Spending my formative years as a PK (preacher’s kid) and being a designer and design educator has given me a perspective on faith-based design. Church membership has fallen significantly in the past twenty years and a recent poll by Gallup found “that the percentage of Americans who report belonging to a church, synagogue or mosque at an all-time low, averaging 50% in 2018.” Places of worship are constantly trying new ways to attract members through both marketing and physical additions like coffee shops in their buildings. However, those marketing and design plans are often ineffective and could even lend a negative impression to potential members. I’ve put together a list of ten design tips for faith-based organizations.
1. You don’t need your face on the sign or business card.
It takes up valuable space that could be used for more valuable information like your web address. Plus, if you get a new job, the church has to buy a new sign. This goes for lawyers too.
2. Speaking of signs, you do not need to include everything about your church on the sign.
The two most important things to include are the name/logo of the church and a website address. If the sign is large, you could include Sunday service times. Make sure people can read the information driving 40 miles per hour down the street from a distance.
3. Let’s move on to logos.
You don’t need to include a torch, a bible, praying hands, a dove, Jesus, an olive branch, and a cross all at once. Pick one icon, maybe two at most.
4. Keep your typefaces easy to read.
Decorative type is usually not a good idea. If you do use it, make sure it’s something legible at small and large sizes. Comic sans should never be used. Or Papyrus. Or Hobo. The list goes on… if you think it’s fun. It’s probably not.
5. Stick to two typefaces max.
Pairing fonts together that contrast one another is a good idea. If they are too similar, it doesn’t make sense. Pinterest is a great place to search for font pairing ideas.
6. Go with white or light-colored backgrounds for your website.
While black or other solid colors can be used, but it makes information harder to read. Definitely avoid patterns or animated backgrounds.
7. Also, you don’t need to include everything you’ve ever done at your place of worship on the website or home page.
Service times, visitor information, upcoming events, live streams, an email newsletter sign up form, staff directories, contact page, and online giving are all important items. The rest is probably just fluff. Blogs probably won’t be read and if they are, you need to commit to updating them at least once a week or they aren’t going to make an impact.
8. By the way, your staff bios don’t need to be four pages long or even four paragraphs.
According to Statisticbrain.com, the average person’s attention span is eight seconds and only 28 percent of words are read on an average Web page. People prefer to scan information on websites. Keep it short and simple and offer a way to contact you. (Pastors, this includes you.)
9. Microsoft Publisher is not a design program. Neither is Word, for that matter, but I consider it a better choice.
If you don’t have a graphics person, try free tools like Canva or Adobe Spark. I suggest sticking with their preformatted font choices/layouts and just changing colors, images, and information if you have no experience.
10. A person having Photoshop does not make them a designer.
You can’t expect your staff or volunteers to know everything. I know budgets are tight at churches, and it can be hard to employ a full-time designer. Hiring a junior or senior level college student part-time to create your graphics is a great idea. I would recommend at least $2-3 above minimum wage because of their special skill set. Free internships will usually not get the best quality students or keep them motivated. Remember they have expenses like gas, groceries, computer maintenance, and software subscriptions just like the rest of us.\
Bonus Tip: Don’t take photos, videos or make live streams with iPads. While their cameras are getting better, they just aren’t meant for that. Plus, it’s hard to hold. You can take decent photos and videos with a newer model iPhone at a short distance.
Megan Cary is a Designer and Design Educator with more than 12 years of professional experience in the creative industry. During her career, she has served in senior-level corporate design positions, as a design consultant for nationally recognized brands and currently consults and produces work for clients in her self-branded studio. In addition to her business, she is an Associate Professor of Graphic Design at the University of Mobile where she gets the privilege of teaching and mentoring young designers on a daily basis.