Monday, January 21, 2008


I've had an obsession since...always. Even before I really understood what made a design good..back when I actually found it was still just this push to make things right, whatever that meant.
My friends found this irritating, especially if I criticized a professional artist, as I frequently did.
"You couldn't draw it better, Melody."
"Yes I could. I will."
And I'd be obsessed with figuring out how to make it better, for however long that took.

Then I got older and I noticed that the more expensive a product was the better designed the advertisements and the packages were. It really didn't take me long to notice that the things associated with church had a dime store quality about them. Sunday school pamphlets had cheap illustrations, bulletins are lucky to have correct spelling and punctuation - forget about being well typeset, posters with bible verses or little morals almost always featured children dressed about 10 years out of style. It really distressed me.

And then a friend invited me to Acquire the Fire (ATF) and I was blown away by it's inherent coolness. They designed cool t-shirts and hats without ripping off major ad campaigns. The people in photographs were dressed as if they'd walked out of a Delia's catalog. Maybe they had. So I was comforted that being a Christian didn't have to mean being an aesthetically challenged loser.

Fast forward ten years. My boss burst out laughing today because he saw I'd labeled a gradient fading from army green to eggplant purple as "nightmare". A church was doing a poll and was very specific on what the colors and font should be. The end result was that I could do nothing to save it. And this, combined with their poor wording, means that few people will notice their poll (which is designed to gauge the needs of the community), much less take the time to answer it.
The people who do will not be the unchurched community they desire to reach If they're like most churches they're looking at that disenfranchised 18-34 year old crowd. The people who answer will be seniors who appreciate the effort, but already have a home church.
I wanted to call the number and beg them to let me redesign it.

Now, I'm not 14 any more and I have mixed feelings on advertisements and the church. A snazzy design does not mean that a church has good theology. It doesn't make them love God more.

On the other hand, good design is not about being snazzy. It's about saying what you need to say clearly. That's why typesetting is important. If you make it hard or painful to read no one will read it. Your message doesn't get out. Design is, essentially, getting your message out as best you can. If your design is bad, the message is lost.

The church isn't about being cool. It isn't about the latest styles or colors. I know. But it does have a message. Shouldn't it be clear?


Emily said...

Interesting. Good points.

Robin Marie said...

That's the thing. People are attracted to things that are "cool" and "popular." People are attracted to things that look nice. Whether they're looking for someone to date or considering picking up a magazine

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