Why Design Matters: Practical Implications for the Church

Why Design Matters: Practical Implications for the Church

September 27, 2017 by

Since this article is for church communicators, I’ll skip the deep dive into the theological foundation and make a few assumptions. (A dangerous thing to do, I know, but let’s go with it.)

  1. We believe God created the world in the beginning, and he created it perfect and whole. When we see his creation, we marvel at the artistry and design. We recognize it, too, much as the psalmist and Paul do. (Psalm 19; Romans 1)
  2. We believe man is God’s image-bearer and therefore reflects qualities of God’s divine nature, albeit besmirched by sin. (Genesis 1:27)
  3. We believe that followers of Jesus are to glorify God with their words and deeds. (1 Peter 2:9)

We good on those three tenets? OK, then onto why design matters for the church.

Design turns chaos into order—a small genesis—and welcomes people into a closer relationship with the creator.

Design Matters Because It Echoes God’s Nature

Dietrich Schmidt, a worship leader at The Austin Stone Community Church, says, “Behind beauty you will rarely find complete randomness and meaninglessness but rather thought, composition, skill, and intention.

“This is the same reason we see beauty in creation. It is not random nor meaningless but designed (emphasis added) by a thoughtful, composing, skillful, and intentional artist.”

When we design our print and digital materials, we reflect the original designer—the one who uniquely equips us with talents and gifts. We join him in the work he has done, is doing, and will do. When we do that, our designs can begin to invite people to wonder at the kindness and majesty of the designer.

Design Matters Because It Makes Order out of Chaos

Making “order out of chaos” not only echoes Genesis (God creates order from nothing.) but also creates works that please the eye. This is no small thing. Our designs either repel or attract people.

If we want to create the latter, we’ve got to return to the principles of design. They set guidelines and boundaries, i.e., order. However, the principles vary by the person asked. An art teacher, for example, will launch into a lengthy speech about elements (point, line, shape, et cetera) and principles (balance, repetition, harmony, etc.).

They’re helpful, but I prefer Canva’s list of 20 principles. It discloses the ones perhaps most relevant to digital design.

Canva’s Principles of Design:

  1. Line
  2. Scale
  3. Color
  4. Repetition
  5. Negative Space
  6. Symmetry
  7. Transparency
  8. Texture
  9. Balance
  10. Hierarchy
  11. Contrast
  12. Framing
  13. Grid
  14. Randomness
  15. Direction
  16. Rules
  17. Movement
  18. Depth
  19. Typography
  20. Composition

I like the list because it gives us something to work against. We look at our designs and ask which principle(s) they use. In other instances, we look at the list and see a principle that could guide website development or an announcement for an upcoming class.

Design Matters Because It Helps People Get Where They’re Going

Design matters, too, because it helps people figure out where to go and what to do. This aspect of design informs not only websites but also buildings. As an example, we use wayfinding materials so that parents can find the nursery and restrooms.

We do something similar with websites, although most people remain unaware of the “magic” behind an intuitive interface. It’s as Neal Fischer says: “Good design is powerful, but great design is invisible.”

We always want to reach that “invisible” design. It rewards us with seamless experiences rather than interruptions, intrusions, or frustrations. In doing so, our designs become ways to welcome people to the church and create an environment conducive to worship and contemplation.

Design Matters Because It Helps Us See Things from a Different Perspective

Lia Purpura, in her meditation On Looking, says, “Cutting can shift a thing—release a space, be a new pattern laid. That clearing a space is like crafting a question.”

To me, her statement gets to the heart of design. Design cuts, not to exclude, but to show something in a new light or pattern. It pulls us out of the humdrum, ordinary days and prompts us to wonder.

And wondering is good. We need moments to think and ponder. Our designs can help people inside and outside the church do that.

Design Matters, a Summation

We could probably spend several hours discussing why design matters for the church. But let’s not. The four reasons outlined above should give us plenty to think about.

I would suggest, though, that we use the four reasons to examine existing designs.

  1. How does this design reflect a quality of God’s nature or communicate truth?
  2. What’s working or not working in this design? What principle does the work need in order to cohere?
  3. Are people able to find information on the website easily? How do people experience the church space on Sundays? What frustrations, online or off, could we solve with better designs?
  4. How could this design help a person to see a foundational truth afresh? As an example, we may be familiar with the concept of man as God’s image-bearer. What sort of designs could we use to cause our eyes to see the idea anew?

Design matters for and in the church because it echoes God’s heart and his creation. When we organize elements on a page or kiosks in the lobby, we turn chaos into order—a small genesis—and find ourselves with materials that welcome and guide people into a closer relationship with the creator. So let us be good designers. Let us not grow weary of the painstaking details because, in due time, God will reward our labor.


Looking for more practical help with design? Our Courageous Storytellers Membership Site has resources to help you up your design game and create more effective materials.

Post By:

Erin Feldman

Erin Feldman is a resident with The Austin Stone Institute at The Austin Stone Community Church. Her role as a resident is varied but includes writing, editing, illustration and design, and event planning. In the next few months, Erin will grow toward more vocal leadership roles, such as teaching and coaching writers, and will begin to work on her first novel. She volunteered with Creative Missions in 2016 and 2017 and serves as an assistant editor for Church Marketing Sucks.
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