When you see a glowing apple on the back of a laptop, what does that tell you about the computer? When you drive by a restaraunt with golden arches in front of the building, what do you immediately know about the food being sold? The branding and design help create an immediate association between the product and the context it is presented in. Certain images, shapes, colors, and stories are intertwined with a product, such as a computer, so that when somebody sees a white computer with an apple on it, it is not just an average computer but it's an Apple Macbook.
When I purchase an iPhone app, one of the key factors in my decision-making process is the design of the icon; who would want an app with an ugly icon? I even recently chose to upgrade to a new thermostat based on its excellent design. We have no problem thinking about design when it comes to certain items like apps or even a thermostat, but how often do you think of a preacher as a sermon designer?
"It's easy to dismiss design - to relegate it to mere ornament, the prettifying of places and objects to disguise their banality. But that is a serious misunderstanding of what design is and why it matters... John Heskett, a scholar on the subject, explains it well: '[D]esign, stripped to its essence, can be defined as the human nature to shape and make our environment in ways without precedent in nature, to serve our needs and give meaning to our lives.'" - Daniel Pink
Designers spend countless hours crafting furniture that is both useful and significant. A designer who designs couches, must design a couch that is actually comfortable to sit on (useful) and also strive to design a couch that stands apart from the rest (significance).
There is no argument that the Gospel is the most useful and significant message on earth, yet how often do you view your sermon writing as an art? Preaching both serves our needs and gives meaning to our lives, yet how often have you thought about your time writing as a time designing? When you choose the words you say, you are designing the sermon. When you choose what stories to tell, you are designing the sermon. When you choose the fonts to use on the screens, you are designing the sermon. And that matters significantly because the message matters significantly.
Design Does Not Differentiate the Church.
Norio Ohga, former chairman of Sony, said, "At Sony, we assume that all products of our competitors have basically the same technology, price, performance, and features. Design is the only thing that differentiates one product from another in the marketplace." I love design and would love for those who communicate the Gospel to have design that stands above the rest, but design should never be what differentiates the Church.
The Gospel should certainly inspire great artists and great designers. The art of inspired designers is not meant to differentiate but instead to point to that which differentiates the Church. While design may be the differentiator for companies like Sony or Apple, the thing that differentiates the Church from any organization or any other religion is that the Church is the bride of Christ.
Photo Credit: Filmvanalledag