevail and cultural gaps can be bridged. But that's the work of people, not design.