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Good Design Follows Rules

Basic Rules of Design to Transform Church Communications

The Protestant Reformation started in 1517, and 17 years later, Martin Luther had completed the translation of the Old Testament and New Testament into German. This was not only a monumental task, but a work of magnificent design.

One of the uniques characteristics of the Luther Bible was the use of illustrations. There were numerous woodcuts that were integrated into the 1534 edition that illustrated Biblical stories and highlight the Theology of the Reformation.

Luther Bible with woodcut illustrations (1517)

Reformation of Theology Through Design

The Reformation was more effective because of Luthers focused use of good design. By being highly intentional on the way his writings looked, the way they were printed, the illustrations used, Luther’s message of the Reformation spread.

One of the challenges facing churches today is the use of design in communicating the Gospel. There is power in a well designed graphic or a well selected font. The use of design has the ability to capture attention and engage an audience. Good design communicates.

Bad design minimizes the importance and value of the message. When we put little effort in following basic design principles, we communicate that the message is not worth reading. Bad design confuses.

Good Design is Good Communication

Our pastors spend hours preparing a sermon each week. They stand in the pulpit and preach with passion. They want the audience to respond to the message of the hope of the Gospel.

But if we do not put the same level of passion in the design of the graphics for the screens or the layout of the Bulletin, we introduce a distraction. If we do not raise the standard of design for our digital or social media platforms, we risk losing the ability to get the message of the Gospel in front of the lost.

Ability to Reach

In 2015, Adobe released a study on the state of content and consumption. The findings suggest that users are becoming more intentional on what they read or watch through their devices.

As the standard’s of content consumers rise, the need for content creators to be highly intentional on design is building. Content must be well designed and easy to access or you will lose your ability to get the Gospel in front of your audience.

Responders indicated that if they are going to read or watch content on their device, it must be beautifully designed.

Basic Rules of Design

In order to help churches better communicate using beautiful design, here are 4 basic rules. The basics are intended to help us move from simple and plain to something beautiful that communicates well.

Visual Heirarchy

Users should not have to think about what to look at in order to understand what is important. Your hierarchy should lead the ready or user naturally from what is most important to the least important. There should be visual clues that guide the user along the way. The aim of a visual hierarchy is to remove distractions.

It should begin with a dominant, engaging, and potent image. The graphics, images, or text should be the anchor that pulls the user into the content.

The second layer should be text that tells the user what is trying to be communicated. We should strive to be clear and obvious. We in church design tend the feel the need to be clever or cute with our copy. This usually fails because it does not clearly communicate.

There should be a layer that has a call to action. What is the goal of the design? What do you want the user to do when they look and read what you have put in front of them? Should they call, click, visit? Have clear visual clues for the user.

Make it easy with a visual hierarchy that moves the user through the piece with a clear path to action.

Embrace the Whitespace

One way we end up with bad design is by not paying attention to whitespace. The margins and padding around our images and text matter. They give our design room to breathe.

Space allows our eyes to move around and take in the information. It draws attention to elements and brings focus. Space removes clutter and distractions making our communication more compelling and engaging.

I try to keep removing elements until the design seems to fall apart, then we edit back to hold the structure. If you are not sure, walk away from the piece for a day. When you revisit, what is the thing that draws your eye? Is it the most important part of the design? If not, your spacing may be causing design problems.

Font Families

Font selection really matters to good design. Fonts have personality and character and they are the carriers of your content. When you create the copy for a blog, design, or illustration, it is the role of the font to visually communicate the message. Give thought to the fonts you select.

In general, stick to no more than 2 or 3 three fonts in a given design. You can streamline this even more by selecting fonts from a single family. Font families allow you to use serif and sans-serif fonts that compliment one another. They are going to have characteristics that complement one another, providing continuity to the design.

Develop A Standard

As you build your church brand and image in the community, you want to make sure you have consistency in your presentation. As your team of staff or volunteers grows, you want everyone to know the guidelines so there is a clear communication coming from the creative team.

You should develop guidelines that cover your logo usage, color palette, and font choice for all design projects. A simple tool to help is the Canva Brand Kit. It is a free resource that helps your church develop clear branding standards.

Design Matters

For the church to be able to communicate the power and hope of the Gospel to a world that is highly visual, we need to be focused on compelling design.

Design matters.

The message of the Gospel is compelling. The Gospel has the ability to transform a life. We work hard at sharing the Gospel and telling others of the good news in Jesus.

The church needs to elevate the use of design in how we communicate the Gospel.