No one can decide whether or not a church needs a graphic designer until the church knows what they want to say. Graphic design attempts to solve communication problems, and good graphic design provides an effective voice for anyone who has something to say. If the church has something to say and wants to be heard and no one is listening, they need a good graphic designer. However, if all communication within the church seems to be producing the desired results, the church may be speaking fine without professional design. All churches, though, should be aware of the purpose and use of good design and of the changing forms of communication in the world because there may come a time when they face a problem that can only be solved with good design.
Not all churches need to hire professional designers. Some churches exist in small communities where word-of-mouth and simple printed bulletins communicate effectively. If the church doesn’t aspire to reach out to anyone else or communicate differently, they don’t really need a professional designer. They may benefit from hiring a designer one time to design a strong logo that gives them identity and something to put on the sign out front, but after that, they may be fine with letter-sized bulletins set in Times New Roman and fliers printed on colored paper tacked on a board by the door. After all, the church may only desire to prove their faith to the world, and actions are the most effective way to do this. However, if the church wants to do more than live out their faith and reach people who don’t know of their existence and purposes, they need good design.
The church that desires to have a voice and be heard in the world absolutely needs a professional graphic designer, whether they hire someone new for every project or keep one designer on staff. Some churches are simply too large for the whole congregation to be adequately informed without the work of a professional designer. In addition, a church in a city that wants the community to know they exist as a place of worship or mission outreach needs to speak loudly and be understood correctly. They need to have a descriptive and memorable visual identity and advertising that is eye-catching, clear, and compelling. If the church wants to reach across the globe to, say, an orphanage in Guatemala, they face the problem of rallying support, awareness, and supplies before such a mission is possible, and good graphic design is the solution to that problem. People won’t hear, understand, or respond to such a call if it is not presented in the right way, and only a professional graphic designer knows that way.
Many people are ignorant to the importance of good design because good design should be transparent in such a way that the viewer only sees the message. People respond to good design exactly the way the designers intend–by understanding what is being communicated–and are blind to the fact that their understanding is the result of a professional’s expertise. Therefore, many church leaders may see their need for stronger communication, but they don’t know that professional graphic design is the only way to meet that need. Without understanding the art, they think graphic design is something they can handle on their own, only to become puzzled when they do not receive the desired response from people inside and outside of the church who are the victims of their attempt at a visual message. It’s not usually the message that’s the problem–it’s the way the message was presented.
A church that has something to say needs to hire a professional graphic designer that can effectively communicate the message. This person is not necessarily the person in the congregation who likes art projects or computers–this is someone who has practiced the craft of design and respects the church. The designer does not need to be a Christian to effectively deliver a Christian message–they do not even have to know or understand Christianity. As long as the designer respects the church and is good at what they do, they will learn what they need to know and work with church leaders to create a beautiful and appropriate message. The church will speak more effectively when they hire a professional instead of calling on the pastor’s daughter as a volunteer. If they put in the appropriate time to network and research and find a good designer, the money they put into the project will be worth it in the long run. If they are concerned about hiring and working with someone who does not share their faith, they should only consider what effective witnessing it would be to hire a non-believer to take on a Christian mindset.
Religious affiliation does not affect the quality of design, but practice does. In addition, excellent design glorifies God and participates in the redemption of creation simply because it is excellent. Christian graphic designers should strive for this excellence. Churches should also strive for this excellence and hire a professional graphic designer if they need one. The right computer programs and printers are not enough to make communication effective, because those are simply tools that only make a difference when they are put in the hands of someone who knows how to make information beautiful. Christians should proclaim their faith to the world through their actions, but good design makes information about the church clear and enjoyable. Today’s church leaders are capable of becoming educated enough to recognize the need for graphic designers.
Overall, today’s churches need to do two things: know what they want to say and understand their problems. They must find effective and professional solutions to each of their problems, whether their latest need is a new youth room or a new plumbing system or a new website, instead of always just calling on Christian volunteers. In addition, church staff needs to be constantly aware of the way new forms of communication are unfolding around them and the possibility of a problem with communication. They should observe and learn from businesses that obtain desired support from people, and should be aware of the fact that graphic design solves problems for those businesses.
Churches must make educated decisions about how to solve their problems. They may not have a communication problem, and that’s okay. However, churches cannot brush graphic design aside like it’s unimportant. A professional graphic designer could be your church’s greatest need.