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Kenneth Fitzgerald

I Believe in Design


The Chesapeake Van, March 2009, photo by Kenneth FitzGerald 

In each of the communities I’ve lived I’ve encountered one of these trucks. It’s always a white van, hand-inscribed by paint or permanent marker with a variety of Biblical verses and religious admonitions. From this base model, the individual owners accessorize. The van I knew in Massachusetts had a set of small crosses rising from the roof (the owner was a carpenter by trade). Here in Virginia, some of the texts are lettered on florescent colored paper. 

Of course, the intention of the owners is for me to take notice, and I do. However, the next step should be for me to contemplate religious faith. And once again, I do — but in a context of design. For me, these vehicles are one manifestation an ongoing concern — the relationship of graphic design and faith.


The Chesapeake Van, March 2009, photo by Kenneth FitzGerald 

It’s because of my devotion to graphic design that I’ve always enjoyed encountering these vehicles. They’ve also been a constant of sorts as I’ve bounced around the country. Each is a refreshing, individualized visual delight roaming the streets. Just a bit of typographic whimsy amongst a flat-hued and airbrush-detailed monotony of cars. They’re folk art on wheels!

Actually reading the texts can sometimes put a bit of a damper on the gratification. Damnation declarations can weigh on the mind, no matter the state of one’s conscience or current karmic burden. As genre artifacts, these vans are rather muted. None display the special eccentricity or wild invention of a Howard Finster. However, such appraisal seems silly under the circumstances — even though there exists a considerable financial market that makes such distinctions.

But this isn’t another claim that designers should appreciate the graphic naïve. For those who’d regard these vans — or any application of such “design” — as an eyesore, I’m not here to argue otherwise. Unless you’re stuck behind or beside one in a traffic jam, you can let it roll out of sight and mind.

In the classroom, the expression of religious belief in design is something I’ve always encountered. As a teacher, I’m regularly presented student work with explicit religious content. In addition, many students cite their faith as inspiration and motivation for their designing.

I know that my evangelical students are representative of a significant demographic in the professional graphic design community. The statistics on belief in the population overall tells us it’s not a minority position. However, I can’t recall ever running across anything but a furtive mention of faith within some other design discussion. Admittedly, I’m no longer the most diligent reader of the design press. Perhaps the discussions are happening out of my sight, as I’m worldly-minded. 

Just as there seems a more vocal left-leaning population of designers, is it that the secularists hold sway here too? Is there an underground of “devout” designers? Or are there no discussions because there’s really nothing much to say? Does calling it out do the subject — and the affected designers — a disservice?

The same might be said of investigating the influence of sexual orientation upon and within design. Certainly bringing plain ol’ sex into the debate (i.e. is there a feminine design?) will reliably roil the design community. If there isn’t a distinctive formality to faith-based design, what’s to talk about?

Historically, graphic design has found plenty of room for the ineffable in its theories. Not to demean either religious belief or Modernist principles but many of the historic (and contemporary) rationales for graphic design activity have been based more in faith than evidence. Gestalt principles are still unencumbered by objective verification, to name just one. Graphic design’s traditional emphasis on rationality and neutrality immediately seems to portend a conflict with a sensibility that highlights transcendence. Of course, rationalism has resided in cooperation faith for centuries, despite events in the recent past.

I count it as no surprise that my experience critiquing religious content in student work has gone without contention or awkwardness. Students do question my ability to evaluate their work at times but never due to my personal spirituality or lack thereof (that I simply possess a contrary taste is far and away the leading complaint). If anything, I’ve been regarded as a fellow congregant as I’ve addressed the content with the same verve I do all material.

With eight years of nun-directed Catholic grammar school in my past, I’m quite conversant with the themes of Christianity, so I have a leg up there. However, I’m just as ready to take on — and welcome for my own education — design work based in other faiths. If I’ve articulated a common critique it’s that a student’s work isn’t passionate enough. That appraisal pretty much goes across the board for student (and professional) work. Most graphic design suffers from an impersonality and detachment that resists audience interaction. For religious work, such an approach is distressingly mortal (bring back the Latin Mass!).

Overall, I’m not expecting any special insight about graphic design and faith. In practical terms as a teacher, I seem to have it covered. But I wonder sometimes about the absence of public discussion about the topic, no more or less than any other intangible but heartfelt influence upon creativity. And never mind about touching someone’s heart with graphic design — what about their soul? Is anyone making the attempt?

