One of the unstated rules in the church world when creating visual communication pieces–especially when visuals call for pictures of people–is to make sure everything looks diverse. Regardless of whether or not the church has an ounce of diversity in it, it’s important to make sure every photograph has at least one black, Asian, white and Hispanic person, plus a child, teen, parent and senior. If you can include a good mix of male and female even better. A family dog is also a plus, but only if it’s not obvious which person in the photo it belongs too, lest the dog itself become a racial issue.
About 15 years ago, when I was getting my start in the publishing/marketing world, design software–and the hardware to run it–was becoming more and more affordable for the average Joe. This was especially the case for people like me who didn’t have a clue what they were doing but saw some sort of future in it.
As is often the case when someone is learning a new skill or talent, churches tend to benefit from the novice and naiveté of unfocused passion (“Look Pastor, I have Photoshop!”) and burgeoning need (“Photoshop?! You can make us look big!”).
This perfect storm of wannabe designers and churches who thought design was the answer to their problems created the ideal circumstance for cheesy all-inclusive diversity photos. I lost count of all the direct mail postcards and websites from churches who used the same stock photo library.
Although the intent behind communicating diversity is appreciated, diversity is a much more complex issue than mere visual communication. I think it starts before we ever engage the graphic designer.
For me, diversity comes in three primary categories (no particular order):
These three filters are how I try to process through the decisions I make, the teams I build, the events I produce and projects I get behind. Because everything communicates, it’s important that diversity is a part of everything we do, not just everything we show.
I realize this filter doesn’t work perfectly in all contexts. Some parts of the country (and world) are more homogenous than others. Some cities are known for their lack of diversity.
This filter is not meant to result in the perfect photo, but hopefully, if diversity is embedded into the fabric of our decisions, it will naturally be reflected in the outflow of our communication.