Thinking Outside the Box – Part 2
Graphics and Websites
In my last post I made a case for why we need to take creative approaches to every aspect of our ministries. Today, I want to launch into a series of practical tips and practices that can fuel your creative approach. The topic today is one of my personal soapboxes: graphics and marketing.
You can’t judge a book by its cover
That idiom is 100% absolutely irrelevant today. Whether you can or can’t is not the point. The point is that most people do, in fact, judge a book by its cover. If they didn’t, the marketing industry would not be the multi-billion dollar behemoth that it is. High quality graphics, catchy slogans, and iconic logos are a must for any business hoping to vie for the attention of the American consumers. Think about. How many companies can you identify simply by seeing a two diminutional graphic with no words? Nike? Apple? As much I hate them, I can sing the empire carpets or 1-800-Safe Auto jingles in my sleep. Targeted, quality marketing sticks and forms an impression in the consumers mind.
It never ceases to amaze me how many ministries fail to grasp this concept. Cheap, pixelated graphics adorn stale websites. Youth ministries still use MS Word clipart for flyers and logos. These will certainly make you stand out but not in a good way.
Pixelation is very, very bad
Ok, I know that pixelated images from the original nintendo video games are super retro-awesome right now. Unless you are using an image of Mario, pixelate graphics break every law in the marketing rule book. This is a personal pet peeve of mine. For those of you who do not know what it is, pixelation occurs when someone tries to wrong-sized graphic to fit their needs. (I know that wasn’t the technical defition or the only way pixelations happens, but it works). It looks like this:
Nothing screams “cheap” and “lazy” more than this. We can do better.
One of the problems that I have seen is many ministries set a very low bar for themselves. I’ve heard ministry leaders talking about how their website or marketing is better than “that one church.” Great. They aren’t your competition.
When it comes to student ministry, we are not in competition with the youth group up the road. Our competition is Apple, xBox, reality TV, major clothing lines, and professional sports teams. These other industries are at war with each other over the attention of today’s adolescents. Often, they’re so loud that the church gets lost in the shuffle. Don’t get me wrong, slick graphics are not the only way or even the primary way to draw a student in, but cheap graphics scream “cheap programming.” In our drive-thru society, first impressions are usually all you get.
If you are like me, graphics and marketing are a giant hassle and source of stress. I majored in guitar performance. My two-year-old son is a better artist than I am. How do those of us with little to no skill come up with awesome graphics, websites, and logos? The answer is easier than you think.
- Graceway Media
One of my absolute favorite websites in the whole world is www.gracewaymedia.com. Most of my series graphics for this blog come from there. Basically, they are a website that offers a yearly subscription to gain unlimited access to sermon and church graphics and motion backgrounds. They are insanely high quality. The price tag is a bit steep ($249/year for stills only), but I can honestly say that this is the best money my ministry has spent in years.
Before Graceway, I used to spend hours trying to tweak pictures and create graphics in Adobe programs that I barely know how to use. Now, I have literally thousands of graphics at my fingertips. To customize the titles you will need some sort of editing software. There are many free or inexpensive offerings out there.
- Take a class
Though I have not yet been able to find the time for this, I have several colleagues in youth ministry who have taken a couple of classes at their local community college in graphic design. If you have a budget that allows you to purchase graphics software like Adobe Creative Suite, then these classes are invaluable.
Maybe you’re like me and don’t have time to take another class (or can’t afford it), try YouTube. Besides cute videos of kittens and teenagers showing off crazy stunts, YouTube is full of incredible tutorials instructional videos to help you unleash the power of Photoshop and other software. I learned how to edit videos in Final Cut Pro, a professional grade video editing suite, simply by watching YouTube videos.
- Website Tonight
I HATE web design. I don’t speak HTML and I never want to! Enter website tonight. Though I’m not a massive fan of GoDaddy, their browser-based, web design software is pretty amazing. My youth ministry website is run off of the website tonight platform. Essentially, you grab a template, tweak it the way you like it in a relatively intuitive browser-based program, and your website is up. They offer multi-tiered packages of monthly subscriptions based on the size website you are shooting for. They are pretty cost efficient, far less than the thousands it will cost to have a professional web designer create one for you.
- Smart Phones and Tablets
With the incredible advances in mobile computing, there are numerous inexpensive apps available for creating graphics and logos. I am an Apple guy so I use the iPhone and iPad. I have numerous apps that I use to create graphics, posters, and even edit our website when on the go. If you own a smart phone or tablet, I would recommend starting in your app store before dropping large amounts of money on a software suite. Often, the software suites come with all kinds of features that you won’t use and just intimidate you.
These are just a few tips. With numerous tools available to the non-artists, there really is no excuse for poor graphics. Seriously, can we all make a pact? Repeat after me: “I solemnly swear to never use a pixelated graphic again.” Thank you. The wold will now be a better place!
Share your ideas with others! What tools to use to boost your creative design process?
previous posts in this series: