Archives For Design

I was honored recently to be interviewed for the UPCI Ohio District News by Anthony Nutter, Student Pastor at The Anchor Church in Zanesville, OH and Promotions Director for the Ohio District Youth. Do to space constraints (and the fact that I don’t know how to answer anything in less than 1,000 words apparently) the “transcript” of the full interview is posted here for your reading enjoyment:

Q: What would be your first piece of advice to a church with a struggling, or non-existent media department?

A: For those just starting, I’d say don’t get intimidated or overwhelmed. You don’t have to do everything all at once. It’s so easy to roll into a larger church that has everything in place and want to compete with or hang with what they’re doing. Don’t get caught up in that trap. Instead, focus on doing the very best your church can do. That’s not an excuse to do sub-par work or to phone it in. That means doing a lot of research and educating yourself about the four main components of any media department: the computer, the projector, the software, and the staff.

That last one—the staff—is so critical; not just for those starting out, but it’s usually the one area where churches that have struggling media departments are hurting. Maybe you’re not large enough to have a multi-person crew, but it’s vital that you have that one “go to” guy (or gal) who you can lean on. And that person should be someone who is willing to learn, and try creative things. Churches tend to plug in their most technically-adept person, just because a computer is involved. But just because someone’s great with computers doesn’t mean they belong in the captain’s chair of the media department. A creative, willing volunteer can easily overcome having poor equipment, but all the pricey equipment in the world can’t make up for the wrong person in the wrong job.

Q: When a church is thinking of moving to a new logo, who or what should they pursue?

A: My first question to churches who come to me wanting to redesign their logo is “Why?” There should be a purpose behind any redesign or rebranding, and I recommend that churches spend a lot of time before they even speak with a designer just figuring out what they want to accomplish with the logo. A “brand” and a “logo” are two different things, but each should strengthen the other. A logo is an identifying mark, but a brand is the essence of who you are. It’s what you say, and what you do. A lot of times there’s a total disconnect between a logo and a church’s real brand because they update their logo to reflect current design trends, but it’s not an accurate reflection of who they are as a church body. So, step number one is simply figuring out what you want to say with your logo so you can give the designer something to work with beyond “make us look cool,” or “I’m bored with our current logo.”

A good designer will be one who asks those probing questions and not just churn out a lazy design.

Computers, software, and graphic designers are plentiful, but a great logo is way more than mouse clicks and clip art. I absolutely recommend that churches work with an established professional—someone who can show you real world examples of their designs in use, and who pay their bills with their design work. With few exceptions, I also think a logo should cost you something real rather than being a freebie favor granted by your uncle’s cousin’s nephew. The value in a logo is sometimes hard to quantify, so when you have something tangible and valuable like real dollars attached, it helps organizations understand the importance and take the process a little more seriously. You can also demand more from the designer that way.

I would also highly recommend that churches stay away from design competition websites and websites that offer a dozen logo ideas for a nickel. That’s not to say you have to spend a fortune, but you get what you pay for, and if your church’s logo costs less than a tank of gas, you’re probably on the wrong path.

Q: What is your recommendation for worship software? What about a low-cost, efficient Windows option?

A: I absolutely adore ProPresenter from Renewed Vision. It’s really the software that’s setting the standard for church presentation. It’s scalable, so it works great in small church settings with just a handful of people, but can also grow into a multi-projector environment suitable for tens of thousands. At $399 it costs exactly the same as the other big names in presentation such as EasyWorship, SongShowPlus, and MediaShout. You get an incredible feature set for the same price as much less capable software, so in my mind it’s a no-brainer. It was originally Mac-only, but a while back they released a PC version.

Low-cost and efficient are kind of mutually exclusive terms with presentation software. There are a handful of free and open source worship presentation programs for Windows such as OpenLP, but I’m not a huge fan of the quality. I’m not being a design snob with that statement, but if the software is glitchy and sluggish then you could actually do more harm than good by using it.

Typically it’s smaller churches or church plants that are concerned about the cost of the software, and for them I would recommend Proclaim. For churches under 100 in attendance it’s $10 per month, and does everything a church needs to do, and also includes some really nifty templates for churches who may struggle on the design end of things. Once you go over 100 in attendance the price rises considerably, however, so I don’t think it’s a great solution for mid-size or larger churches.

Q: When visiting apostolic conferences, churches, camps and events, what is the main mistake that you see most often? How can we avoid it?

A: You know, it’s a little like “A Tale of Two Cities” out there. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” In the past year or two, it seems like a lot of events and conferences have really stepped up their efforts to do something great in terms of media, but there’s also a lot of room for improvement for others.

