This is the first article in a series on Design Basics—helping churches think about the skills of design, not just the tools and tricks. Today we’re going to start right at the beginning look at what design actually is.
In churches ‘design’ can often be taken to be ‘making things pretty’, but there is so much more to it than that. If you start to consider design something integral to they way your church communicates (with both existing members, and potential visitors) it can be a really useful tool.
Design is about making something easy to use, or easy to understand
In a nutshell—this is exactly what design is. That definition is from a great article from a designer who had to explain his job to a class of four year-olds—and it hits the nail on the head.
He goes on to talk specifically about graphic design (and I think this extends to digital design)—saying ‘I use colors, letters and pictures to help people understand things’.
This is what it boils down to: Graphic Design is using visual elements (like color, letters, shapes, lines & pictures) to make things easier to understand.
Design is Communication
If Design is about making things easier easier to understand—that means it is an effort to communicate something.
Design starts with a message.
It might be how to use a piece of machinery. It might be about setting expectations for a new book or movie. Or it might be about showing a community that your church is a friendly, welcoming place where they will feel loved.
The success of a design can be measured in how well it communicates its message.
Sometimes this is done purely through the words in the design. But it is also done through the way the design looks, how it feels, the emotions it conveys.
Design is Emotional
Design has the ability to take raw information (the message) and give it emotion. This changes the entire way that the information is perceived by the viewer. This brings great power (and responsibility).
Through design, we can convey whether a message is fun, serious, scary or inspiring. We can bring deeper meaning to the message by supporting the raw information with a sensitive hand. Or we can obliterate the message by being distracting, or discordant with the information.
Design is Science!
Notice I haven’t said that design is ‘creative’ yet? To be sure—it is. But there is more too it than that.
Design is also a very ordered, documented and scientific craft. It draws on art, geometry and psychology—and uses them to communicate. This is why design is not something limited to the ‘creatives’—it is something you can learn. It is something you can practice.
These are many of the things we will continue to look at in this series.
Things like color theory—which helps you to convey mood and emotion purely by the colors used. Gestalt Principles—which look at how the brain interprets different shapes and how we can use that to bring order to chaos. Design (and Art) History allow you to draw on the emotion and meaning tied up in cultural movements—and use them in your designs.
This are all things you can learn, study, practice and master—and I hope they will make the design work you do for your church or ministry much more effective.