Branding Christianity

Sometimes, when I see something I’m familiar with, I stop and pause to think about the jobs that made it happen. There are, of course, the classics jobs most people think about: firemen, postal workers, politicians, and teachers. I’m not so much talking about those kinds of jobs—not that there is anything wrong with them. They are just the types of jobs most might think about. No, I’m talking about less familiar jobs—the types of jobs we often forget to think about. 

Take for example, my cereal box.  It’s easy for me to imagine that a whole team of consultants, designers, writers, and executives sat around a table to discuss the design, layout, and copy of this fun box of morning cereal. Surely, they discussed the placement of the logo and the exact shape of the smile of the cartoon mascot. They probably discussed which colors would attract greater sales, as they compared one flow cart after another. I bet they took their job pretty seriously. 

Sometimes (not always), I buy the off-brand cereal. When I do, I’m forced to think about the people who designed their boxes. Sometimes I wonder if it was a team of consultants, designers, and executives, or if maybe it wasn’t a team at all. I’d like to imagine that maybe it’s just some recent college grad that got the job from a friend of a friend and received the instructions via email. What is more likely the case is that it’s a seasoned graphic designer that was really great at his job until the computer became popular. Now he struggles to keep up with the changes in technology.

With church, it’s often a similar experience. I see some of the name brand churches, with their relevant logos and attractive sermon series, and I imagine the people designing them. I always imagine them as being super cool. You know, with Rob Bell glasses, maybe wearing a fedora, skinny jeans, or suspenders (but probably all three). They would definitely be sporting Toms shoes and either be supporting a child through World Vision or providing microloans through kivi.org. They might even consider this their “tithe.”

Then I see the off-brand churches and I wonder if they got their instructions for the logo via email? I wonder if they even know what Toms shoes are?

Either way, this is how my brain works. Simply put, if the design is lame, I imagine the designer as lame. If the design is awesome, I imagine the designer as awesome. Now, before I go further and get a lot of angry readers, let me just be clear. I do not have a problem with lame. In fact, lame can be pretty cool these days. So, don’t take this as a value judgment. Art is completely subjective and only ever a matter of the collective cultural taste. What is lame to me is art to you. I get that. 

Whether right or wrong, the images we post, share, and print create impressions about the people who are associated with them.

So, do you think that’s fair? What should be our response as Christians—help churches design better stuff, or stop caring about the way things look? What do you think?


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