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Six Keys to Better Church Design

By Vince Williams

At SermonView, we regularly challenge churches to increase the quality of their design ideas. But looking through our newsletters from the last year, I realized that we haven’t given you many tools to help with that process.

So this month, I wanted to give you more specifics. Here are six key techniques for increasing the effectiveness and relevance of your church communication.

1. Modern Design Is Simple
In America today, the average age of pastors is 55. If you’re over 40, you’ve got to remember that a lot has changed since your design tastes were shaped. Understanding current styles will help you look just as relevant as using modern language. It is important to not look dated, since that is one of the big complaints people have about churches today. Take a look how brands have changed their logos, cleaned up their ads, and made their presentation crisp in order to maintain relevance in today’s world. Simply put, simple is “in.”

2. Design with Purpose
Every communication resource is designed for a purpose. Your goal as a church leader is to help your designer understand the goal of the piece, ensuring that both the words and the design work toward that common goal. Ask yourself: Who is this intended to reach? What is it intended to say? What are we hoping the reader’s response will be? Clearly answering those questions will help to form a good communication tool.

3. Talk to Your Audience
If you are putting together a women’s retreat and are hoping to see twenty-something’s attend, then you will need the input of twenty-something women. Sampling your audience is the easiest, fastest and best way to know that what you are doing is going to work. It’s not about what you like. It’s about what your audience likes. We’re not talking here about watering down the message just to please people. We’re talking about communicating in a visually-pleasing way that helps the message be well-received.

4. Less is More
Twenty years ago design was about new technology. People were excited that they had the ability to emboss and embellish text. Today, anyone with a computer has the ability to add treatments to their fonts, often to the detriment of effective communication. Avoid stretching, squeezing, embossing, or outlining fonts. Instead, think about kerning (the space between characters) and leading (the space between lines). Keep it simple, because less is more.

5. Consistent Fonts
There are 3 basic kinds of fonts: serif, sans serif, and script. “Serifs” are the little extra strokes at the ends of a character, on fonts like Times New Roman and Garamond. Sans serif fonts don’t have those extra strokes, like Arial and Helvetica. A script font is based on flowing cursive handwriting, with letters often joined together.

Just because you have 250 fonts on your computer doesn’t mean you should use them. Try to limit your font choices in a single communication piece to just two: a serif and a sans serif font. Studies show that serif fonts used in large blocks of text is more readable than sans serif or script fonts. Using a serif and sans serif together works well to break up elements.

Here are a few great fonts to keep you looking more relevant: Trajan, Minion, Garamond, Futura, Gill Sans, Helvetica, Zapfino, and Myriad. And for goodness sake, avoid Comic Sans and Papyrus, unless you’re trying to look silly.

6. You’re Seen before You’re Read
Most communication resources rely on a key image to gain immediate interest. In good design, the primary image is the first thing noticed and captures the reader’s interest. If an image lacks focus, then a reader can disengage from the entire piece in less than a second. Moreover the image needs to tie directly to the boldest print on the page. If you see a picture of friendly faces, then the headline needs to have something to do with people. Avoid clipart and dated photographs like the swine flu. Instead, use images that are relevant, high-quality, and tell an immediate story. Pick a great image, and use it prominently on the page.

Communicate with Quality
Modern, relevant design is about authentic communication. People today are looking for things that are real instead of things that look fancy. If your church brochures, website, or mailers look different than the style and quality your audience expects to see from other organizations, then there may be a problem with the piece’s effectiveness. Take the time to look around at how other businesses and non-profits are communicating to better enhance your church resources. It’s not about changing the message, but about making sure we are not discounted before people ever take the time to hear it.

Need help designing your church communication tools? We’d love to help. SermonView has a team of designers and marketing experts ready to help you get the most out of your resources. Give us a call at (888) 336-3048 and see how you can take advantage of our expertise to serve your church.


Written by Vince Williams
July 7th, 2010 at 3:46 pm

One Response to 'Six Keys to Better Church Design'

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  1. You are so right. I left a 20-year career in design to follow the Lord’s call to full-time pastoral ministry. When the general public sees our dismal newsletters and bulletins, they find it just that much more difficult to take us seriously. I’m not saying that we need to be “cute” or “slick,” but we do need to at least be current and appealing. I realize that most churches (75% or more) in the US have less than 200 members and that we rely on volunteers to produce our communications, but resources ARE available to even the smallest congregations.

    Pastor Scott

    Rev. Prescott Jay Erwin

    Jul 8, 2010

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