Stop Copying Other Designers: Do these 3 Things Instead

Mark MacDonald

Communicators have a high expectation of creativity. In planning, concept, design, and execution. Maybe, we should also toss in “mind-reading” to fill the rest of a communicator’s creative thoughts. 

We also don’t live in a closed microcosm either. While we’re juggling our many tasks, everyone on staff (along with us) see other amazing church communications. It’s easy to understand why these judgmental thoughts happen: 

– how can everyone have their act together all the time? 

– why are they continually so creative and different? 

– when will others view my work with the same applause?

Be careful. They are not you. Often, their work is produced by a much larger team. You also don’t understand the chaos they’re facing behind the scenes and only seeing the outcome. Don’t judge their end with your beginning. Also, their work doesn’t probably always work — usually it’s only occasional concepts that stand out (and that’s when your leadership decides to push it your way). Understand, they’re probably trying to help you. But understand that it sets up an unobtainable goal. 

You’ll be tempted to copy (steal).

Please don’t. Instead do these 3 things:

  1. Before you look at other work to copy; consider who, why, what, how, first. Get ahead of all the feelings described above. Approach every task with the wonder of a child. Who’s it for? Why are we doing it? What do we want as an outcome? And how is the best way to reach the audience, communicate the objective, and engage them so they make an appropriate decision? These questions illuminate the differences between your church and theirs.

  2. Instead of accepting the concept; improve it. Sure, others are tackling similar projects and they determined the “best” way to roll the creative out. Remember, you and your people are different, your leadership certainly is, and your timeframe may play a huge role. Understand the 4 answers (from #1) and see how the other church has addressed them. It’s always easier to “tweak” another idea to improve it. Do it. Using your creative and logistical uniqueness, come up with “another” idea. And another. And another. Assess them with the leadership team and explain the improvements. Move forward with a better concept (or listen to your leadership to hear why they want to go with the other church’s idea; even after your caution in copying).

  3. Be inspired by another design; but make the execution your own. In design, there are many elements that will make the project feel unique. Your brand elements (font, color, design elements, keywords, thread) are unique (I hope) to your church. Simply applying your theme to the concept (your improved one or the original) will make it your own. Few design elements should remain the same. Even changing the style and content of your images will make it your church’s.

Plagiarism is rampant in the church communication field. And it’s as wrong in the church as it is in secular industry. Do your part to create unique ideas that look like YOU and not THEM. It’ll help your congregation and community to understand your unique, relevant brand and to listen. Imagine!

‘Stop Copying: Do these 3 Things Instead’ blog post was posted with permission from the author at Be Known for Something

About Mark MacDonald

Sr. Church Branding Strategist, Executive Director

Mark MacDonald has a teacher’s heart, loves churches, in addition, he is dedicated to improving #churchcomm strategy so more will be reached for Christ. He has 35+ years experience of advertising, comm, design, writing and speaking. He authored Be Known for Something: Reconnect with Community by Revitalizing Your Church’s Reputation (2017). He is a speaker at churches, businesses and national conferences. Mark is also married with two sons.

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