Meanwhile, when my local Bible van pulled in a few houses down, I walked over and asked if I might document it. As I photographed its hood, I suggested to the owner he write his message backwards so as to read right in rear view mirrors. At first, he was mystified by my advice, until I referred to ambulances. He allowed that was a good idea. And so design is revealed.


Kenneth FitzGerald teaches at Old Dominion University in Norfolk Virginia, and writes about design at his blog Ephemeral States. He is at work on an essay collection, Volume: writings on graphic design, art, music and culture, to be published by Princeton Architectural Press.


Posted in: Graphic Design, Religion

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Comments [53]
I'm not very religious either, but this van is fascinating stuff.

I have seen billboards trying to do the evangelical thing better design-wise, but it doesn't do anything for me.

They seem to be taking cues from blockbuster movie posters or mass market bookcover design. Admittedly, it's probably not such bad material for inspiration considering that they are trying to draw the masses to their "flock", but it rings a little hollow for me.

Overuse of Trajan aside, you would think they'd be able to come up with better words to really reach the reader's heart and soul as you say.

millie rossman kidd
03.22.09
11:40

I can actually say I have never seen a van like that. It is interesting sight to see. I do appreciate its type folk art look to it. This is the type of van/truck that I'm used to seeing here on the east coast,
Link

Do they replace the florescent colored paper every time it rains? (I was thinking, so they don't have to replace the florescent colored paper after it rains) - It would be interesting to see a folk art looking van wrap. But maybe changing the saying on the florescent colored paper after each rain storm isn't so bad plus financially its pretty cheap to change the paper compared to paying to get a van wrap.

Paulo Pereira
03.22.09
12:13

I would love to see a photo journal of these sorts of 'evangelical' vehicles. I've seen them all over Canada and the United States. It would also make for an interesting semiotic analysis.
D Hansen
03.22.09
01:24

I consider myself a religious/spiritual person (we can forgo the semiotics discussion/argument that those two words might start). I also consider design my job—a job that i love and fell privileged to do. I suppose my faith plays into my design at times, but I find that the most honest expressions of how I believe come from getting away from design and doing things for people. Occasionally, I get a chance to help out a friend with a wedding invite or logo for their start-up, but usually, people don't really get what graphic design really is. My wife could tell you that no matter how world changing I think my next idea is, it doesn't mean much if I have taken time to just be with her.

I guess what I am trying to say is that from my perspective, part of the reason faith doesn't come up much in the context of design is because many people I know—religious, spiritual, and otherwise—have come to a realization that design just isn't that important.

Again, I am not making any absolute claims here, just saying what I hear from a lot of people, and feel myself. Perhaps this sentiment is something even more furtively expressed than religion.

Keenan
03.22.09
05:31

For me, these vehicles are one manifestation an ongoing concern — the relationship of graphic design and faith.

Wow, questionable naive charm aside, if these vans are an example of graphic design by people of christian faith, I can only conclude that christians are lousy designers. That in turn makes me wonder about the skills of their Supreme Designer.

As to the relationship between graphic design and faith: Is there any? Among designers, aren't there are lots of people of all faiths, just as there are in most other professions? I don't imagine that accountants, lawyers, or architects spend much time wondering about all the christian members of their professions.

And, if there is a "faith-based design" I would imagine that it comes from the client side. Obviously, if a designer's client is, for example, a Christian church, then you might expect the work to reflect that particular religious view. But the designer would not necessarily need to be Christian to accomplish that. One need not drink wine to design wine bottle labels.

I suppose you could further imagine that a strongly Christian designer *might* seek out work for clients who share Christian values. But this is really no different than a designer who has strongly held views about environmental issues seeking out work for environmental preservation organizations (or declining work for polluters).

It's up to every designer to determine how his/her personally held religious (and other) views relate to his/her work. With that in mind, I don't think there is any relationship whatsoever between graphic design and faith--except on the individual level. And perhaps that's why we don't talk about it as a profession.
Rob Henning
03.22.09
11:39

>if these vans are an example of graphic design by people of christian faith, I can only conclude that christians are lousy designers

Rob,
I think you need to add at least another point to your curve.
Kenneth FitzGerald
03.23.09
09:17

I must say that most religious design I come across is quite cliche, there's always a white dove or some generic sunset with the words "the lord almighty" and some chapter:verse. I think this is the reason there is no discussion about the work, because it is so awful. They aren't saying anything, they aren't questioning, they aren't progressing, and they certainly aren't trying anything different.

