Graphic Design and Religion: A Call for Renewal

May 27, 2008 by

Graphic Design and Religion: A Call for Renewal

“Religions must begin to see graphic design not as an expensive luxury or an unnecessary frivolity but as a steward of goodwill. Of course, design with no strategic context or no immediate relevance may be experienced as superfluous or meaningless. But when the best plans are laid and the task at hand involves communicating, graphic design is the medium through which the resulting messages will likely take root.”

I’m going to admit something; I’m not a big fan of Christian non-fiction. So when I heard I was getting a copy of Graphic Design and Religion, I wasn’t that excited. Then it came in the mail. I opened the box, and it was two pounds of pure beauty. I flipped through the pages, and I couldn’t wait to dive in. When I finally got the chance, I wasn’t disappointed.

Author Daniel Kantor takes you from the illumination artwork of the 14th century to the modern-day world of graphic artists. His insight is magnificent, showcasing his design work with religious organizations without ever trumpeting his own knowledge or prowess. He touches everything from branding, desktop publishing and everything in between en route to arguing for the importance of the graphic designer in contemporary religion. And every page of text is accompanied by examples of great work in the theater of graphic design for religions organizations.

For him, design is both an art and a craft, much more than corporate logos and marketing strategy, and religions have the opportunity to claim the skill for the sake of beauty and righteousness. It is the avenue religious organizations must use to help connect individuals with the divine.

He leaves no stone unturned as he provides examples of excellence in design from the 14th century through the 21st century. Each page follows a template based on the golden ratio, and he even explains his choice of a typeface for the book’s copy. He looks at historical ventures into art and beauty from the illuminations of early manuscripts to the reasons for the design of Russian Orthodox churches.

So who would I recommend this for? Anyone. It is perfect to challenge and encourage those friendly to design, and it can open minds of those who are less hospitable to design as an art form. I can’t recommend the book highly enough, and I think if this could get in the hands of everyone who is involved in the design process (or church work in general), the church would see leaps and bounds in the realms of marketing, design and beauty.

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Joshua Cody

Josh Cody served as our associate editor for several years before moving on to bigger things. Like Texas. These days he lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife, and you can find him online or on Twitter when he's not wrestling code.
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8 Responses to “Graphic Design and Religion: A Call for Renewal”

  • Scott Fillmer
    May 27, 2008

    Thanks for the update on that book, hadn’t even seen it yet, I may have to just check it out now, sounds very interesting.

  • Granata
    May 27, 2008

    Wow, that book sounds like it’s up my alley. Thanks for the tip!

  • Carrie
    May 27, 2008

    I tried to find the book so I could buy it today, but it says it’s not being published until September 1, 2008. Do we just need to wait until then? Or are there ways to get advanced copies?

  • Joshua Cody
    May 27, 2008

    @carrie Have you tried the publisher’s site?

  • Carrie
    June 13, 2008

    Just an fyi- I placed my order on May 27th with Amazon and just today (the day after it was supposed to ship) got an email saying they’re still trying to locate the book. The best bet would be to check out the publisher’s site, I think.

  • Scott Lenger
    June 27, 2008

    I skimmed through the book via Google and have the following thoughts:
    1. The text assumes an inter-faith audience but 14 of the 15 visuals available through Google were of a distinctly Western Christian origin. This makes me think one of the approaches is misleading (perhaps this is the result of the books editors?).
    1. From a Christian perspective, I disagree with the language of branding in chapter 2 because it presumes that the Church is required to play by the rules of the market, rather than the other way around. If Christians are going to talk about their “message” I would suggest framing it in the language of discipleship. In the same way I thought his comparison of sacred and secular was rather weak.
    3. Chapters 9 and 10 (mystery and symbol) did look pretty interesting as I agree that those elements are wanting in Christian contemporary art.
    For the aforementioned reasons it’s probably not something I’d buy, but I’ll keep my eyes open for it at the local library.

  • Chad
    September 12, 2008

    Check out Modern art and the Death of Culture by HR Rookmaaker for a bit more intellectual journey through history and art. great book.

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