When it comes to design, there’s a tendency to think that it’s all about making it (whatever “it” is) beautiful. Generally, this is what we artists get consumed with.

We want our video to look gorgeous. We want our design to be stunning. We want our audience to be wowed by the sheer beauty of what we’ve created.

The problem with this sort of thinking is that it not only entirely misses the point of what good design is, but it also leads to over-designing.

First, a bit about the point of design.

Unless you’re a fine artist making art that’s purely beauty for beauty’s sake, or a technical artist whose entire career is dedicated to the perfection of a single craft, i.e. a commercial cinematographer, then your design has a purpose that goes beyond that of just sheer beauty. More to the point, your design has a message it’s trying to communicate, a story it’s aiming to tell, whether that’s “buy this product” or “come to our church event”. This is especially true of those who work in the church, and yet, unbelievably, so many artists in the church never even seem to consider what the point of their design is, they simply focus on making it prettier.

My advice? Stop trying to make your design pretty and start making your design work. Let your fonts be chosen out of a deep conviction for the message of the piece you’re designing. Let your camera shots and effects be born out of desire to better tell the story, not to just make it “cool”.

Have you bothered to research the event you’re promoting? Can you verbally articulate why anyone in your community should go to this event? Those are good questions to start with.

Second, to the point of over-designing.

When your focus is set on making it prettier you’ll always wind up over-designing. Here’s why: you’ll always be focused on adding.

“What filter can I add…”

“What effect can we use…”

“What new fonts are out there…”

Your mindset should never be on what more you can add, but rather on what can be taken away.

I love this quote by Dieter Rams, the famous industrial designer who did work for Braun and Apple.

“Good design is as little design as is possible.”

I know, designing in such a simple way seems easy, doesn’t it? But therein lies the paradox. Simplicity is hard. It’s way hard, and it takes a lot more work and mental energy than the complex.

Busy designs are easy. It’s not hard to throw every filter Photoshop has on your project. But by contrast, designing something that communicates with real feeling and real emotion is hard and it’s hard not to let your design ideas get in the way of what you’re trying to say.

So if you learn anything, learn this: Don’t be enamored with special effects. Stop being impressed by how “pretty” or “cool” something is and start appreciating whether or not it works. Ask yourself if you’re feeling what the artist wanted you to feel before judging whether or not their work is a success, after all, it’s possible for something to be beautiful and yet completely fail to deliver its message.

If you’re in the church business you have no choice: it’s ALL about the message. It’s ALWAYS about the message, so make it simple and in doing so, you’ll make it beautiful every time.

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Whitney George
Lead Pastor
Whitney George is the Executive Pastor at Church on the Move, where he oversees the operations and ministries of the church. Whitney is passionate about the local church and loves connecting with other church leaders. He and his wife, Heather, have five children and he loves Notre Dame football.