People at church often ask me if I studied design, what programs I use or how I learned to design. I don’t consider myself a professional designer and definitely not someone professionally trained in art. The closest thing I could consider myself as is a good copier. I can’t honestly say I’m a good designer. But I can honestly say that almost all the skill I’ve gained is from self-study and determination.

However, just like knowing all the aspects of art doesn’t automatically make you into an incredible artist, there is another element in art that the artist needs to make good art. Many of us lose confidence in this regard, feeling that we do not have the talent, the secret sauce, the ‘it’ factor, that unique inspiration in us. But we have something else that is even greater that mere human talent. More on that later.

What Programs I Use

I mainly use Adobe Illustrator and also Photoshop and InDesign which are subscription based applications but honestly, with a bit of creativity and ingenuity, you can create awesome designs with free programs and can research and try for yourself a slew of free alternatives online. I know this because I know some amazing church volunteers who just use PowerPoint to create incredible posters for church. Where there is a will, there is a way.

In terms of learning how to use the applications, YouTube has been my teacher over the years. If there is something you want to do but don’t know how to do it, there is a 99% chance that there is a way and someone on YouTube can show you how. I remember the first time learning another program back in college over 10 years ago, Adobe Premiere Pro, and feeling like there was no limit to what you can create on it. The only limit was the limits of my imagination.

I have found this to be true for graphic design as well. In this sense, I’m still very much a novice. I still don’t use any hotkeys – a combination of keys providing a shortcut to a particular function in a given application. But, if you can’t figure out how to do something or you’re having a hard time following YouTube instructions, reach out to me or send me an e-mail and I’ll try to help you in however way I can!

God is Ultimate Creativity

There are moments in design where you feel like you’ve hit a wall not just momentarily but as a whole in terms of your abilities and creativity. This can be true when we feel that we haven’t been specially trained to be a professional artist. For the Christian, the greatest encouragement during those moments must be found in our limitless and eternal God who created all things. God is the ultimate Creator. He is ultimate creativity.

Design is important for sure, just like music is important in praise. But who or what the design represents is even more important, just as the words of a song weigh far greater than the melody can ever express. For the secular artist, it is themselves. But for us, it is God. When we fully rely on God and seek His inspiration, the opinion of other people and their praise and acceptance becomes a non-issue. Acceptance of people becomes irrelevant because our focus is on the glory of God. So through this, we can find full assurance, despite our less than perfect work or mediocre design.

However, if we truly desire to represent God and His glory through our design, we will naturally have within us a unsatisfied heart and a desire for better because God deserves so much more than our limited bests. In the midst of this dilemma of peace and discontent, it should move us to strive for excellence. But this is a burden that is not motivated by a need for acceptance or approval. It is rather a motivation out of devotion and love, which is the truest representation of Christ’s invitation when he said, “…take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:29-30, ESV)

It is in this sense that the more you know God and the more intimate you are in His Word, we become more like Him, being filled with the Holy Spirit. And we can hope in the God of all creation and all creativity to provide all that we need as “stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Peter 4:10, ESV) to bring glory to His name.

A Holy Discontent

When we serve the Lord, we must acknowledge that there is always room to grow. We must humbly recognize that in this life, we must always seek for holiness as we are not of the world while we still live in the world. That’s why we practice what we preach and discipline ourselves in the reading of scripture and prayer and continue to gather together as a church in worship.

In the same manner, we must train ourselves in the art of design as we continue to grow closer to Christ. Below is a great resource to get to new levels of design. Beginning with fundamentals, there are many areas you can explore on your own. With willingness and a little discipline, you can improve to do more with your best efforts. Self-study is not a new mode of learning but the amount of resources available at our fingertips is quite expansive.

I’ve found this free resource very helpful in various situations. You can expand your knowledge of not only creativity and design but so much more! You can have a taste with the video below and follow the link for more resources.

Stay tuned for next week! I’ll gather together a list of many of the resources that I use that can help you with the practical aspects of design.