This is part one in a six-part series exploring the tools graphic designers who work for churches need to succeed.
There you are on a slow Monday morning, a freshly brewed mug of coffee, NPR playing in the background and your fingers dancing on the keyboard, composing the most stunning tweet ever put to screen, when suddenly you’re interrupted.
“OK, we have the most brilliant idea ever and want you to work on the graphics for it right away. Our next series is going to be called ‘Fringe: Following Christ For Outsiders,’ and you’ll use the same look at that TV uses. So get on this, it’s gonna be amazing!”
Whether you work for a church or a corporation as a graphic designer, too often your job is perceived as a service. You are the waiter, the maid and the mailman; and while it’s true that you are delivering what was ordered, you’re not merely there to make sure that your “customer” is right.
Unfortunately most creative fields carry the misguided perception that the results are limited to personal preference and taste. If someone doesn’t “feel” or “like” a design, that is all that is needed to prove that it’s bad. No where is that more obvious than with the church and other nonprofit organizations where the “creative” standard is safe, common, familiar and obvious. The fear of being too complicated or too fancy (in what is essentially the selling of the story of Jesus to others) will confuse the message, thus using safe visual metaphors and concepts—and sometimes outright stealing them—is seen as a means to “appeal” to the masses in a language already understood.
In their view, it’s your job to cater to that desire. It’s your job to “borrow” the title graphics from that TV show. It’s your job to dispense the clip art that thousands of other churches and organizations have used to communicate the same message (that people have seen over and over to the point that your message becomes meaningless). And it’s your job to do it now.
But that doesn’t have to be the case. You don’t have to be confined to the box of design disaster.
The truth is that the value and perception of your job are determined by you, the designer—regardless if you’re educated, trained, full time, part time or volunteering. You can have all the skills, all the right tools and software, but without confidence, determination, precise communication, solid boundaries and teamwork, a designer is doomed to be at the whim of the dreaded “personal preference,” where your talents, gifts and resources will be devalued and misused. It’s time to make your career a part of the body of the church and not an accessory.
Over the next few weeks I’ll be attempting to break down these five key tools and rules to help increase your perception and value within your church or ministry: