6 Tips for Creating Great Sermon Art
As a Christian, I have always used design to communicate biblical concepts. That is often seen by creating sermon series' graphics packages for my home church or other churches who request my services. At this point in my career, I’ve probably designed over 50 sermon series in a variety of ways, including kids, youth, camps, and Sunday morning services.
In 2014, I had the opportunity to be the art director at Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington. My time at Mars Hill enriched and deepened my understanding of what it takes to craft an effective communication piece for a sermon series. Here are some of the main things I consider when designing a sermon series' graphics package.
1. Everything Starts with the Gospel
No matter what church you’re designing for, the goal should always be to point people to the truth that Jesus saves. No matter what your theological background is, that is the core of Christian faith.
When designing for a sermon series, I try to understand how the series relates, connects, or informs people about the gospel. Practically, I have to consider how to bring gospel concepts into the artwork, no matter which book or topic is being preached.
2. Understand the Preacher and Your Role
Having a good relationship with the preacher and knowing him/her on a personal level, really helps you the designer. If you know his/her heart, style, and motives, you’ll be able to push back with constructive feedback if and when appropriate. Understanding your role in the making of sermon series' graphics is highly important. Specifically in this space, designers need to recognize and remember that the preacher is not simply the communicator, but also he/she is the person who has been called by Jesus to communicate the message. Your role is to simply support the preacher’s attempt to communicate a theological and biblical truth by adding imagery and visual cues to support the message.
3. Get Your Brief
When I sit down with a preacher, I ask questions such as:
What’s the theme of the series?
What’s the name of the series?
Where did the name come from?
Are there any particular verses that speak into the theme?
Is there a key verse?
Then I do my research on these responses. I study the verses, the book, the Greek or Hebrew, the history, the original audience, etc. I want to be well-informed about the background of the book/verse.
4. Know Your Audience
Which programming is the series for: Student ministry or regular worship services? What’s the demographic and culture of the church? Is it mainly for new believers or nonbelievers? Just like any project, knowing your audience will certainly inform the way you design.
5. Understand the Length
I have found that many times, the length of the series has influenced the way in which I approach the art. For example, making art for a sermon series that will last three months versus one that will last six months or a year will drastically change how I design it. Especially if your design is bleeding into the stage and the lighting, you want to make sure it feels fresh. You want it to be revealed a bit at a time, as if people are peeling back layers from week to week. Just as with the weekly messages, people are gaining a deeper and deeper understanding. Practically, I would increase the visual language with color, iconography, typography, or imagery.
6. Think About All the Mediums
How are people going to engage with this series’ art? Will they see it on the stage, on video, in the lobby? Will there be items for the Sunday experience, such as worship slides and sermon slides? Will there be marketing pieces such as posters or postcards? Will there be a webpage for it? Social Media? Understanding how flexible the art work needs to be is paradigm to the consistency of the series. The message is consistent, so the art should be as well.
It is a Privilege
As a Jesus-loving person, it is a privilege for me to be able to attempt to communicate a message that is not only inspiring but life-changing. As designers in this space, we get to be involved with a message that not only affects this life, but eternity. The same way Jesus used metaphors and stories to unpack complex concepts, nothing brings me more joy than to be able to use design to try to communicate a complex idea.