When I was in high school, everyone in my youth group, without exception, was a Hillsong United fanatic. Come to any of our Friday night youth gatherings and you’d be challenged to find us singing anything that wasn’t connected to Hillsong in some way.

At the time, my youth pastor held the odd belief that Hillsong was always at least “two years ahead of church trends.” I’m not entirely sure why he thought this. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that they were located in urban Australia and we were in rural Canada. Urbanites trump yokels or something. Nevertheless, the notion that Hillsong is always ‘biennially trendier’ has stuck with me into adulthood.

That may be partly why I have a keen interest in creating art (graphics, in this instance) with a long shelf life. And what better way to future-proof my graphics than to check in with those prescient Aussies? Take a look at United’s most recent album cover for their upcoming record ‘EMPIRES’.

empires-album-cover
Hillsong United’s album cover for their upcoming album ‘EMPIRES.’

What do I see here? Black and white. Flat design. The utmost in simplicity.

As I write this, though, handwritten scripts are the leading-edge font trend. Handwritten typefaces are one of the main design styles of 2015. Proof? Just take a look at the image below: Bethel Church, Church on the Move, and Saddleback Church. All the big names are represented.

Church on the Move (Left). Saddleback Church (Right). Bethel Church (Bottom).
Church on the Move (Left). Saddleback Church (Right). Bethel Church (Bottom).

Of course, Hillsong wouldn’t be using handwritten scripts now, right? By my calculation, they would have recognized the future impact of handwritten scripts back in 2013.

Hillsong released ‘Glorious Ruins’ in 2013. And to the shock of no one reading this article, here’s the album cover…

Hillsong's album cover for Glorious Ruins released in 2013.
Hillsong’s album cover for Glorious Ruins released in 2013.

Perhaps my youth pastor was on to something… Let’s follow this rabbit hole just a little deeper. Below is a compilation of a dozen Hillsong United album covers from the last 15 years or so.

Hillsong United album covers over the last 15 years that all carry a single commonality.Hillsong United album covers over the last 15 years that all carry a single commonality.

Do you see any commonality between these graphics? Neither do I.

To be completely honest, it was my hope that examining multiple Hillsong album covers would allow me to reverse-engineer their future-proofing process.

I was expecting to find the secret ingredient Hillsong uses that keeps them ahead of the curve. But I can’t find anything. There’s no perceivable pattern in these graphics.

Except for one thing.

Do you see it?

It took me a while to grasp. But, yes, there is a feature that each of these album covers share. It’s the Hillsong United branding. Regardless of the design trends at the time, the Hillsong United logo is always front and center.

Maybe Hillsong really does have a keen eye for seeing design trends ahead of their time, but the point of this article is future-proofing your own church’s graphics. And as far as I can tell, there’s no recipe for creating graphics that will be forever trendy. Very few pieces of design transcend time.

Very few pieces of design transcend time.

Even if you were always two years ahead of the game like Hillsong, your graphics would still eventually look outdated. Handwritten scripts are popular today, but time will pass and they will go the way of beveled fonts and textured backgrounds.

If you really want to future-proof your graphics, take a cue from Hillsong and make your graphics take a backseat to your logo and branding.

Make your graphics take a backseat to your logo and branding.

Design trends will come and go, but your logo and branding will persist year after year.

Moreover, while handwritten scripts are trendy today, what do they stand for? By themselves, not much. But your church’s brand and logo represent your church’s unique story and history. They also represent your church’s future.

Truthfully, even if you can find a design trend that transcends time, it won’t mean much if it isn’t coupled with the power of your meaningful brand.

That being said, if you want to peek into the future, just look to see what Hillsong is up to. It seems we’ll all be wearing hats like Joel Houston (middle) in 2017.

d010c7171673de6a02ca105696bf88d8.1000x667x1A Hillsong United photoshoot for their upcoming album ‘EMPIRES’.