Seth Godin Says: Learn Some Design!

April 1, 2009 by

All right church marketing professionals, Seth Godin is calling out you and your secular brethren. He makes this argument:

Ten years ago, you had a wide range of excuses for being a lousy visuals person. Starting with no talent, leading to no skill and going from there.

But now, in a world where it is expected that professionals will be able to make beautiful powerpoint slides, handsome business cards, clever bio photos and a decent website, it’s as important as driving. And easier to learn and do, and requiring less talent.

We’ve been talking about this in the Church Marketing Lab, and our own Michael Buckingham argues that Godin gets it wrong.

Initially, I thought that for sure Godin missed the boat here as well. But I think he just suffered from some noise in his communication. His article’s title reads, Why aren’t you (really) good at graphic design?

He has since appended an update to his article, now referring to “pretty good design.” It’s true, there’s no excuse to produce work with Microsoft clipart and Comic Sans. That just screams, “I’m not even trying.”

As Seth mentions, a few hours of reading won’t make you an expert. And design is about much more than having a copy of Photoshop. And it’s about more than typography, templates and sweet slides.

Everything is designed, and a professional designer sees the world this way. Don’t believe me? See John Gruber on designing URLs, A List Apart on designing for details or Dieter Rams’ 10 commandments of good design.

So there’s no excuse for design that sucks, but what about “pretty good design?” Well, that boils down to this question: How good is good enough for your church? And what is “great” worth to you?

Post By:

Joshua Cody

Josh Cody served as our associate editor for several years before moving on to bigger things. Like Texas. These days he lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife, and you can find him online or on Twitter when he's not wrestling code.
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5 Responses to “Seth Godin Says: Learn Some Design!”

  • Michael E
    April 1, 2009

    I don’t think we can ever be willing to say “good enough” for the church? Because ultimately we are designing for the glory of God. And even though we are moving toward perfection, we aren’t there yet. We must design to the best of our ability and then strive to do even better the next time around. As long as we are willing to keep learning, we will keep getting better.

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  • Katie Williams
    April 4, 2009

    I appreciate what Seth is saying because if the professionals in my office could work up some of their own basic materials, then it would free up my time to do great design on the pieces that really need to impact people or require special talent.

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  • Steve D
    April 14, 2009

    Godin starts off with a weak premise, “…business people do copywriting, simple legal and accounting work and more, on their own, every day.” That’s OK if your copyediting the office newsletter, but do you really want the company president (or senior pastor) launching Photoshop, Dreamweaver and Flash to build your next website? I think not.
    We need more people in the business and church worlds who understand and appreciate the POWER of good design.

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  • Matt R
    May 21, 2009

    I agree that we as church leaders ought to be able to learn more ourselves about how to graphic design! I’m experimenting with Indesign and Illustrator.

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  • Kevin Lundgren
    August 6, 2009

    Why am I not really good at playing composing symphonies? Because it takes a special person who has used discipline in combination with their skills and talent along with years of study and practice to become really good at that.

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