The only exception I can think of to this rule would be http://www.tangle.com a youtube of sorts for christians. It's so overly trying to be hip it's disgusting, but at least there's no white doves.

I find the truck splattered with sayings, more interesting than any faith based design I have seen.

*Faith based design is like christian music, I'll never get it.
Ryan Artell
03.23.09
10:11

There are some clever things going on with that van, for one, the day-glow rectangles (similar to Post-It notes) really catch my attention, and make me think of a list of 'to-do' items plastering my desk. What a natural analogy. What an attention getter. Was it intentionally thought out like this? Maybe. Maybe not.
Jason A. Tselentis
03.23.09
10:34

Kenneth, I was joking. Sort of.

The vans and the Sistine Chapel have something in common: both demonstrate that human beings are compelled to do strange and wonderful things in the service of religion. I don't know who or what is doing the compelling.

I'd be willing to bet that if you'd ask the creators of these vans, they'd tell you that they were operating under direct orders from god. If that were true, I should think that god could guide their hands a little better!

I don't if Michelangelo thought he was operating under direct orders from god. And it is too late to ask him. But if so, god did a damn fine job of guiding his hand. But then maybe it was really just that Michelangelo was an incredibly talented and accomplished artist who was really pleased to get a plum commission from the Pope. Maybe god had nothing to do with it.

For me, there's much to admire about the Sistine Chapel--apart from any religious beliefs I may or may not hold--because it is inarguably and obviously the work of an incredibly talented human being. Those vans, while certainly interesting, only end up coming off as the feverish ravings of magic-marker-armed evangelicals. Naive and vernacular as they are, I just don't think they have anything much to do with graphic design. And finding inspiration among the vernacular/naive is an unbearably tired cliche!
Rob Henning
03.23.09
11:27

I'm less intrigued by overtly Christian messages by non-designers, and more fascinated in how the faith of professional designers impacts their client work. Perhaps the best piece of film titles I've ever seen was for the David Fincher film Seven, by Kyle Cooper's Imaginary Forces. Given the visuals and dark subject matter, it's hard not to see how Cooper's Christian faith played a role in how he handled a graphic representation of the nature of evil.
Matthew Brett
03.23.09
12:12

This is an interesting topic. My opinion is that there isn't much discussion about how our religion/spirituality influences our design because nothing should. Sure, we all have a "style" of sorts, but in the end as graphic designers we aim to convey the message of our clients not ourselves.

I guess it also has something to do with whether you consider yourself a communicator or an artist. I have a feeling that those that call themselves artists allow their own views to influence their design. Personally, I consider myself both, and I'm not a religious person, and I don't ever find myself thinking about the spirituality of my work. Though I'm now very intrigued by the idea of influencing someone's soul...

"And never mind about touching someone’s heart with graphic design — what about their soul? Is anyone making the attempt? "
Gigi Frias
03.23.09
12:30

The Church Marketing Lab on flickr has many excellent examples of design done for Christian purposes: http://www.flickr.com/groups/cfcc/
spudart
03.23.09
12:31

Sorry to be off-topic, but: @Rob, just because something is a cliché does that mean it is worthless? I think finding inspiration in everyday visuals is always exciting. Even if they are stark raving mad!

Actually, what else is a designer gonna find inspiration from? I meet a lot of young students like me who ONLY look at other people's work for "inspiration." I think THAT's a formula for clichéd design, if any.
tinabeans
03.23.09
12:33

tinabeans, It feels like every time I hear a designer speak, he/she posts the obligatory slide of a rusted faded 'Boulangerie' sign encountered while on holiday in Provence, maybe a hand-painted 'Apples 4 Sale' fruit stand sign from alongside America's backroads, or--worst of all--a drawing by one of their beloved, brilliant, and highly-gifted toddlers. No, it is not worthless (that's a word I did not use) for people to be inspired by these things. Designers can and should take inspiration from wherever they can get it. I just cringe every time I hear a designer report on these vernacular sources of inspiration because I feel I have heard it SO many times. That's what makes it a tired cliché.
Rob Henning
03.23.09
01:30

I'm a christian working as a designer/film score composer, and I appreciate your thoughts. Perhaps one reason there seems to be a shortage of excellent "christian" design is that many Christians see their faith in Christ as encompassing and informing all of life, rather than thinking of it as one section of their life. In other words, I don't believe there should be a sacred/secular divide, and I'm trying to learn how loving Christ and loving people should shape the way I live my life, whether it's design or film scoring, or anything else. So often I don't make "christian" design—because I don't see it as distinct from everything else.

One of the few really excellent Christian designers I've come across works at a non-profit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/secondscout
Peter Lewis
03.23.09
01:54

Dear Rob,

I too grow tired of the "beauty in the face of ugly" articles. Religion affiliation or none. It's like collecting art from Goodwill. Fun and a little thrilling, but ultimately ironic and flat.

Shaun
03.23.09
02:23

Also, for the record, Kenneth Fitzgerald was not advocating that these vans should be a source of inspiration. Indeed, he wrote: "But this isn’t another claim that designers should appreciate the graphic naïve. . . "
Rob Henning
03.23.09
02:57

The problem for religion is that things like this van can come to represent it. No matter how you feel about the aesthetic charms (and it does have its charms), this guy seems like a nut. To me, this is more about a guy who's not very capable at persuading people than it is about religion.
Stuart Rogers
03.23.09
03:06

Kenneth:

You are a better man than I. When faced with personally religious subject matter in a student's work, I can't engage. In such cases, I become a formalist!

In other aspects of my life, it's more complicated. My aunt is a nun and the truest, kindest person I know. She is now the family matriarch, and makes it her business to stay in touch with us all. In her family newsletters, she knows her audience, and knows she must speak to believers and confirmed heathens alike. (If there are prayers, they are from Thomas Merton or Teilhard de Chardin.) She is our Sister Corita, with photocopier and clipart, and I try not to focus on the doves and sheafs of wheat.

Religious work works better for me when not presented as Gospel. When it shows less faith.

Doubt-based design?

As for Michaelangelo ... maybe it's me, but, I see lots of doubt up there on the ceiling. And lots of sex. "Very strong, work, Michael. Very passionate. But I don't really see enough work on your type."
John Kramer
03.23.09
03:29

@Rob I can envision your frustration with clichéd viewpoints, and sometimes I feel that way too -- if something gets repeated so often, it just means we aren't coming up with new ideas and simply recycling old ones. On the other hand, I think a lot of young designers could benefit from having that point about "vernacular inspiration" hammered home through sheer repetition. Some design schools still teach just form, and then dump a lot of design pubs on student's laps. These students are not going to be creating original work if they are merely taught to look at the latest issue of ID for "inspiration." They are not going to pay attention to the world around them as much, just getting trapped in the insular world of design, which like any industry, is just that sometimes: insular.

Also I wasn't really planning on debating the semantics of Ken's article -- just sharing where it led me, is all.

Sorry, no more non-religion-related posts here =) (I agree so far with everything that's been said!)
tinabeans
03.23.09
03:49

Sometimes it's best to remember…
Joe Moran
03.23.09
04:55

Yeah we shouldn't crit or question anything ever Joe. I agree.

I'm not frustrated with the subject at all. I can honestly say I have never seen an essay pondering a decorated white van, religious or not. And it's well written.

I am talking about the prevalence of articles about finding inspiration in unexpected places and/or fetishizing ephemera. Can't things just be dumb, and to find immediate, thrilling beauty in that be ok? Do we have to theorize, and plot, and justify to ourselves why we adore it?

It just feels pretty contrived most of the time to me. And I am a student and we are taught to seek this kind of inspiration all the time so it has nothing to do with my institution feeding us design annuals. It just seems like it's gotten to the point of a cheap trick. And it must be, because most of these articles seem to plate these kitschy objects onto pedestals with theoretical jargon and intellectual musing. This isn't a personal attack on the author, I'm just merely stating that these kinds of articles seem to pop up a lot on this site. Just my opinion.
Shaun
03.23.09
06:27

As a designer and calligrapher, I am always intrigued by the handwrought letterform. The writing on the van feels immediate and heartfelt. It is unapologetically passionate -- a bracing sight.
Emily
03.23.09
09:18

Peter Lewis:
"So often I don't make "christian" design—because I don't see it as distinct from everything else."

I think you have hit the nail on the head--the term "Christian" is not meant to be an adjective, it is a noun. When we start arbitrarily dividing art (or commerce) into camps we suffer quality-wise.

When you really think about it, what makes a song or movie (or design) Christian? Because it is distributed by a company that labels themselves as Christian? Because it name-checks Jesus enough times? Does every actor on the set have to be Christian? What about the first grip? And then what happens when the art isn't very good? It reflects poorly on the religion.

A more enriching viewpoint is to realize that you can accept truth or beauty wherever you may see it, and should make the decision yourself about what the art is saying.

I am a designer and a Christian, but I don't think everything I design should be labeled 'Christian design". Sure, there may sometimes be reflections of my beliefs and convictions, but corralling art only causes us to view it less critically--we let someone else tell us if it is 'good' or not.

I realize this is slightly off-topic from a bible-verse plastered van (which I don't really know what to make of), but it seemed worth saying.
Stephen
03.23.09
11:22

A more enriching viewpoint is to realize that you can accept truth or beauty wherever you may see it, and should make the decision yourself about what the art is saying.


That is so well put...i want it on a poster
steinkamp
03.24.09
01:55

One more for the gallery. This "holy roller" has been driving around mid-town Kansas City for the last eight years, at least. Yes folks, those are doll heads, among other things, on the roof.

Bonus.

God bless us, every one.

VR/
Joe Moran
03.24.09
03:27

Shaun,

Please sit back, relax, and enjoy a nice cup of shut the CENSORED up. My question to you: With so many other design blogs out there, why chose DO to dump on? Move on if you don't "get it."

Joe Moran
03.24.09
05:08

I think Shaun's critique was perfectly fine.

I think the van owner borders on mental illness. At least he might be obsessive compulsive. I also think think that people who have to shout at the world like this are fanatics who really have doubts in their own belief or self-worth.
It also seems that any design going on here is design by "well, I have space to fill so I'll just fill it up!"

But I too am just a student so I presume that makes me unqualified to comment.
Mark Morris
03.24.09
05:58

Joe Moran: I think Shaun is allowed to say what he thinks, regardless of whether or not he is a student. The DO commenting guidelines don't appear to exclude students. They do, however, ask that comments show a courteous regard. Telling someone to "shut the ____ up" and "move on if you don't get it" is not exactly courteous.
Rob Henning
03.24.09
07:43

Rob,

Would you prefer one or two lumps of cliche, vernacular, intellectual or tired in your cup of shut the f*** up?.

Joe Moran
03.24.09
10:20

I read this blog because I love it. I just find certain things bothersome. And I speak about it. Is that so wrong? I'd like three helpings of the censored sweetener please.
Shaun
03.25.09
01:40

Shaun,

Ha! My apologies. Heartily sorry for having offended thee (and Rob). I will now enjoy my own cup and lumps.

VR/
Joe Moran
03.25.09
08:03

Thanks to everyone who's commented. While I appreciate any response to the topic, I'm especially grateful to those who've written specifically about being a designer and how their faith interacts with that. Perhaps it's no major revelation (sorry) to note that people are far more comfortable discussing the formal qualities of the van (and whether or not it's something to be inspired by) than the spiritual unpinning. I wonder if the discussion would go the same way had I, instead of using the van as my centerpiece, used the Sistine Chapel ceiling, or maybe this.
Kenneth FitzGerald
03.25.09
08:25

What this instantly reminds me of is the religious iconography bordering on kitsch that is all over India - and is one of the things that makes me love that country. What makes it beautiful is not just the way it makes us think afresh about design (color! typography! movement! composition!), but also that the intention behind it isn't ironic, but sincere. I can appreciate this as a fun study in design. I recommend taking a look at this book if you get a chance: Pathway Icons: The Wayside Art of India, by Priya Mookerjee. Some really amazing stuff in there, especially the aniconic shrines.

Erin
03.25.09
03:56

Interesting essay and discussion. It seems difficult to discuss something that is so rooted in a persons subjective experience. I have read couple good books on the subject art and religion. Postmodern Heretics by Elenor Heartney and On the Strange Place of Religion in Contemporary Art by David Elkins.

