5 Tools Church Designers Need: Determination

March 29, 2010 by

This is part three in a six-part series exploring the tools graphic designers who work for churches need to succeed. You can go back and start with part one.

Your research is done. You have all the keywords, all the content and criteria. You’ve sketched and browsed, you’ve poured through magazines and books and scrapped dozens of ideas, but finally you feel you have some solid concepts and it’s time to show them to your team leader. You confidently present your idea which you feel fully communicates the message with originality, creativity and impact. There’s a long silence. Some head nods. A few notes scribbled into a notebook. Then you get the feedback that every designer dreads, the not-really-feedback feedback:

  • “I don’t like it, start over and use something that we’re used to.”
  • “That’s not at all what I was thinking, I don’t know what I was thinking about specifically, but that certainly isn’t it.”
  • “It doesn’t speak to me, I don’t feel anything for it, I don’t connect with it like say, I connect with those Hallmark commercials or Thomas Kinkade. Now that guy is good. Could you do something like what he does?”
  • “It’s missing something, I don’t know what, but why don’t you keep trying and I’ll let you know if it’s what we want.”
  • “Can we make it more grungy looking, you know what MTV would do, or what (fill the in the blank of the mega-church you’re attempting to mimic) does.”

Cue the sad Charlie Brown theme and you shuffle back to your desk. Dejected, confused and angry; but mostly confused.

All ideas–whether they’re new, uncommon and unexpected, or simple, obvious and cliched–will encounter some sort of resistance and questions. This isn’t a bad thing, but happens frequently (and by frequently I mean 9 times out of 10, which we’ll talk it more in-depth in the “Communication” section), and not all is lost. You can still resolve the situation and develop a great concept (and more than likely pursue those you’ve already developed) as long as you’re determined to fight for your ideas.

Now is the time to use this opportunity to learn how to deal with conflict. Conflict should not be negative but should be determined to come to a mutually beneficial conclusion. Being a part of a team requires collaboration and a certain amount of give and take and push and pull. The process of resolving conflicting opinions can help bring about a better solution through mutual cooperation.

Your client (and I say “client” because you should treat your team leader or boss or pastor–whoever has final say in what you’re doing–as a client, because you are working in their best interest, based on the criteria given to develop a design for them like any client if you worked in a design agency) is not your enemy, though at times it might feel that way, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have to battle. The key is knowing when to fight and when to surrender. Determination isn’t about fighting for any solution, rather fighting for the correct solution.

Design, by definition, seeks to find the visual solution to a certain set of problems. Your determination to create an appropriate design can help to resolve any given problem you encounter (whether a brochure or book or billboard) with a direct and definitive result. Determination is the action that brings about a successful design solution.

Determination doesn’t settle for the first concept, or second or even third, but it pushes back against the obvious and the easy. Chances are that your first thoughts are the exact same thoughts and solutions that have been executed a thousand times before–often better. Determination fights for a worthy idea, fights mediocrity and safety for the challenge of doing something new and unique. And while nothing is truly original, the desire to go beyond the expected always yields a lasting and impacting result.

Never operate under fear in your design duties; if it is truly your “job” to be the designer, then it’s truly your job to present and fight for concepts. If you’re unwilling to say “no” and stand firm for fear of confrontation or even losing your job, then you will constantly be living with frustration. You will inevitably be asked to create something that is imitative, unoriginal and without impact or meaning in an unrealistic time frame.

Value yourself and what you do, find that confidence and determination and your ideas and concepts will be heard, and perhaps even embraced.

Post By:

Paul Armstrong


Paul Armstrong is a photographer, a designer, a husband, a father, a writer, a reader, a wandered, a daydreamer, a procrastinator, a stone thrower, a collaborator, a consumer, a follower and seeker. Paul has over 15 years of experience in the graphic design, web development and programming; 9 of which have been operating his own studio, Wiseacre Design.
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3 Responses to “5 Tools Church Designers Need: Determination”

  • Sauder Worship
    March 29, 2010

    You are the expert, try to communicate reasoning for design with attention to user functionality to help convince your client of certain concepts. It never hurts to try to explain!


  • Brian
    March 30, 2010

    Good info all the way around, I would have liked to see a little more depth in how to handle the conflict that is due to arise when opposing wills come into contact. Maybe for a future post.


  • Paul
    March 30, 2010

    @Brian each one of these could become chapters in a book (that I might just have to write). The many scenarios of conflict don’t have a distinct resolution solution — there are so many factors; but ultimately, and often frustratingly, you are always subjugated to the final will of your leader (whether that be an art director or pastor).



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