Design is for Believers

Each of you has received a gift to use to serve others.*

In the last few years, the field of design has seen a lot of growth. It’s a great time to be a designer—our career paths are all but paved with the gold leaf of trendy window lettering. We’re all hearing more about Design Thinking. We’re all becoming Design-centric organizations. And, my personal favorite trend, how we are all Problem Solvers.

Ask any designer and they’ll tell you that we’re always solving problems, from saying “everything” with a logo to convincing a client that less copy equals more. Those problems may be the cause of our nighttime TMJ, but on a scale of one to life-saving social work, that’s still pretty darn easy.

What’s great about design is that it can be used to solve OTHER problems. Problems you believe in much more vehemently than the right shade of blue—problems that connect with your beliefs about homelessness, or adoption, or healthcare, or religion, or social justice. Problems you and your talents can begin to dismantle.

Perhaps we should turn our talents toward the things we believe in. Toward solving problems close to our own hearts.

Fortunately, we’ve got a couple really great examples right here:

The 60s were a decade of wicked problems. Love. War. Veterans. Vietnam. Acceptance. Violence. One of its loudest (or at least most visual voices) was Sister Mary Corita Kent—a screen-printing Catholic nun producing prints and posters as part of the counterculture revolution. She wanted to convey love and peace, and she sought a method that would enable that: poster-making. Murals. Even a famous postage stamp.

First, she identified her message. Then, she did everything she possibly could to make it known. Sister Kent found design to be the best way to share what she believed—color-bleeding pop art screen prints, no less. Art for the masses. Love for all. She saw a need, and she filled it using her visual talent.

The things we believe in require our best effort toward design—the stuff other people will remember and share, because it speaks to them, visually and soulfully. As designers, we’re really, really good at that.

Last year, I was lucky enough to meet someone following in the footsteps of Corita Kent. My friend and fellow Design Loop mentor Tricia Dugat runs a small company called Providential Co. Providential Co. makes some things you don’t see very often: design-centric Catholic goods. Illustrated and screen-printed prints, posters and soy candles using super-nice paper—all things designers love to love, Catholic or not. As it happens, Tricia has dual degrees in design and theology, so she’s very much blending her talents in this pursuit. She started making things a few years ago when she noticed there was a need.

That’s all it takes. When you see a need, be a problem solver. Take what you believe in and give it its best chance to be visible in a world full of noise. Anything worth believing in needs you and needs good design.

Even a prayer candle. Even a postage stamp.

*1 Peter 4:10

To follow Tricia Dugat:
By Jo Skillman
Published February 22, 2017
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