Posted in practice on June 1, 2017 1:22 pm EDT

Experiential Graphic Design: A Matter of Perception

Counseling church clients in experiential graphic design helps them navigate and relate to built environments -- all the while helping clients communicate messages, tell stories and shape perceptions. Here, 10 tips for client counseling.











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TAGS: communication, experiential design, graphic design, place making, wayfinding,


By Randy Cooper

A church’s service is starting soon and the doors are getting ready to open. As regulars and hopefully visitors filter in, will they experience a warm and inviting setting or feel like an outsider?

Most people will formulate a perception from every point of contact, using all their senses. The built and natural spaces are too often undervalued in this process.

The truth is, perception matters. People vote with their feet and will quietly move on, often without fanfare or explanation, if the experience is lacking.

When designers think like visitors

Where do visitors get their first impression of a church? For many it begins when they drive by, so consider the curb appeal of your clients’ churches. For others the first impression comes from a church’s website. When people visit an unfamiliar church they want to know what they should expect: What to wear; where to go; when to be there. And they want to know what the environment will be like—for them and for their children and teens.

The bottom line is that today’s churches must communicate on multiple levels to be successful in reaching people in surrounding communities and drawing them in. In other words, experiential design must work with architectural design of both new and existing spaces. Most people will formulate a perception from every point of contact, using all their senses. The built and natural spaces are too often undervalued in this process. It’s important to have an inviting space—one that is an expression of a church’s core values.

The discipline of Experiential Graphic Design (EGD) deals in environments and other media to communicate messages, tell stories and shape perceptions. Done right, the facility itself will tell much of a church’s story, express its care and be someplace everyone can enjoy.

Tips for guiding church clients:

1. Encourage your church clients to survey their leaders and key stakeholders to quantify the needs and opportunities for improvement.

2. Tell clients to look at their spaces through the eyes of a visitor. Or better yet, tell them to have an undercover first-time visitor come and experience the church candidly and report their findings.

3. Counsel clients to hire an experienced consultant to help steer their efforts, which may be exactly your role.

4. Your church clients should define their goals. Who are they trying to reach and what are they trying to communicate to first-time visitors and long-time members?

5. Use all the communicative tools in harmony—interiors, signage and more to help your clients tell their story.

6. Examine everything that expresses who your clients are, including online media, printed pieces, signage, lighting, décor, and other architectural elements.

7. Don’t limit the scope of investigation to Sunday morning. Consider midweek, special events, etc.

8. Tell church clients that they might assign an internal change facilitator or team whose job is to help improve the overall experience.

9. Encourage them to make improvements a priority, and to be realistic that improvements take time and money.

10. Tell them to keep at the process and re-evaluate when necessary. Growth and improvement, even for physical buildings and surrounding environments, is an ongoing process.

[Editor's note: This story was originally published in October 2016.]





Learn more about the companies in this story:

Cooper Signage and Graphics



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