Monday, December 24, 2007

This Post is Green (How Trends can Devalue Your Message)

Through a blog I frequent, I was pointed to a New York Times article announcement of the "color of the year". It wasn't the color that intrigued me, rather, it was one of the quotes in the article. Now, before I go down that road, I just have to say that I find it quite amusing that a committee of people sit around talking about which colors should or should not be "in". Thanks for doing the thinking for me I can follow your lead like a mindless robot until the color is so overused that I blend in with everyone else trying to communicate their message. While that may be a cynical perspective, the quote that caught my attention points to a similar problem - how trends can swing from helping your brand to hurting it.

In the article, a comment was made about the color green. Thinking about our culture, and the huge trend towards an "environmentally friendly" public image, you would think that the color green would be nominated instead of the shade of blue that won. After all, green is green, right?
For educated consumers, Mr. Pean said, the overuse of green in marketing is increasingly a turn-off.

Wait. Isn't being environmentally friendly a good thing? Last I checked, it still matters. However, now that everyone is saying that they care, it begins to mean less. While I'm glad that Ford is green, so is Chevy, Toyota and Honda. The "greenness" of a company no longer differentiates them from everyone else.

I think this is a very important lessen for the church to understand. Too often, the recommendation for the next series title starts with "Make it look like those [insert ad campaign name here] ads". The issue however, is that unless the appropriation of these campaigns are done at the very forefront of a trend, the marketing materials have the potential to actually turn the target audience off. Yikes! Now, it doesn't mean that these ideas can't work, it just means that conversations and research should be done before solidifying a campaign approach like this. Make sure the ideas aren't already over saturated in the audience you are trying to reach, or that the value of the campaign has been diluted.

If there isn't a differentiation between the message of the church, and the message of our culture, then something is terribly wrong. After all, the church isn't supposed to look like is supposed to look different. Our marketing should be no different.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

On the Shoulders of Normal People

I have been enjoying the benefits of community recently. Not "real life" community, rather, an online community. The folks over at Church Marketing Sucks graciously started a "lab" quite some time ago where church practitioners from various capacities (design, video, pastor, etc) come together to lament, critique, and brainstorm. Recently, I have gotten more involved and have tried to contribute to the needs of my fellow church designer. Today, as I was reading a post, I couldn't think of a solution, so I moved on a bit frustrated at my inability to help. I checked back a few hours later, and an idea was suggested that I really enjoyed. From that, I was able to suggest a specific application for that idea, as well a suggest new idea. I realized that it doesn't take an earth-shattering idea to come to great design solution. Instead, it simply takes a conversation. Not to say that the idea suggested was bad (because it was great), but it was the conversation that triggered a new idea to suggest.

Design can be one of the most selfless trades that I have seen. Our ideas are very rarely 100% ours. In fact, they are often 10-15% ours. We are simply the executers of vision, with a little sprinkle of us mixed in. As we continue to create, having resources like the CMS Lab, as well as co-workers and friends to have conversations about communications is vital. We don't always need to stand on the shoulders of giants to accomplish much in our trade. Often standing on the shoulders of normal people works just as well.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Why Font Matters

It seems that fonts either get too much attention, or not enough. While the study of typography can be a very dull science for some, there is much impact that can be made through a sound understanding of type. But for those of you who don't care too much about devoting your life to studying letters (other than Paul's), I'll give you the most important piece of typographic knowledge that is forgotten much too often. It won't seem too profound until your next encounter with bad typography, but I promise you it is significant.

Pick a font that is readable.

I know, I know... "duh". Shockingly though, there are WAY to many businesses and organizations that simply fail to choose a font that is readable. Last night on the freeway, I was driving by a BMW that had a web address on it. Part of the address was legible, and peaked my interest. I wanted to know what this site was so I could find more.

Let's stop there for a second. The fact that a part of a website demanded enough of my attention to cause me to speed up to try to read the website is HUGE for any business or organization.

Now, the sad part. After 20 seconds of glancing over trying to read the web address, I gave up. That means I won't go on the site, nor will I ever have the chance to buy any of the products there. A lost sale. All because I couldn't read the font. Those meetings figuring out what products to sell, how to choose an effective web address that would capture people, and developing strategies for getting the word out were all a waste...because of a poor font choice.

I know this may sound like an over dramatic post, but it isn't. If you are promoting your church, but people can't read what you are saying, you will fail in getting your message out. It would be the same as preaching a sermon in a language that no one understands.

A quick way to check the readability of a font. You ready? This will be an earth shattering bit of info...Ask someone else. If the answer doesn't seem clear by asking those around you, drive to a nearby store and ask someone out front if they can read what it says. Obviously this only applies to fonts that are beyond your normal Arial or Times type fonts. Typically cursives have the most problems. Also, don't ask if people like the font, ask if they can read it. That is a subtle difference that I have learned changes the answer completely.

