7 Design Lessons From My First Years in Church Communication

7 Design Lessons From My First Years in Church Communication

September 9, 2013 by

There’s a lot to learn about graphic design, but here are seven lessons I learned in my first years as a church communicator:

1. Form and Content
The most memorable and effective messages almost always have the right blend of form and content, regardless of the medium. Every design has a message (content)—either literal or symbolic. Everything about the appearance of the design (form) should help reinforce the message. For example, you wouldn’t design an apple in purple right? Unless using that particular color would help you reinforce a specific message. Communicate with purpose, don’t just make eye candy.

2. Define Your Audience
Who are you speaking to and what is the objective? Having the message and its intended audience sorted out before you start designing will help you communicate more effectively and save you from creating tons of unpublished work. Graphic design is simply a plan that visually articulates a message, and it starts with developing a solid understanding of what speaks to your audience. Defining your audience will help you stand out from the noise.

3. Repetition, Repetition, Repetition
You want your message to stick. Chances of that happening are greatly increased by repeating the message. Again. And again. And again.

4. Failure Is Always an Option
I hate to break it to you, but not all designs will hit home. Failure is always an option. And all you can do is pick yourself up, dust yourself off and fail all over again. In fact, I encourage you to fail often, but learn something from each failure your make.

5. Experiment Often
Get out of your comfort zone and experiment with a new style you’ve never tried before. It’s so easy to become victim of the predator of routine. Force yourself to take chances with color, form and style. Perhaps you can use a different technique or medium to create something new. Being unfamiliar and uncomfortable can lead to creative break through. Even if nothing turns out like a masterpiece at first, you might find yourself learning new techniques.

6. Tell a Good Story
Effective branding and design tell a good story quickly. Sometimes it’s a single image or just 30 seconds. In writing it’s often the first few paragraphs that determine whether people will read it or not—the same is true with visual stories. Good stories are more than just empty words. Good design is more than just pretty pictures. Visual storytelling explores ideas, feelings and experiences on a deeper level. It should resonate with your audience but drive home the message in a clear and concise fashion. Pair your design with content and an overarching story to keep people engaged.

7. Break The Rules
Now that you’ve read all the rules, feel free to break them. Make something happen. Create outside box. Have fun!

Learn More

  • Get more communication lessons for beginners in our Getting Started interview with Denisse.
  • Starting out and need more help? The Certification Lab is coming to Nashville in October. This two-day training event includes six months of virtual mentoring and is designed for those new to church communication.
Photo by Luz Adriana Villa A.
Post By:

Denisse Leon

Denisse Leon gets to do what she loves as the design manager of Phoenix First. When she is not learning something new or involved in new creative endeavors you can find her on Twitter @DenisseLeon.
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4 Responses to “7 Design Lessons From My First Years in Church Communication”

  • Dave Shrein
    September 9, 2013

    Denisse, great points and each of them is practical. On your point of repeating your message…

    We have increased subscribers, followers, participants, etc. when we make only one ask for a specific period of time. When we only ask church members to respond to one thing over and over we get a much better response than if we ask for 10 things over and over. One is focused on quality and quantity, the other is just focused on quantity.

    Thanks for posting!

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    • Denisse Leon
      September 9, 2013

      Thanks Dave! Yes, I really love how you put it, that’s totally a tweet: “One is focused on quality and quantity, the other is just focused on quantity.”

      It’s so easy to get caught up on trying to advertise ‘everything’ – but when we do that we basically end up not saying ‘anything’. Repeating things over and over will only work by being selective about what we are communicating — “the most important” message; otherwise, it will just become noise…

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      • Dave Shrein
        September 9, 2013


        One final thought… the second you become exhausted of telling people about the mission, vision, big idea, call to action… whatever it is… that is the second that people are just beginning to hear it for the first time. NEVER TIRE of bring people into the story of your community.

        Thanks again for the article Denisse.

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  • Steven Fogg
    September 10, 2013

    Great to hear your thoughts Denisse!

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