I appreciate John Kramer's idea of "doubt based design". I've never thought of it that way. You unlocked something in my head. Perhaps because doubt in art-making in general is a universal, whereas belief is very subjective. Meaning everyone has doubt, but everyone's beliefs are tied to specific, and usually very immovable, things. If image making seeks to communicate to others (whether commercial or non) then questioning our collective realities via doubt is perhaps more inclusive and therefore open to dialogue. In the end more successful, less ideological, less me against you.

There is a certain effortless joy to the van pictured above. Whether it is from a mental illness or a sincere and conscious belief it is the kind that stems from a transparent existence. An honest way to live for sure.
Courtney Stubbert
03.25.09
04:57

Good question Kenneth. You got your next essay idea in the bag.
Shaun
03.25.09
08:05

I know I'm late to the conversation but the article about design and religion is fascinating to me. Being a catholic, the piece I think of first to be designed would be the bible itself. Two that I have seen recently that take different approaches but are both well designed are

Here

and Here
nick healy
03.26.09
01:06

"Doubt-based design," for me, touches on something hovering over this topic: do you have to be devout at all to do effective and affective (for instance, thanx Nick) Bible design? Caravaggio created religious masterworks, but his life wasn't exactly, er, monastic. Of course, designers are always called upon to bring interest to ideas/topics/concerns they may not share or be that familiar with...
Kenneth FitzGerald
03.26.09
02:56

Very interesting discussion going on here!

For what it's worth, here are some examples of "Christian" design that I've found to be fairly inspiring. I don't know what makes it "Christian" design other than the work is done for a "Christian" record label. Some of the work includes religious imagery I suppose, but a lot of it is just cool design.

Solid State Records

I'm particularly drawn to the work done for Underoath and Norma Jean.

I would call myself a Christian that is also a design professional. I can honestly say that in the 4 or 5 years I've been doing work, there's never really been a conflict of interest. It could be that I've never been presented with a project that would cause a conflict with my beliefs.

The only time that my beliefs come into play with design is when I do work for churches. I think my beliefs give me an understanding of the church culture that maybe other designers wouldn't have by default. But, really, a church is just like any other client, you meet with them, understand what they want to communicate, and you design something that communicates. Other than that, I think there's a pretty clear separation between what I believe and the work I do for clients.
Josh Clark
03.27.09
12:23

Living a ways north of the Bible Belt we have fewer evangeli-cars, but there is a house a few blocks over where they post makeshift right-wing and biblical admonitions. When I was out doorknocking for Democrats a few years ago he admonished me in person in the middle of the street. The more common version of the bible-car here is the art car, with paintings or shells or corks or astroturf or other things all over it. They are wonderful. There's a parade of them every summer. Art lives.
Eric Hanson
03.27.09
01:06

Referencing the term creational aesthetics Calvin Seerveld states, “That’s a defining mark of the biblically Reformational Christian philosophical stance: take creation seriously as God’s revelation, which despite the perversions we sinners bring into history, is still God’s world and is to be studied by us in the light of Scriptural revelation as a communion of saints redeemed by Jesus Christ.” Borrowing Seerveld’s point, I believe the study of creation can also apply to graphic design and when teaching students I use the phase Creational Graphic Design. I value the creational emphasis of the Reformed tradition, which highlights the structural nature of society in terms of community relationships. I work for an educational institution that reflects a scholarly community of Christians engaged in the study of various disciplines, including graphic design, through the perspective of a biblical, covenantal framework that acknowledges the pattern of creation, sin, grace, and creation renewal. This pattern engages themes of Judeo-Christian religion and spirituality and focuses on being Christian graphic designers, which I, in agreement with Seerveld, understand to be “…christian artists…distinguished in their artistry by the holy spirit of compassionate judgment proclaiming the Rule of Jesus Christ:” Seerveld’s definition is a good start but more can be said. Specifically, trying to answer the question: What does the Holy Spirit of compassionate judgment look like in graphic design? Perhaps we all have a longing and hope that is contrary to the nihilism, coolness, and pessimism, which seem to be the norm.
David Versluis
03.27.09
02:25

*link is to photo of one of these vehicles*

every community does seem to have one. which raises the question, why do they all use the same design vocabulary? is there one proto-faith-bus?
SAD DOLLS
03.29.09
01:22

Dear Kenneth,

Thank you for your honest and insightful discussion of this topic. I appreciate your interest in the aesthetic, spiritual, and social dimensions of this topic.

