8 Things Church Leaders Should Stop Saying to Graphic Designers

Our culture is placing increasing value on the look of our church materials. Many church leaders work with graphic designers to ensure that the visual aspects of their ministries are compelling. I’ve made some bone-headed comments to designers over the years and seen the consequences in the work that they then turned out. Learn from my mistakes! Here are some phrases (or attitudes) to avoid when interacting with graphic designers:

  • “I haven’t written what it will say … but can you show me how it will look?” // Design is all about communication. It starts with the message that you are attempting to get across. To just “make things pretty” without the copy leaves the designer in the dark about what the piece should communicate. Also, from a pragmatic point of view, if they don’t have your final text, they are just guessing how the piece will flow. First get the text into a final state and then pass it along to your designer.
  • “Can you have this done by tomorrow?” // I know design seems like magic but it’s really a process of work and revision. Often we have unrealistic expectations for how quickly graphic designers can turn around their pieces. If you rush the work … the work will be rushed. Slow down, get the direction and content to them with lots of time and then give them space to breathe. The more important the piece is, the more time the graphic designer requires to make it great.
  • “I’m not sure what I want it look like. Can you make 4 or 5 different versions for to me to choose from?” // It’s normal for a designer to show you some initial ideas of where things could be heading with any given piece. What’s unrealistic is for you to expect a handful of completed ideas from which to choose what you like best. In the early stages of the project, give direction about where you want to head visually and then give the designer the maximum amount of time to refine and perfect that direction, rather than heading down rabbit trails where they waste time working on designs that will never see the light of day.
  • “Let’s vote on which one is the best!” // Ugh. The idea of turning over design choices to the masses is death to graphic artists. You don’t write your sermon in a “choose your own adventure” way … you direct your audience through your art. Designers have the necessary training and talent to help bring your ideas to life. Don’t vote … but give freedom to a trusted group of designers.
  • “I know I approved this, but can I just tweak this one last thing?” // We’ve all done it. We sign-off on the brochure but then later we look at a printout only to find something we want added or changed. We fire off a message to the designer asking to make a last-minute tweak. It’s too late … when we approve something, it’s off to the printer. It’s complete. Don’t actually approve something unless it’s in its final state.
  • “Use this image I found online.” // Just because you found a great image on Google doesn’t mean you have the rights to use it. Graphic designers are generally well versed in using images legally. Don’t ask them to use an image that they are uncomfortable using.
  • “My cousin will do this for half your price.” // If you’re hiring a graphic designer to help with a project and she quotes a price, don’t play hardball and try to negotiate. You want the designer feeling good about working with you. If the relationship starts off with you undervaluing a designer, it will be difficult to get his best work. All creative work is done as a labor of love at some level … you can’t force people to be creative.
  • “Can you punch it up a little bit?” // Vague direction is the worst for graphic designers. Giving a general platitude that has no substance to it makes it difficult for the design to improve and align with your vision. Be specific and clear every time you give feedback.


  1. My version of “punch” is always, “Can you make it POP?”

    My solution 90% of the time is adding a drop shadow (or increasing the drop shadow). Then a die a little inside.

    Great article!

  2. Amen! Can we add the following comment to the no-no list?

    [In regard to good design and layout] “It’s all opinion anyway…”

    No. It really isn’t. There are fundamentals of copy and layout. There are principles of art and design. There are rules in Typography. I’m not just “making things pretty” according to myself.

    (drops microphone and walks away…in brotherly love of course!)

  3. As a graphic designer also, I have a few phrases that make me cringe when I hear clients say them:

    1. “I want it to look clean and modern”
    2. “Can you make it really pop?”
    3. I found this guy who will do the same thing on Fiverr for much less

    There are others but I will leave it at those for now…

  4. How about the “let’s-use-this-one-because-I-like-it” client? I feel like a broken record sometimes when reminding them that the design is intended to appeal (speak to) their target audience and is not about their personal aesthetic. That’s a hard idea to convey…almost like calling their baby ugly.

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Rich Birch
Rich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,000+ people in 18 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church - a 5 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is known for it’s innovative approach to outreach and community impact. Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution.His latest book Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems to Drive Growth at Your Church is an Amazon bestseller and is design to help your church reach more people in your community.