A new look for the new year?

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ChurchTrain’s Joe Gallant shares some tips for refreshing your church’s look as we go into a new year.

Considering my job is to help churches and charities with rebrands and websites, you might think I was in the business of persuading people that they need a new look.

The truth is, whilst having a review of your brand is beneficial, the reality is that you don’t always need a full brand refresh to change the way you present yourself. There are often some simple things you can do, that can make a big difference! So here are some new year tips for giving your church a new look.

Consistency

Consistency is a big indicator of quality. If you examine the ways that big companies represent themselves, you’ll notice that their communications look consistent, across the board. This helps people to identify the company, even if they only catch a glimpse, and even if you don’t like the brand in question, it certainly communicates professionalism. Even if your church’s ‘look’ is not the most contemporary, practising consistency in your visual communications can persuade people that you know what you’re doing – even if you feel like you don’t!

Whilst it can be hard to have 100% consistency across all church publicity, a good start is to have some guidance for anyone who is involved with design (which includes creating church documents!).

This guidance can be as simple as a few paragraphs of text. The key things you need to highlight are the fonts you use (and how you use them), your brand colours, and an idea of the church brand’s style.  Are you modern, traditional, or a bit of both? Do you use lots of images or just a few carefully chosen ones with lots of space? Even the nicest, most relevant images can spoil a design if used poorly.

If you haven’t decided on these brand elements, then it’ll take a bit more work, and a rebrand will probably have bigger results for you! But nonetheless, a good start is to choose a couple of fonts that pair well together, and one or two complementary colours that you can use for highlighting important parts of your design. Write these things down and make them accessible to your team. These guidelines can help your church to maintain the look of your brand – and it really doesn’t take much work to achieve big results.

Bonus tip: The type of image you use is often a big part of consistency. Aim for a consistent style and quality across the church photographs you use. This applies whether you take your own church photos or make use of stock photography!

KISS

The media technician at my secondary school was a bit of a school legend. One particular memory is a test video on a new camera, where he repeated the phrase ‘ghetto blaster’ for no apparent reason. Another more useful highlight is his frequent use of the acronym ‘K.I.S.S’, which stands for:

Keep it simple, stupid!

I’ve come to realise that a lot of design comes down to this simple phrase.

If you practise a bit of restraint, you’ll see that less really is more! Don’t overload or over complicate your designs, but instead practice prioritisation.

‘Prioritisation’ is the word I use most often when working with churches to help improve their communications. We have so many messages that we want people to hear, so we shout all of them from the rooftops – whether that’s our newsheet, website or social media. But this scattergun approach rarely works. Instead we need to prioritise messages: the right message, for the right people, at the right time, using the right communication method.

What does this look like in practice? If we’re making a poster for church newcomers, we need to consider what one message we want them to hear – and then focus on this. Make it clear, front and centre, and then include only the details that our audience needs.

As it happens, this prioritisation of messages also helps with the K.I.S.S. principle in our visual design. By focusing our communication, we don’t have to try to fit 10 different pictures into one piece of publicity, but we can use the best one or two instead. We don’t have to use logos from loads of different ministry groups. And we don’t have to use tiny font sizes to try to cram everything in.

Bonus tip: The K.I.S.S concept can be applied to other areas of church life, too. One common example is with your website content. Do you have five web pages with lots of waffle about the same subject? Simplify it! Combine these in to one well-written page that will do the job better, by providing a clearer message.

So there you have it – some simple tips to refresh your church brand as we go in to this new year. I can’t wait to see the results!

Joe Gallant is a graphic designer and website builder, specialising in helping churches and charities to make an impact. He is also the founder of ChurchTrain – an award-winning website which helps UK churches to communicate by making the most of their resources. You can find out more and subscribe for helpful tips from the ChurchTrain blog.

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