Sunday, 20 May 2012

Graphic Design According to Christians

Hello! Im a Christian Graphic Designer and I have been discovering the role of artists and designers alike and how we relate our identity in the real world. I have just started working for a Christian company where I intern as a Graphic Designer. Here are some thoughts and things I have learned along the way about being a Christian and Designer. Feel free to scribble some out if you disagree, but I'm sure it may be better to leave a comment (that way your computer screen is less likely to hate you).

The Invention of Graphic Design
Being an artist and/or Graphic Designer is hard enough, especially in the economic situation at present and the lack of jobs available for freelance Graphic Designers to begin with! In our broad world today, being a Christian is even less popular, especially if you get out of the South. How can you glorify God with being a Christian Graphic Designer and reach the world as your audience when you have so much going against you?

Let's take a look at a few things from the Bible. I bet you never knew God was a Graphic Designer.

"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters." Genesis 1:1-2

See? God took something formless, dark, and empty and began the biggest, most beautiful work of art ever. The Great Star-Breather started off noticing there was darkness and created light, cleared the space, and began to work away.

"And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness." Genesis 1:3-4

Now, Im no physicist, and surely I can imagine how difficult it would be for anyone to separate light from darkness by sheer willpower. Its hard enough separating your two children fighting over a misplaced Pokemon card they found. But anyway, what I've gleaned from these two verses was the fact that light was created to stand out from the darkness. So, we as Christians take that to heart and become people of light. We shine and reveal the darkness and sometimes that seems painfully exposing.

Christian Methods in Graphic Design
One thing we are to remember as Christians is that we live on earth, but not in it. 2 Corinthians 10:3 says, "For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does." We've heard this before, I'm sure. So, in translating that to how we do Graphic Design, its quite simple. Our methods should look different. But what does that look like?

Being a Christian Graphic Designer does not look the same for everyone. Just because you're a Christian and Designer doesn't mean you have to slap a Christian Ichthus (the little fish symbol) all over your art. Your talents are given to you by God to make a difference in the world. Its a fine line between being portraying Christ in your work and being religious. According to this awesome article, Is It Hard Being a Christian Designer?

Many Christian Designers end up working freelance or for churches, doing bulletins, posters, tee-shirts, and all that other cool stuff you see your local Youth Group wearing. But sometimes you want to make a difference in the rest of the world; you know, the parts that think "Christians are like everyone else, but are just busy on Sundays". That's quite a wake-up call, isn't it? We must broaden our circles. The Great Commission calls us to go into all the world, not just to the "Christian bubbles." We should want to stick out, and create compelling art that moves people to Christ.

So, in saying this, as Christian Designers we can do many things differently to stand out. For those of you who appreciate organization, here's a numbered list.

1. Practice good stewardship by obeying your bosses and treating every client with respect; there's an attitude difference people will notice.
2. Being on time and honoring other people's time is not only a good way to get off on the right foot, but it shows that you truly care. Its a practical sign of love and respect. Your bosses will see your dedication.
3. Being excellent in your designs. You have the talent, you have the drive, now put it to use! Research outside of work and learn skills that the pros use so you can contend before kings.
4. Learn to appreciate good art. Both Christians and Non-Christians alike are capable of making something beautiful. Its not sacrilegious to listen to Radiohead or watch Titanic, because people everywhere can appreciate them as good works of art.
5. Choose to redeem the arts. You may see a powerful piece of art, or art that offends, and can decide, "I want to make something like that, lasting and compelling, but use it to point to Christ!" See what happens. For me, that looks like making Manga, or Japanese comic books, because some are pretty bad and I want people to appreciate the art and story without polluting themselves with something icky.
6. Do it with community. Its a really competitive field to begin with , and people will do whatever it takes to get ahead. Instead of trying to be the best, try working with other artists and designers to create something that will be different than what you imagined on your own strength. It may take practice, but this way helps get the focus off yourself and onto the bigger picture. After all its not supposed to be our story we are writing, but following along with God's.
7. Don't compromise your rest. God created, but on the 7th day He rested. He made that to be a part of our lives; as Christians we can demonstrate that God in us is able to help us be just as productive (if not more) with 6 days of work and one day of rest than with 7 days of non-stop work.
8. Ask, "Why do I do this?" Why design? Why art? Not only ask yourself this, but ask God. This is the most important thing. As Jimmy Seibert says, "Without vision, the people perish." So make sure you know what your vision is so you can know God is leading you to do art in this way to glorify Him, not yourself.

Being Excellent in Your Craft
There is one thing we often forget. We are called to a standard of excellence. Where have all the brilliant Christians gone? People like A.W. Tozer, Flannery O'Connor, C.S. Lewis-- all these master craftsmen of Christ and creative thinkers-- why aren't there more people like that? Have we stopped trying to be like Christ and started being like the world to gain acceptance? Can we be first and foremost lovers of Christ, who's love for God overflows into our work and designs? I would like to argue, "yes".

By raising our standards for ourselves, we can be excellent in our work and bless people through it. We can work for big companies and see people's lives changed by the way we interact with our co-workers. We can minister to people with our art. Many people suffer-- that's at least one common ground we share. So, as a designer, why not create a piece of art that represents a specific way that you've suffered, and post it. People relate to pain and are moved by art in such a way that it can touch them through that.

A good friend of mine told me the story of a Christian tattoo artists who found this kid on the streets doing graffiti. He took him in, and said, "Come and paint your art on my wall. Here, its good; here, it is legal." So now, at Art Ambush in Waco, TX, you will see a striking picture of an eye painted on the side of the wall, and now you will know the reason behind the art. It just got a whole lot more moving. As Designers, we can take people in and mentor them to do good with their art. We all have something to say, we just need to be trained in how to express it in a non-destructive way.

Art, Graphics, and Healing
One more interesting thing. I had a friend, Julianne, who went to Bethel to learn about creative arts and using them to glorify God. One very interesting thing was that people who loved Jesus and discovered their giftings were in art began to use it as a means of delivering prayer. There was a story about an artist who had been painting a picture for this family and all the while she prayed into it, basically, and asked the Holy Spirit for what to paint, and He said "Healing". The family hung it in their home and the man who had cancer was healed; it had such an influence on them because it was a prayer! We can do this with our art and design.

Finally, Dear Brothers...
Phew! That's a lot to say. So basically, that's just a lot of my thoughts put into words. If you found anything helpful, or confusing, or both, please post a comment below or on Facebook. I would love to hear your thoughts!