Probably one of the most common mistakes I see that makes me cringe is text handling. There’s almost an art form to how song lyrics should be displayed. Either they shove every word of a verse on a screen in a font so tiny no one could possibly read it, or at the events where they’re displaying lyrics over video they’ll throw up one line at a time about mid-way through that line being sung. We’ve forgotten that the whole point of these brilliant media systems is to better facilitate corporate worship. You’ve got to give people enough time to see, process, and respond to (sing) the lyrics, but too often media teams are kind of playing keep up with the worship team. A lot of that is probably because media teams aren’t participating in the practices, which is a mistake not just at events, but at the local church service level, too.

Q: Any last parting words of wisdom?

A: If you want your church media department to be great, take some personal responsibility and push yourself to learn, learn, learn. I try to spend an hour each weekday learning something new. Set aside a little time every day to improve your skill set or to get inspired. Connect to people on Twitter or design sites like Dribbble.com that are doing things you like in media and design, and then try to figure out how they did it. Read a book about color theory, or typography, or watch a free online video tutorial. There are thousands upon thousands of free online tutorials to learn everything from running worship presentation software to mastering Photoshop. Challenge yourself to remove the words “I don’t know how” from your vocabulary.

 

This is it, folks. Today we’re wrapping up our series on the 5 biggest mistakes church tend to make in logo design. We covered a lot of ground last week, and I recommend that you read through the whole series if you missed anything.

Last, but certainly not least, on our list is:

5.) You’re using too many fonts and/or the wrong font

If the mark—or graphic element—is the heart of a logo, then the typographic element is the soul. In fact, many times the assumption is that a logo must include a graphic element or mark, when the reality is that there are many times when typography alone would be the better solution. Look back at my previous post about the top 10 global brands and you’ll notice that four of them are type-based marks with little or no other graphic elements.

There are a lot of designers who are skilled when it comes to designing a mark, but fail to execute a successful design because of poor type selection.

I love this quote from Dmitry Kirsanov, a russian identity designer:

“No other discipline requires so much learning and training as fontography, and by no other aspect can amateurs be so easily distinguished from professionals.”

The problem of too many fonts is easily solved—use less. In fact, your “how many fonts can I use in this here logo” meter should peg out at approximately two.

stahp

The issue of using the wrong font is more complex. Like, Higgs boson complex.

There are whole books dedicated to the issue of identifying the right font and understanding typography, so I won’t pretend I can answer this in a sub-1000 word blog post. I can, however, point you in the right direction.

Fonts have personality

Effective logo design is achieved when the designer considers more than the blank paper & screen in front of him. All elements of a logo should consider the personality of the organization and their market, serving to reflect and project that personality.

For example, a curly, cursive font with loads of flourish is probably the wrong choice for a distinctly modern and minimalistic organization. By contrast, a goofy cartoonish font is probably a poor fit for an established organization with an older membership base and community.

personality

Type should balance the logo

Your type selection should compliment and balance your mark.

point_1

If you have a thick, weighty mark, it might be a mistake to pair it with a thin, whispy font, and vice versa. Contrast is great in design, but it’s a fine line. You also don’t want the font and the mark to be too similar or they’ll be battling it out for attention. Neither element should overpower the other. Bring balance to the force, young Jedi.

point_2

Readability

Never sacrifice your logo’s readability for design. It’s the age old arguments of style vs. design and form vs. function. Your type, above all, should be easily read, or else what’s the point?

Make sure you choose type that can be easily read not just at the comfortable distance of your face to the computer screen, but from your face to a business card laying on a desk, from across the room posted on a refrigerator—as I said before, consider the different use cases and design to those rather than just eyeballing “what looks good.”

•••

As with most aspects of design, there’s more that could be said. On some of these subjects I’ve barely scratched the surface, but hopefully I’ve given you enough information to throw at your designer to save you from a possible logo disaster.

If you’re in the market for a new logo, I know a guy. Click here to be whisked away to my Logo Design Questionnaire. Fill it out and I’ll give you a shiny new quote for a logo absolutely free of charge.

