One of my favorite TED talks is by acclaimed graphic designer Chip Kidd. He’s a designer who’s worked for NYC book publishers for almost his entire career, designing book covers.
Just book covers.
The thing I appreciate most about Kidd isn’t his talent (which is significant) or his presentation style (which is flamboyant), but his respect for the authors of each book he works on. He treats every cover project like he’s designing a sacred vessel to carry the author’s artfully crafted work to the reader.
Anyone who designs graphics for churches should take their work just as seriously, because sermon series graphics* are basically the same thing as a book jacket.
Think about it: they’re both visual introductions to long form content. They’re both meant to spark enough curiosity to get someone to take action: “pick up this book” or “click on this link.” They both make a promise about what’s behind them, offering a glimpse without giving away the big idea.
Kidd refers to this as balancing clarity and mystery.
Clarity is the connectedness of the visual design to the information behind it. It’s how closely the design matches the content. Things like maps, wayfinding signage, and operating instructions need clarity.
Mystery is what sparks our curiosity. You look at a sign because you need to find your way somewhere. You look at a work of art because it makes you think.
Signs and directions should be easy to read, and take little time and effort to process.
Artwork should take longer to process, forcing you to dwell on it, and consider what the message behind it art is. Like this:
*Sermon series graphics are the designed artwork we use in digital and print communication channels to show people what our current teaching series is all about. Look at any teaching-centric church’s sermon archives on their website, and you’ll see what I mean. Please don’t call these graphics “logos.” They’re not.