I’m starting to get a headache because I’ve been staring at a computer screen for most of the day. I don’t do that very much nowadays! But today my previous life and my current life over-lapped significantly. Once upon a time, before candidating for ordained ministry, I worked in education, not as a lecturer but as a business administrator. Much of that career was spent in the area of marketing and communications. Today I was back in that environment as I was working on a postcard to put through people’s letterbox if I call to visit and they’re not in. It wasn’t as easy as it sounds!
You see, while I was involved in marketing and communications, I never really worked on the design side! Way back when I was in university I worked on the student newspaper and got some desktop publishing (DTP) experience, using an ancient version of Quark. Since then I’ve been called upon to do a bit of leaflet production using Word (shock!) and Publisher (horror!), but the major production has been done by others – my job’s been to feed in ideas and guidelines at the job specification stage and/or to provide development feedback as a project has developed, both on design features and on proof-reading.
So, today meant actually getting out of my comfort zone and doing some actual design work. Which was a challenge. To start with it was a challenge because I don’t have any design software! And the top-of-the range software for both graphics work and publication production, such as PhotoShop, CorelDraw, Illustrator, Quark and InDesign, come at a cost beyond the wallet of most people, including church Ministers so I couldn’t just go and buy some. Thankfully, the internet includes wonderful people who believe software should be open to the wider population. So thanks to a recommendation via Twitter a few days ago I tracked down some opensource software and downloaded it.
And that was just the start. Because I made a mess of the first download, and had to start again, downloading a couple of other bits of software first (turns out they weren’t actually necessary, but they did prove useful, and certainly will do in future, so hey-ho!) Then I had to re-teach myself all that stuff I’d learnt at uni on software now more than a decade to a decade-and-a-half old (which is like millennia in the tech world). Thankfully I didn’t need to teach myself all of it, but it still took time. And because I’ve worked in marketing & communications, and therefore I care enough about this stuff to download specialist software, and line-up a decent print company to produce them, you can also imagine that I also care about the look of the final product – there’s no point doing all this if what you end up with is a document that looks like it was slapped together on Word with a bit of clipart and some dodgy fonts!
So I also had to make sure that I re-looked up the Methodist Church’s brand guidelines on the website (yes there are some, here) and ensure my own publication matched in with those – and therefore with my previously produced business cards (produced on a trial version of MS Publisher – shhh, don’t tell anyone!) – I have spent time both helping to develop and “bedding in” new branding for organisations, so unfortunately I get a bit fussy about these kinds of things! In fact, I’ll admit to possibly sometimes getting a little too fussy about these things, but so often I feel the Church isn’t fussy enough. Whether we like it or not, we live in an image savvy world. The pictures we use, the fonts we use, the design and publication values we use, are all part of how we speak to the world. If we don’t take those factors seriously it is the case that world may not take us seriously. Yes, of course, we must make sure that the medium doesn’t become the message, but I believe it’s possible to do that while still caring about the quality of the medium as well as the quality of the message – because nowadays, if we don’t care about the medium, I truly believe the message will be lost!
However you go about sharing your message, travel well.