the baby and the bathwater

Why is so much Christian design rubbish?
February 11, 2009, 1:34 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Now of course I am setting my self up for a fall here, because I like to think of myself as a designer. I do most of our design now as a church, and one of my stock phrases is ‘I am a design genius’ which I normally say in a very loud voice in our open plan office at church to anyone who will listen.

Of course, outside of my own head, I am not a design genius at all. But I am a big fan of great design. And that’s why I get so disappointed that churches are so bad at it. We spend huge amounts of effort into our programs and our teaching and our preaching, which maybe be full of truth and life, but we wrap it up in a package that says ‘cheesy’ and ‘irrelevant’. In fact so much of it, in my opinion, is so bad that we may as well put a big ‘no entry’ sign up.

For most designers, the main problem is always the content and the message you are presenting. There is an incredible amount of great design out there which is trying to sell bad products or convey feeble messages. The design world does this extremely well. So people end up buying loads of things they don’t need, going places they don’t like, and believing in things that are full of empty promises.

In fact, one of the best, most creative designs and messaging I have seen recently was the ‘there’s probably no god’ advertising by the Dawkins brigade. This just sums it up: a fantastic design which advertises, by definition, nothing.

In comparison, most Christian design seems to be able to do the opposite – take a vibrant, creative, life changing message and wrap it up in feeble, wet packaging.

In case you are not aware what constitutes bad Christian design,  here is a check list. If your design has any of these things, dump it.

waves crashing against the shore; sun rises and sun sets; anything with a dove on it, especially if the word ‘peace’ appears at the same time; any magazine printed on that slightly glossy, thin A4 paper; anything with a red heart on it; anything with two people sitting in front of a tent on camping chairs and smiling; any word with a ‘t’ in it shaped to look like a cross; fruits, lamp bulbs and rocks; any type of road winding off into the distance; most mountains hills and rivers; anything with a comic sans font; one of those close ups of a drop of water splashing into a pool of water.

I think that the reason that most Christian design is so bad is probably a mixture of:

Christians reading too many Christian magazines; not having enough young people in church who understand current trends; always saying ‘it costs too much’; trying to design on a PC not a mac; too worried about upsetting people; tending to label ‘creative people’ as ‘away-with-the-fairies’ people; never taking risks; insecure pastors who think that good design will upstage their preaching; leaderships not knowing who they are trying to reach; an inherent suspicion in the middle-age generation of anything that attracts the attention of our children;

All these things contribute, but underneath it all there is normally an attitude problem whereby creativity, if it is recognised at all, is seen as the acceptable face of a business model. Whereas in my mind, the business of church life should be built around a creative heartbeat, inspired by the Creator Himself.

Come on church, let’s get our creative act together.


6 Comments so far
Leave a comment

I love it….!!!!!

Comment by Andy

So, you need another Mac then, preferably one of those nice new unibody Macbook Pros!

Comment by Chris

this ( is worth a glance over . . . .

I agree with you!

Comment by Nae

already got one!

Comment by neilbennetts

nice to see you are back in the blogging world.
got bored with facebook yet?

Comment by neilbennetts

Facebook is purely a communication tool for me Bennetts LOL. So you going to start posting some of your fancy designs oh design genius?

Comment by Nae

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