05 Apr Church Graphic Design Doesn’t Have to Be Bad
Last year a local church asked us to help them create a marketing plan and some marketing pieces to promote an upcoming revival service. Later, we also helped them create some graphic elements to help tie together and promote a long range plan.
My brother-in-law is a minister and I mentioned to him how really bad a lot of the available church graphic design is and he agreed. Many of the templates available for churches are either poor quality, cheesy or looked like a concert poster. It’s time for Christians, churches and nonprofits to stop believing graphics have to be bad or subquality just because they are Christian or charity related.
Like many non profits, churches often get caught in the fear of spending money on promotions because it’s not a part of their service. Couldn’t those dollars be better spent feeding the poor, caring for orphans or buying Bibles for a 3rd world country? After all, Jesus’ ministry wasn’t ever pretty.
It’s a hard line to walk. So let’s start with the basics.
It doesn’t have to be expensive.
Start with the basics of what you need. Most churches need a clean logo. If you’re going to splurge on design, do it with your logo. You’ll be using this one piece on everything from the outdoor sign to your website to any handout your church ever creates. It’s worth spending a little money to get this one right. A classic logo will be used for years to come. It’s an investment. If you are a small church, you can work with pre-designed templates, but we’re not talking the free ones that come with Microsoft word. Adobe now offers month-to-month subscriptions for their products including Photoshop and InDesign. You can find some relatively inexpensive flyer templates to use with these platforms if you are intent on doing the design yourself. We really like GraphicRiver’s selection. Hundreds of tutorials on the software are available free on YouTube.
Now a shout-out to my graphic design friends. The work of a talented graphic designer is completely worth what they charge for it. While you can create some decent flyers, ads and promos using templates, they will not be the quality a professional designer can offer you. Work with a designer to create a few well-designed templates you can then use for various events and needs.
Keep it simple.
One of the biggest problems with graphic design anywhere is trying to include too much information in too little of a space. (This one really applies to any nonprofit marketing not just churches.) The most professional looking designs are relatively simple. Once you have your logo created, ask the designer to provide for you a one page branding guide. This should include:
- Pantone colors used in your logo
- Any fonts used in your logo
- Your logo in a horizontal and vertical layout
- Your logo in black, white and color versions
You can create your own “branding” guide or ask your designer to help with this as well. Layout specifications of how your logo will be used and what fonts will be used where (for example: headline font, body copy and secondary fonts). Limit your preferred fonts and colors to two or three. As you create flyers, t-shirts, banners, handouts, or anything else, you already have the basics. No more using so many different fonts and colors that your readers don’t know where to look first.
You don’t want your work to end up boring, but this base gives you a place to start.
Keep a idea file
You are going to see marketing pieces from other churches that you really like. Find a place to file those ideas away. I keep a private Pinterest board with ideas for various clients and industries that I’ve seen online. When I run across a hard copy of something wonderful, I take a picture and file it into that board as well. When I need some inspiration for a new project or a little design help, I can open that board and save a lot of time working instead of searching. By using Pinterest for something other than crafts I’ll never make, I’ve actually made the platform a useful tool.
Know when to spend and when to skimp
A few years ago, a local church had to cut their Vacation Bible School budget drastically. This left very little money for the t-shirts they always provided for leaders and students. Instead of going with a solid colored t-shirt or just adding the church logo they used a very large, awkward font to print a Bible verse on the back of the shirt. No one has ever worn those shirts for anything but working in the yard again. T-shirts can be a wonderful investment because you have walking billboards of your church or organization. T-shirts are also one of the hardest promotional products to design. A few places we recommend you focus your graphic design budget: logo, website, t-shirts, signage. Other internal pieces can be simple yet effective without breaking your budget.
Use your media’s in-house designers well
In addition to t-shirts, billboards can be difficult to design. Six words that can be read in six seconds is the rule. If you’re working with local media, most have in-house personnel who can manage your design well. Make sure you give them your style guide for fonts and colors along with all the information you need to have in your ad. If you have created a flyer or social media promotion graphic for the event send that information as well. Most media have skilled designers who have worked in their specific field for years, but don’t let that push you into accepting the first draft they send to you. Make sure the design adheres to your branding standards and looks good. A business would send the ad back if it wasn’t right, you should too.
Marketing for churches has changed drastically in the last ten years. Church attendance has dropped even in the Bible belt where people were once just expected to go to church. We don’t have to create designs that compete with the world of secular media, but we do have to create design that says we are intelligent people with a relevant message not an outdated, uninformed organization.
Your church’s graphics will speak to people before you ever have a chance to and long after you leave. Make it good.
When we start work with a new client, we do a lot of research on the industry, the community and target audience. As we searched through graphics used by many churches, we were appalled. Yes, I used the word appalled.