So once you have a message that is worth sharing, make sure you communicate it in a way that others can understand. Obviously everyone won't respond, but those that are interested will...because they could read it.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Think Outside the Budget

I'm working on a brochure right now that will be passed out to college students, as well as play a role in a campaign to re-energize one of the communities in our church. In our brainstorming, we came up with the idea to have a photobooth for members of the congregation to get their photos taken to be used a as a background. Playing off the "behind every face lies a story" phrase, we were really excited about the idea. So, I began to research.

I found that renting a photobooth would run around $1700, while buying one would set us back a little over $6,000. So, it was time to think outside the budget. As I was researching photobooth photos to use in the initial brochure design, I found a lot of people posting pictures they took on their macs, using a program called photobooth. Great program with limited practical use...or so I thought. I figured, because the photos are going to be small and in the background, quality might not be an issue. So, we gave it a shot. After the services each weekend, the leadership invited people to come out and be a part of the project by getting their photos taken. We had over 130 people stop by to get their photos taken, and it really showed a great cross section of the types of people who "fit" here at church. More than anything, I was excited to see an idea work so well that was a result of not being able to do what we would have done if we had the money.

I think big budgets are often a hindrance. They allow us to rest on the fact that we can afford to do whatever we want. Sometimes not having enough money can in fact limit a project, but I think true creativity shows up when we are low on funds, and still deliver outstanding results.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Keep on Keepin' on

Very sorry for the massive delay in posting. I have been swamped at work with a major project, and now that it is back from print and mailed out to a few thousand households in the High Desert, I can reflect a bit on the chaos. The project was a magazine that we were trying to get done for Thanksgiving (along with a few other things all due at the same time). Typically we try to get our magazines in homes on the first of the month, but with Thanksgiving being a family gathering oriented event, we thought it would be great to have the magazine in the hands of the congregation to show to their holiday guests. Getting it in homes a week and a half early meant my deadline was a week and a half sooner than I was used to.

It wasn't just the deadline that made the project chaotic. The magazine was focused around compassion and I was having a really hard time figuring out how to communicate it visually without using the standard ideas. And not just once. There were three articles about it. I hit a creative wall, and couldn't seem to get through it. I began to realize that often the walls we face aren't because we are pursuing the wrong idea, rather, it is because we haven't pursued the right idea long enough. I am very happy with the final design, and am shocked to see where it is today, considering where it was just a few weeks ago. All the building blocks are the same...I just spent a lot of time moving them around.

From what I have seen, communications is no different. If you say something only once, the message will probably not make an impact. Instead, you have to live your life in a way that shows that you care about what you are constantly talking about, or your message will lose its teeth. Keep pursuing the thing that are right. If things don't seem to be coming together, then maybe you just haven't pursued it long enough.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Free 411...and more

Google unleashes a free 411 service. Nothing that I can say here that the video doesn't cover. But what about application? So I can get free 411, how does that help the church? Glad you asked.

Because Google is dominating the search world, and is rumored to be starting their own cell phone company, their presence in the hands of the consumers of America (and the world) is growing rapidly. And the church can benefit. Google has something called the Google Local Business Center. It's basically the service that allows you to input your business/church's important information so that the various Google tools can yield an accurate result. That is how this new Goog-411 service helps you.

As seen in the video, the caller can choose to receive a text message, or be directed to a map of the location they are calling about. If they are calling about a church in your area, you want to make sure your information is accurate so they can find it. Appropriate open hours (service times would be a great fit here instead of office hours) and contact information are available to anyone who needs them. This is a great, easy and free way to make your church easier to find for those who are looking. Oh ya, and it saves you a buck if you are looking for a place to eat in the area.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I Forgot

As my wife and I were walking out of church Sunday evening, she noticed that a container collecting food for a food drive the church was promoting was empty. She turned and said "how sad, there aren't any cans in the box for the food drive." Confused, I said "what food drive?" She scolded me saying, "the one in the bulletin last week. Didn't you read it?!" As a staff member in the communications department, I read it a few times. In fact, I proofed it before it went to print! That got me to thinking, why didn't I remember?

Part of the reason is that I don't go to church for events. I go to worship God, be developed in my faith, and be equipped to change the world for His glory. Now, that by no means trivializes the food drive. It simply explains why the small blurb in the bulletin didn't resonate with me. In that, I realized that once a week communication has some significant limitations. Mainly, most people forget the events of the bulletin by the time they reach their car after the service, let alone remember to go to the store, pick up some canned goods and return them to church the next week. So, how do we remind people?

Our answer is to use our blog. The church I work for is divided into different communities, each with their own programs, ministries and worship style, united by the same teaching. The youngest of the three communities has a blog, and uses it for general interest purposes. It isn't about this verse or that passage all the time. Sometimes it is a funny YouTube video that is going around, and other times it's an update on what the pastor does to relax. In this case, the food drive will be a perfect fit. Because we have a blog, we have a mid week opportunity to remind the congregation that they have an opportunity to give. By using the blog this way, it will take the digital communication and translate into a tangible result.

