Kathy Sierra wonders if the US sucks at design. Take a look at Switzerland’s money vs. US money:
She decides that we don’t (there are designers everywhere), but what we lack that many European cultures have is a culture of design so that people automatically try to make normal things like bank notes and manhole covers look good, not just function well. From the article:
When I travel outside the US (a lot, lately), I keep finding a culture of design. A culture of aesthetics and style that seems natural in that country, but rarer (and often forced) in the US. Here in the US, we have Designers, Artists, Architects, etc…. and then the rest of us..
But in the places I’ve been visiting, those lines are often blurred.
Outside the US, the appreciation for–and ability to create–beauty is
not just something "left to the professionals." This design
sensitivity/sensibility doesn’t touch everything, but it seems
far more pervasive than it does here. And I say this having spent most
of my adult life in southern California, where you can’t swing a cat
without hitting a design school grad. It’s not our US designers that have gone missing… it’s a culture of design we seem to lack.
Read the whole article here. It’s worth your time. But I want to talk about how this relates to the church.
There seems to be an assumption in many churches that we shouldn’t spend too much time making things look good (the obvious exceptions are some of the more liturgical folks, who have built some of the most exquisitely beautiful buildings in the world). As long as things "function", the assumption goes, there’s no need to "pretty" them up unnecessarily.
But I have two problems with this assumption. The first is that the world is fabulously beautiful. God seems to have thought quite a bit about making things beautiful, as well as functional. So if we are made in the image of God, and God seems not to have settled for making things that are merely functional, why do we? Why do we assume that making something look gorgeous is somehow time spent frivolously? God made entire galaxies that only he sees. He made our world a gloriously beautiful place, and doesn’t seem to have changed his mind about his priorities. So making something beautiful isn’t wasteful. It might even be considered holy.
My second problem is this. Beautiful things work better anyway. Functionality is not opposed to beauty. You do not have to sacrifice beauty to achieve functionality. But actually beauty enhances functionality. Read the article linked to above if you don’t believe me. But when you feel good (and beauty helps us feel good) we’re better at brainstorming, better at looking at multiple solutions to a problem. We work more effectively in beautiful environments. Might it not also be true that we worship more effectively in beautiful environments? Doesn’t beauty evoke worship for us? How many of us have had the experience of witnessing the breath-taking beauty of creation, and having it propel us into worship? Shouldn’t our worship spaces do the same thing? Wouldn’t our worship spaces be more "functional" (in that they evoke worship) if they were beautiful?
I wonder what it would look like for a culture of design to infiltrate a church. Who knows what kinds of things we’d come up with? From music to architecture, landscaping to brochure design, how the foyer smells to how the audio system sounds, beauty can do nothing but enhance the functionality of these things. And it doesn’t have to be a ploy to simply get more people in the building, it can be a way of preaching the gospel, a way of serving and loving people, a way of proclaiming that God is good, and he makes all things beautiful.
I know we can’t all build cathedrals, but we certainly can take the spaces we do meet in, and work to make them beautiful, realizing it’s not a frivolous pursuit, but that "interior design" is probably a spiritual gift, and indeed that creating beauty is something very close to God’s heart.