Whether it’s the magazine you’re reading right now, the chair you’re sitting on or anything else in the room around you, everything is designed. Some time in the last 500 years, the principles of design, originally created in and for the church were forgotten by it. Between the time that Michelangelo painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and the birth of the digital age, art became something that we in the church viewed as something secular and irrelevant.
In Design Matters, by Len Wilson and Jason Moore, the goal is to reintroduce Christian artists in the digital age to these principles. Spanning subjects ranging from the “why” behind using art and metaphor in worship to the “how” of doing it, this is a book that belongs on the shelves of church digital artists everywhere.
Almost all who are responsible for the visual elements of their Sunday mornings will learn how to improve their techniques and presentation by reading through chapters on topics like composition, texture, and text. Each chapter is well-written and easy to read, providing numerous examples of how-to create rich visual experiences for the worshipper—experiences filled with layers of meaning, easily retained and applied.
At its core, this book has the premise that metaphor is the best way to communicate what is taught in the Bible. Far beyond using a projector and screen as more modern version of the overhead projector displaying predominantly text, Wilson and Moore show us how to use design and metaphor, to do exactly what Jesus did through the use of stories in an oral and visual culture.
Small to medium-sized churches will benefit especially from the guidelines in Design Matters. These are the churches least likely to have a staff of formally trained digital artists. These are the churches that will see immediate benefit from the application of what Wilson and Moore teach in this book. Design Matters is a book that can transform the person creating the slides and videos that instruct and uplift the congregation from an amateur into a professional.
Professional artists will also benefit from reading the way that Wilson and Moore redeem familiar techniques from their secular uses and bring them back home to the 21st century church. What was a thumbnail sketch, like one a client might approve, becomes an opportunity to show the pastor possibilities for more effectively communicating the Gospel. The technique of metaphor used to sell a car becomes a technique used to communicate life-changing lessons.
All artists, no matter their skill or experience, will find this book to be an invaluable training resource for the next generation. As I read through the chapters, I began to wonder who would be the next to read this book in my sphere of influence. Would I loan it to my sister who creates the presentations for her church? Would I pass it to our youth ministry so that they may to take the video they create from very good to phenomenal? Would I hand it to the person I know who has always wondered why she doesn’t like her graphics as much as she likes the ones others do? There are so many who could benefit from this book that the choice will be a difficult one.
The instructions, tutorials and lessons on the included DVD raise the value of the book far beyond its cover price. Wilson and Moore show the viewer what can be done to create digital art that rivals that of national media. One particular clip, treated to look like a hand-drawn flip book, captures the viewers imagination. I recall thinking, “I would have never thought of that. Can I do that?”
This is just one example of a benefit many may not notice at first. Good design begets good design. The many examples of Wilson and Moore’s work in the book and on the DVD will provoke the reader’s mind to begin creating art in new ways, take new steps, and move in new directions.
Unlike many books on using technology in the church, Design Matters stands as a book whose timeless focus on design and presentation will continue past the finite lifespan of the software and hardware it mentions. The “rule of thirds” and need for texture are ideas that we see in the works of masters long-dead as well as those working today. When the next wave of technology usurps the current, the tips Wilson and Moore give for choosing appropriate fonts, drawing on references, and using your canvas will remain.
Just as their earlier works inspired the church to add the use computers and video to their worship services and inspired each of those who run the computers in the now-Wired Church to become Digital Storytellers, this book reminds us of the truth that Design Matters not just for the secular world, but for us as the trustees of the most important message the world has ever known.