We’re nearing the finish line in our series on the 5 biggest mistakes in church logo design. If you’ve missed the last 3, I highly recommend you go back and read them when you’re finished here. Today, we’re up to numero fouro:

4.) Your logo is overly complex and/or doesn’t scale well

Take a look at the following logos. Study them closely (it shouldn’t take too long):

top10brands

These are the logos of the top ten global brands in the world in 2012 according to the Interbrand consulting agency. From the report:

“The world’s 100 most valuable brands are leading the way by listening to consumers, employees, and investors alike and delivering a seamless and holistic brand experience across an ever-evolving range of touchpoints,” Jez Frampton, Interbrand’s Global Chief Executive Officer

So before I go any further I want to make clear that branding isn’t solely about your logo. In fact, your brand and your logo are two different things. On its own, a great logo means very, very little. If you don’t have something behind your church’s logo—Jesus, the Gospel, love, compassion, Truth, and solid, Biblical teaching and preaching—then you’re wasting your time. Some people start with the logo when they haven’t prayed enough to discover what God’s calling them to do specifically in their community. What a pity.

With that disclaimer out of the way, there’s something that you can’t help but notice—all of these great global brands have very simple logos/marks. You’ll notice that none of these brands use gradients of any kind. There are no drop shadows, no beveled effects, no distressed overlays…they’re super, super simplistic in approach. Even the use of color is sparing, with all but two of the brands using a singular color in the mark. What does that matter? It means your logo works well with or without color:

top10gray

The weakest of these brands when you drop color is Microsoft’s new logo which was just unveiled last month (top right). That logo and brand, however, probably deserves its own post. Moving on…

With the possible exception of Microsoft, none of these logos have been damaged by taking the color away. They’re still immediately identifiable, describable, and effective. Below, we’ve got a beautiful (stock) globe illustration. It’s somewhat clean looking, but uses subtle differences in color, lots of gradients, and a drop shadow. When it’s large and you can see the detail, it’s very attractive. But what happens to those subtle touches when the image is reduced?

reducedcomplex

This is either an international juggernaut of business, or a marble and ball bearings shop. I can’t tell from a distance.

Now you might wonder why reducibility/scalability matters to your church. Well, your average U.S. business card is 2″ x 3.5″ so how will your nice giant globe look on that? You might think that it wouldn’t matter on something large like a billboard, but even then people are viewing it a distance that makes the size of your logo (depending on the layout) even smaller than the comfortable viewing distance of a business card. What about signage, t-shirts, handouts, advertisements—think of all the things that you have your logo printed on because you want people to know your organization exists. If your logo is overly complex and doesn’t reduce well, that means the people you’re trying to reach aren’t seeing you because their mind is on grocery lists and kids and a million other things than trying to figure out what that tiny blob of color is on some guys shirt across the room.

Take a look at those top 10 global brands again, this time reduced in size:

top10reduced

They’re still instantly recognizable. That’s the power of an effective brandand an effective logo.

When you’re working with your designer, make sure that when they present logo concepts they’re providing a view of what the logo will look like in color and monochrome at full size, as well as reduced sizes on different backgrounds. When I’m presenting logo concepts, I typically use this format:

logoComp

Before you commit to anything, make sure you’ve thought of all the use cases for the logo and that you’ve seen some kind of mock up for those most important to your organization. I’ve written about the concept of Divine Simplicity before, and it’s oh-so-beautiful when that concept is applied properly to logo & branding visuals.

Welcome back! We’re moving on to #3 in our series on the 5 biggest mistakes churches make in logo design:

3.) The logo or mark is too generic or clichéd

Back in jolly old France (I’m not sure if that’s an accurate description of historic France, but hang with me) printers working with moveable type, the printing method where you set one letter at a time, began casting whole words or phrases that were used frequently to save time. This single slug of metal was called a “cliché.”

Sound familiar? (No pun intended.) I personally try to avoid clichés like the plague. If you use them too often, you should try to get your ducks in a row and do an about-face, or people will turn a deaf ear to you. I’m serious as a heart attack. (Ahem.)

Anyway, we all roll our eyes a little when we’re talking to that guy who can’t make it through a sentence without dragging out some tired old cliché. Drive down a major street in your town, and you’ll be pelted in the eyeballs with more visual clichés than you can shake a stick at (sorry).

You know, just because your name has “star” in it, doesn’t mean you have to use a star in your logo. Just because your company name includes the word “global” or “international” doesn’t mean you have to use a globe. And just because you’re a church doesn’t mean you have to use a cross in your logo.

globalcoThat doesn’t mean that you can’t use a cross, or a star, or a globe, but at a bare minimum your designer should make an effort to come up with something that’s more remarkable than some stock image or flat representation.

I wrote yesterday that you should avoid being trendy and aim for classy and timeless. Unfortunately, some designers hear that and think, “Okay, stale and boring it is. You get a cross, Mr. Church.” Press your designer to think outside the box (wow—not using cliches is hard) and come up with something unique and original.