As designers we are all striving to make art. We are striving to create meaningful works. The question of God, questions of a spiritual nature, are basic to our humanity so design as an art form should address or discuss these questions.

Unfortunately is doesn't happen very often. I personally am striving thru my blog to stir this discussion. One thing I would like to point out is that there are many expressions of devout faith that are not as crude as the vans in your neighborhood.

There are many award winning designers, illustrators, and photographers who are very religious people.

Living in Los Angeles I felt I had wonderful discussions with nonbelievers about faith. They were not threatened, and I always tried to be honest and sincere. We talked about very interesting things, but now I live in the South where people have stereotypical views of religion which are neither informed nor helpful.

It is my hope that as the design community takes up these topics we will do so respectfully and in an informed and intelligent way.

Thanks again,


Saint Dwayne of Orange County

Saint Dwayne
03.31.09
02:06

Um from a laypersons pov it sucks...its very catchy and interesting but you could imagine a better "design" being perhaps one with basic spray paint job where perhaps you have for example .."praise the lord" coming from the clouds via a wide stream of light ...similar to a typical ufo landing where the ground is illuminated... that would be a more valiant and praiseworthy art form and still at the same level of effort vs. a hodgepodge of scribblings and what not.
Jeff and Independent Non Designer
03.31.09
04:41

And so design is revealed.

Thank you for this a true revelation.
ross von Ruben
04.01.09
08:19

Sure, it's all fascinating and what not, until you notice the body in the back...I'm just saying...

you should submit the photo to this the scary van website:

http://www.scaryvan.com/

Steve
04.02.09
12:46

The great thing about the internet is that one is always finding someone who shares one's own curiosities about the world at large. I feel compelled to share a snapshot that I took of someone's charmingly colorful chapel of the road on my blog at Link. Obviously someone lived in this iconic VW van which I caught at a parking meter in downtown Santa Fe. Love the relics - so Georgia!
chimera
04.03.09
11:23

Just found this blog... it is such an interesting blog and commentary.

As a Christian graphic designer who is frequently asked to design for churches, it is a challenge sometimes to convey the word of God in such a way that speaks to someone's soul. How do you present something that you find is so real and true in the form of design? Honestly, it feels like sometimes the design is coming up short compared to the enormity of God's glory, promises, truth and message. Many of times Christian design is not effective, and is visually flawed. But does this mean that the church should stop trying to visually appeal to people?

This may sound like an extremist point of view, but I am a designer because of the gift that God has given me. I feel called to use whatever ability that is in me for His glory. I guess in a way it is humbling because, yes- I am not the best designer, and yes- my creations don't compare to His creations, but I can be content because I know that what I am doing is pleasing to Him.

To put it simply, it may be easy to design for Coca Cola, but how hard is it to design for the Creator of the Universe. Even to non-believers, Christian design will come up short when it is related to something so huge and complex.
ev
04.04.09
09:40

Spiritual Design. This was a cool post. Days worth of thought to come on this subject. Thanks for the inspiration.
BGdesign
04.08.09
12:10

gosh kenneth, only 49 comments. i'm back from africa. let's get lunch soon with the van guy and let him know he's got some designers a twitter.

Andrew B
05.07.09
02:00

very beautiful! artistic! creative! that’s really nice, u are very good.. i am new here,
nice nice nice~
Clipping Path@Master-Clipping
09.21.09
06:31

Dear Kenneth,

I'm was intrigued to hear about the van, and see the corresponding pictures. I have never seen anything of the like. It made me wonder how effective the message is being portrayed, especially with all the talk about damnation.

I am a Christian as well as a graphic designer. In the past,I have shied away from a thorough pursuit of graphic design and the countless hours that some of my peers have spent doing tutorials and working at self-betterment. Now, I look at graphic design as ways to use my talent as a graphic designer to glorify God. In many cases, I will design pieces that either have a spiritual or biblical content, or meaning behind it. I believe that any thoughts about God are a start, so I use my work to initiate that spark that has the possibility of becoming a flame.
Rphel
04.22.10
02:52

I salute the one behind this.. That's faith. It's the best we can do.. I thought I would be proud having messages on the floor mats inside the house and in my car but I was wrong.. That's the spirit! Nice van too!
Andy
02.05.11
02:16



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