GRAPHIC DESIGN - JOSH GUILBEAU
If you know me, I love theology. My Christian faith is essential to who I am and what I believe. In an effort to marry my love for design and my passion for teaching, I tried to create this small article for those that would want to broaden their perspective on graphic design and its importance from a Christian worldview.
When people think of the occupation of ‘graphic designer’, you probably think of some hipster in a room somewhere sipping coffee and creating images on a computer. Sure! That’s partly true.
What about graphic design in the context of ministry?
I am on staff at a large, multi-ethnic megachurch of 5,000+ people. As a designer, where does my ‘ministry’ come into play and what is its role in the church?
Let’s start by looking at the word “graphic”.
Graphic: mid 17th century: via Latin from Greek graphikos, from graphē ‘writing, drawing’.
1. relating to visual art, especially involving drawing, engraving, embossing, or lettering.
2. giving a vivid picture with explicit detail.
Most English translators of the bible render “graphe” (greek) as writings or the scripture. This is how they communicated the idea of the “word of God.”
This is visual communication.
Graphic design is the process of creating something that is visual in order to communicate a message.
In my opinion, it's different from Art. Art is usually something personal that comes from inside the artist creating it. It’s usually subjective. Depending on the person, art can bring up different feelings, messages or thoughts.
“Design is not art. Design is utilitarian. Art is not.” - Massimo Vignelli
Graphic design is information that is textual and/or graphical for others to see and get a specific message. It should be objective and clear. This is why advertising isn’t artistic. In the sense of being artsy... It’s usually straight to the point to sell a product.
So, design is - Visual elements that communicate a clear message.
Now, where does the Bible come in? Is there graphic design in the bible?
You might be surprised how much there is!
One important fact about God is that in the opening verses of Genesis, God tells us the FIRST thing He wants us to know about Himself…
“In the beginning, God created....”
God is a creative. He is a Designer.
Everything you see in our natural world was designed by the Designer. It all communicates a message of His character, nature, and creativeness.
I guess you could say, God, is a graphic designer.
Why is graphic design important and what’s its place in the church?
Out of the many instances of design as a ministry or tool for God’s people, I’d like to focus on the tabernacle in Exodus 31.
“The Lord spoke to Moses, “See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God in skill, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship, to make artistic designs for work with gold, with silver, and with bronze, and with cutting and setting stone, and with cutting wood, to work in all kinds of craftsmanship.”
In this passage, God is about to give Moses a blueprint for him to construct a place for God’s presence to rest, literally.
Why the tabernacle? God wants to be with his people. He walked with Adam in the garden and continues His pursuit of mankind by appointing creatives to construct a safe way for His holy presence to abide with sinful people.
So the tabernacle was a tent structure that had sections of certain use for the people of Israel. This is where, not unlike today, is a place of worship, community, sacrifice, and ultimately, the forgiveness of sin.
How important is it for God’s people to be forgiven by Him? Pretty important right?
Well, this task was placed in the hands of creatives! Bezalel was chosen and gifted to head up this huge project. The text says that God, “filled him with the Spirit.” Sometimes, as new testament believers, we read right over these little phrases because they are familiar to us. I would remind you that this is in the Old Testament time period.
To be filled with the spirit was a very rare phenomenon. This was mostly reserved for very important occasions. Not very many people had the spirit of God fill them during these times.
So Bezalel is filled with the spirit of God and also gifted abilities of understanding, knowledge, craftsmanship, art, and design!
God creates the office of ‘on-staff graphic designer’ here in this passage.
Essentially, God is saying, I want the most important building project to be headed up by a graphic designer. Remember, this is the place where people will experience God’s presence, love, communication, and most importantly, the forgiveness of their sins.
You can read further in the passage and see all the different types of design that went into the creation of the tabernacle. There’s the building itself, there’s art, design, textures, images, furniture, atmosphere, arrangement… This is a place created by designers, artists, painters, sculptors, knitters, blacksmiths, interior designers, crafters, woodworkers, planners, jewelers, and construction workers.
Even the priest's clothing was ornamented with designs, patterns, and jewelry. This is clothing and fashion design. It all had a purpose! Like I mentioned before, to facilitate the connection between God and His people.
Rabbit trail: Exodus 28:33 says, “On its hem, you shall make pomegranates of blue and purple and scarlet yarns, around its hem, with bells of gold between them…”
Have you ever seen a blue pomegranate? It doesn’t exist! God is telling designers to create something that doesn’t exist in the natural world.
The late, great Francis Schaeffer wrote in his book, “Art & the Bible”
“Christians . . . ought not to be threatened by fantasy and imagination. Great painting is not "photographic": think of the Old Testament art commanded by God. There were blue pomegranates on the robes of the priest who went into the Holy of Holies. In nature, there are no blue pomegranates. Christian artists do not need to be threatened by fantasy and imagination, for they have a basis for knowing the difference between them and the real world "out there." The Christian is the really free person--he is free to have imagination. This too is our heritage. The Christian is the one whose imagination should fly beyond the stars.”
So, does the church need creatives?
Are they really necessary?
You bet your tithe they are!
We often hear about and idolize the ‘big gifts’ in the bible such as, Pastors, Teachers, Evangelists, and Prophets… Creatives are ministers of the gospel as well! Just like the tabernacle served as the blueprint for God’s people to be with other believers in fellowship, service, and the worship of God, we too carry on the ministry of facilitating the gospel to be preached in an atmosphere that draws in people to think about God and His greatness. To hear and see clear communication of the Son of God and the forgiveness we have in His finished work.
If you are a creative, you have been gifted to serve God in this continued legacy. Be that facilitator that connects people to God.
Design our buildings, our atmospheres, our sanctuaries, our print materials, our videos, our music in a way that brings out the creative imaginations the Lord has given and ushers people into the presence of God.