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Creating artwork for the purpose of design is more accessible now than ever. We live in a time where a program can literally do a good portion of the design for us. But if we let that happen, we’re short-changing our creativity, our greatest ideas, and ourselves by being content with mediocrity. It’s time to break the mold of simply good enough.

Much of the artwork and design today is labeled as “abstract”. While that is a facet of design, abstract is not a design. A shmancy abstract background with a few words over it rarely constitutes design.[quote]A shmancy abstract background with a few words over it rarely constitutes design.[/quote] Often that’s just art with a message taped to it. It’s too easy to scour the Internet for textures, Photoshop brushes, vector shapes, photos, and grunge fonts, slap them all together on top of each other, and call it “design.” Is that it? Are those our aspirations to create ? merely assembling a plethora of arbitrary things?

We may never appreciate the toiling and effort that has gone into some of our world’s most memorable logos: Apple, IBM, ABC, CBS, NBC, McDonald’s, UPS, The Olympics, Coca-Cola, and many more. They?re all incredibly timeless; all incredibly simple. If there is one thing we can learn from famous logos like the Nike ?Swoosh? or FedEx logo, it is that the logo does not have to be complicated to be effective. They all took the risk of throwing out the good idea in pursuit of the best.

The New Big

Dream bigger, I dare you. Design begs to be pushed to that extra level. Often the next level isn’t more, but less.[quote]Design begs to be pushed to that extra level. Often the next level isn’t more, but less.[/quote]

I can’t help but look back at my work and realize how much more or less I could, should, or would have done but didn’t. I rushed. I said, “This will do.? I convinced myself no one would notice. I was wrong.

We live in a world that wants more ? always. We’re told to want more, pursue more, demand more, and to be discontent with anything less. But we’re still left with an emptiness. We know no matter how much we add to our lives (and our designs) that there is still something missing.

As we create, the thing often missing is simplicity.[quote]As we create, the thing often missing is simplicity.[/quote] Too often we work incredibly hard to make a mediocre idea seem spectacular. We are so eager to get to the design phase that we lunge after the first or second idea that comes to mind and try to make that idea into something it can never be. Unwilling to admit that it’s not a good idea, we try to spice it up by adding extra layers, bevels, drop shadows, texture, more texture, soft light this, and extra cross-process adjustments?? all in the name of hiding the subpar idea.

Realize, I’m not saying to design things that are boring. Nor am I saying that extra detail is unnecessary. Everything has its rightful place. After all, design isn’t meant to say, “Look at me.” It’s meant to say, “Look at this.”[quote]Design isn’t meant to say, “Look at me.” It’s meant to say, “Look at this.”[/quote] Design isn?t about self-glory. It?s about bringing the most attention to the message. Keep the main thing the main thing.

The Extras

Minute detail in design is a tightrope walk. Hardly anyone will notice when you’ve gotten it right, but everyone will notice when you’ve gotten it wrong. Extra detail should never be the focal point. It should always enhance the greater message. It?s better for a detail to merely imply a feeling than to risk stealing the spotlight. Layout, organization, hierarchy, shadows, highlights, noise, color harmony, proportion, and typography all play an important but understated role. It’s easy for us to open an application like Photoshop, see the possibilities, and want to use it all. But the seasoned designer knows what?s possible and carefully selects what complements the message he or she is communicating.

I’m not saying don’t try to push the technology, but technology alone will never make a weak idea strong.[quote]Technology alone will never make a weak idea strong.[/quote]?The extra details, appropriate texture, consistent lighting, and form all create the theater of discovery in your design. It reveals more to your viewer in an extended or second look. Offering that delight is a beautiful, additional way to point toward your message. But if it?s done incorrectly, inaccurately, or inconsistently it runs the risk of being an unforgivable distraction. It just becomes extra.


There?s little worse than realizing you’ve made something incredibly complex trying to enhance a mediocre idea. Sometimes it’s just best to start over, yet we fight that for all we’re worth. We try to convince ourselves it was intentional or that we wanted it to be that way. But it?s really, that we don’t want to go back and start over. We can make this work.

Shame on us.

I challenge you to stop, wait, sit, and think. I mean really think. Think about the very best answer for the problem you are trying to solve with design. Take the time to truly drill down to the root of what it is you are trying to say. Then say that. Don’t just try to make it complex. Figure it out. You’ll know you’ve found it when you find it. Just don’t stop searching too early.[quote]Good is the enemy of great.[/quote]

“Good is the enemy of great.” ? Jim Collins

Don’t sacrifice your best idea for the idea you have right now. Often the best idea is the one you can communicate in the most concise way. Refining that idea is a process we often skip because it’s hard work. It’s not fun. It’s not easy. And if you are out of practice it can be downright painful to refine.

Create a clear message and protect it from excess simply because the tools will allow you to. You are in control. Your content is king. After all, that’s why you are designing in the first place?to communicate something in a way that gives people a clear path to willingly embrace it. Refrain from putting anything in their way.

Those of us who design for ministries have the greatest responsibility. We’re not called to sell more hamburgers, move more cars off the lot, or showcase the next best thing. We have the privilege and responsibility of visually communicating the most important message there has ever been and ever will be. We simply cannot take that lightly. Be clear. Be concise. Be simple. And do so in a beautifully unforgettable way.

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