I still remember the moment of panic vividly. I was on a backpacking trip with a youth group. I was their leader. And I had made a horrible mistake. It was night and everyone had settled down in their sleeping bags for a night under the stars. I had wandered away from camp to use the bathroom, but as I quickly found out, I didn?t have a strong enough flashlight to either find where I was heading or where I had come from. The longer I wandered, the more lost I became. I honestly didn?t know if I was 100 yards from camp or 1. And as seconds and minutes ticked by, I was left with one decision. Would I continue to wander helplessly, or would I do the hardest thing any youth leader has to do? Would I risk humiliation and call out for help?
My voice was soft and weak at first, in case I was only a few feet from a sleeping teenager. ?Help.?
A little stronger. ?Help.?
Finally, I put aside my pride and let my voice rip through the darkness. ?Please, someone! Help!?
After a few seconds, I heard voices that seemed to come from all around me. And then?salvation. A bright light in the distance.
You Are a Light
As designers, we have the opportunity to be that light. By removing obstacles from our designs, we can offer people a break from the confusion of life. By making our communication clear, we can be that flashlight in the dark woods that lets people know, ?It?s okay. I see you. You?re not alone.?[quote]By removing obstacles from our designs, we can offer people a break from the confusion of life.[/quote]
As a church designer, it was easy to believe that everyone knew what I knew about the church. I was inundated day in and day out with information about events and schedules and emergency protocols and evacuation routes and sermon series and how to give online and when the church office was open and where to drop my kids off before the service and where the gluten free communion station is and who was leading worship this week and where the pastor went on vacation in 2007 and the list goes on and on. But people don?t know what you know. They know less. A whole lot less.[quote]People don?t know what you know. They know less. A whole lot less.[/quote]
Now that I?m no longer designing for a church, I?m seeing this through a whole new lens. I?m one of the uninformed. I walk in the door of the church building, eyes darting, waiting for someone to tell me what to do next. I?m no longer part of the 1% that?s in the know. I?m part of the 99% that leads messy lives, that barely made it to service on time, that yelled at their children in the car, and are preoccupied about whether we put in the best fantasy football lineup this week.[quote]As an artist in the church, you?re making commercial work.[/quote]
You?re a Commercial Artist
As an artist in the church, you?re making commercial work. You?re doing the same thing designers for Apple or Coke or NBC are doing. You?re trying to evoke a physical response. You might not be selling a product, but you want people to act. You want them to attend an event. Give to a project. Volunteer for a ministry. Invite a friend. But unless that is easy and clear to do, you won?t be successful. There must be clarity of purpose, and it?s up to you to decide how to best depict that in your designs.
That doesn?t mean there?s no room for depth in your art. Watch a commercial from Apple. They show people using their product. They tell a story. They evoke an emotion. There?s depth there.
Then watch a local heating and air conditioning commercial from any city in America. You know the one. The one with the bad jingle, even worse camera work, and the owner?s children that can?t act. The only thing that commercial convinces me to do is to never call them. There is room for depth, but it must come after clarity.[quote]There is room for depth, but it must come after clarity.[/quote]
Challenge yourself to look at your designs through a new lens. The lens of the uninformed. The lens of the once a month attender. The lens of those that don?t know the lingo. The lens of those that don?t care unless you give them a reason to care. The lens of the confused and busy and chaotic. When you can do that, you?ll begin to see where your designs need to simplify. You?ll begin to see what you really need to communicate through your designs and signs and flyers.
There is a whole group of people who are wandering around, hopelessly lost in the dark. Use your platform and your skills to shed some light. Get them to the nursery in the fewest steps possible. Let them know why they should attend the weekly potluck dinner. Show them how being in a small group is worth the investment of time. Life is messy. Your art shouldn?t be.