Baby Steps in Changing (Creating) an identity for an organization...

sohappy2's picture

Hello! So here's my story: I'm a pastor. I love design and type, but I am not a designer by profession or training. I recently took a new position, and (like many or most churches) the design is abysmal or non-existant. Think word art, and newsletter with said word art created in (no, I'm not kidding) Microsoft Word. Also, no logo, no unified font choice (different fonts in bulletin, newsletter, website, letterhead, etc.) On the one hand, this is exciting for me, because there is real progress to be made. On the other hand, it's horrifying, because there is so much to do, and I don't know where to start. At some point, I would like to hire someone to consult and help us create a full identity that we can use across all these platforms. In the meantime, what baby steps would y'all suggest that will help 1. Create a sense of seriousness and 2. Raise consciousness, subtly, with folks so they start to see how important design is and what a difference it can make for their organization. Thoughts?

eliason's picture

Collect well-designed stuff from other churches and have it on hand to make the distinction from your church's stuff. Is there something like an "Evangelism Committee"--lay leaders who are interested in spreading the word about what's happening at your church? That might be a place to start such conversations, at least about the "outward-facing" stuff your church is producing.

Nick Shinn's picture

Chartres: the towers were originally identical, but one was destroyed by fire several hundred years later and rebuilt. There are many old churches in Europe which have been added to over the years in different styles of architecture. But otherwise, if you’re managing the whole project at once, who would want to present themselves to the world in such a disparate, muddled, indecisive manner—like wearing clothes that don't match.

oldnick's picture

May I suggest—

A pastor leads his flock unto green pastures; there, all enjoy the bounty which Love provides. Hence, tranquility abides.

Eschew the cacophany which is Internet Culture: seek simplicity. Thus, as odd as it sounds, a bulletin composed entirely in Papyrus would achieve that end…if you get the leading right. This font can be badly abused by the incognoscenti

Study this well, Grasshopper.

JamesM's picture

Traci, I've done some design work for churches and have a few thoughts.

This first step I'd suggest is research. Think about the history of your church and the direction it's going in the future. Explore the websites of large, well-known churches, everything from St. Pauls in London to the the Washington National Cathedral, etc.(their sites are far bigger than what you'll need but are usually professionally designed), and also look for nicely designed websites of small churches too. You're looking for examples of professionally designed church logos, websites, publications, etc.

I would suggest keeping quiet about this project in the early stages, or you run the risk of a church member saying "let's let the youth [or whoever] design our logo!", or "Mr. Jones came up with a [terrible] logo and everyone thinks we should use it!" Before talking to the congregation about it, I'd suggest giving this project some careful thought and then approach the appropriate committee to get their support for a systematic approach to this project.

One big difference between designing for business and designing for a church is that in business the company's president can decide what design direction to take and everyone else better follow his/her lead or else. In a church setting, things are often a little messier, with committees and individuals who have strong feelings and who don't want to be pushed into something they don't like. So for a pastor it's probably a good idea to approach this carefully and make sure that before you implement your new logo & identity system that your designs have the support of key committees and then present the designs to the congregation at a business meeting to discuss and hopefully approve.

(I'm talking mainly about the logo; the congregation doesn't need to see or approve every detail, such as the layout of the bulletin or newsletter.)

Another consideration is that church positions such as newsletter editor, bulletin editor, web editor, etc. are often filled by well-intentioned volunteers who may not have much design experience. Or these jobs may be done by the pastor who already has a very, very busy schedule. So my advice for those things is to create templates and easy-to-follow guidelines, and be prepared to accept that although they look a lot better than they did before, they're never going to be perfect. (Unless you hire someone with design experience to prepare them each time, which is beyond the budget of most smaller churches.)

If you do hire a designer, some general advice is to look carefully at their portfolio, check out their references, ask if you can contact some of their previous clients to see how the projects went, and be sure to talk about budgets and timeframe. And some may disagree with this, but I'd suggest getting someone local, if possible, as I think you can better size up the person you're hiring when you can talk to them in person, plus certain things like designing signage (I presume you'll update your signs) are easier in person.

Frode Bo Helland's picture

I've also done some design work for churches and related organisations and I agree with James' thoughts. When/if you need a committee, I suggest including both youth, adults and seniors.

sohappy2's picture

These are all helpful suggestions, exactly what I'm looking for. James: you made me laugh, because you clearly know church work very well. "Let's let the youth design the logo!" "Let's use this piece of clip art for our logo!" You are absolutely right that these thoughts will be brewing in the background for awhile. I appreciate this thoughtfulness. Old Nick's point about simplicity is well taken as well. Thanks, everyone.

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