Another way I have seen work, but only works when planning ahead, is to provide some tangible reminder for people to take home. At my previous job, we used to literally have pallets of empty boxes for people to take home, fill up, and bring back. There were several reminders built in. First, you had a bunch of empty boxes all over the place screaming, "oh ya, there is a food drive". Second, people would literally have a box to see and remind them that they need to fill up a box. And finally, as the boxes are returned and stacked in various locations, people were reminded, "oh ya, I still have that box that I need to fill up".

Obviously different applications can be applied at different places, but those are two methods, one about damage control, one about planning ahead successfully, to reach your congregation more than once a week.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


I found out about a great service today called iPhoneslide. It is great for a few reasons. First, its free. Second, it really makes managing all these various online tools nice when it comes to uploading media. Don't let the "iPhone" part of the name scare you off, it works from any cell phone or computer.

The idea is simple. I have a Facebook account, a blog through Blogger, and am playing around with a Flickr account. Now, if you are anything like me, I don't fully understand the depths of each of these tools. Because of that, I typically post similar information on each site. And there comes the hassle. I don't want post the same photo to three different sites three different times. I then say "bah! forget it", and my photos go nowhere. Well, the wonderful people at iPhoneslide have solved that problem, and more.

The idea is to be able to take your photos from your phone and upload them from wherever you are to wherever you want them to be. That list includes Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, Wordpress, TypePad and Blogger. It is as simple as emailing your photo to You will receive an email back with a link. Follow the link, and you are asked which sites you would like your photo uploaded to. You can even include title and descriptions for the photos by using the correct fields in the original email (check the FAQs). Amazing!

Obviously this has some really cool applications from the road. "Look, I'm stuck in the airport because of snow", or in the case of us southern Californians, "Look, I'm stuck on the freeway because there is a giant wall of fire in front of me". But it makes the upload to these various sites a lot easier even from the computer. Pretty cool stuff.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Power of a Well Told Story

I talked a few posts ago about why story works. I was reading yesterday, and found the story of a young man who was the mascot for North Carolina. The young man was a believer, and I found his story to be a very powerful testimony of a life lived for Christ. Today, I found that his story has been forwarded to more people than any other ESPN article. Now that is the power of story.

Monday, October 15, 2007

YouTube outreach

YouTube asked the question, "how has YouTube changed your life", and video makers answered. I find it interesting that the insecurities of being a teenager haven't changed much, only the way one "deals" with them. This short video is a great evangelism piece for YouTube. Wouldn't be a bad idea to have something like this flying around in your church's your ministry circles talking about how your [insert life stage here] is changing lives.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Doccument to PDF

One of the problems I often ran into at my last job was people needing to convert their word/excel files to PDF. As the graphic designer, I was the only one who had Acrobat Professional. It's great software, but way to expensive for everyone in the office to have a copy. So, each time a PDF needed to be created, I would get an email or a call asking for a few minutes of my time. Well, my wife had the same need at home a few days ago, and searched for an online solution. And here it is. You can upload any of the following format, and it will email you the pdf once it is completed. Great!

-MS Word (DOC) -MS Publisher (PUB) JPG, PNG

-MS Word (RTF)

-MS PowerPoint (PPT) -HTML (MHT) WMF, EMF
-MS PowerPoint (PPS) -Text (TXT) GIF

Even if you have Acrobat Professional, this may be an easier way to convert files.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Pretty doesn't equal Effective

I took the last week off writing so I could mull over some things and take care of the hefty list of to-dos I had before me last week. We had a yard sale over the weekend, and I was struck by a few things that apply directly to the way the church creates and communicates.

Obviously the goal with any yard sale is that people show up. Without people showing up, you won't sell any of the glorious goods you are trying to get rid of. So, the first issue becomes creating signs that communicate clearly and effectively.

My parents put some signs together made of shiny paper cut in the shape of arrows. They weren't particularly attractive in my opinion, but to add to that, they put orange and black streamers hanging off the signs. Lovely. The thing I noticed however, is that the signs were extremely effective. Now, as a designer I strive to produce attractive work, but all too often I see things that look pretty, but don't communicate. I regularly see signs that are attractively designed, but don't work. They are too small or too subtle. I need to know to turn left to get to the food court or the worship center. A subtle sign that blends in nicely is not good design. Design, after all, is the balance of aesthetics and communication.

The other major lesson I learned is that I don't know everything. My parents decided to have the yard sale on Friday and Saturday instead of just Friday. I spent much of Thursday telling my wife not to worry when no one showed up on Friday, because that just isn't a good day for a yard sale. To prove my ineptitude, more people showed up on Friday than I have ever seen at a yard sale. It was amazing. The reason I didn't know people would show up is simple...I don't know the audience as well as I thought. I knew them only well enough to make the wrong assumption. In the church, assumptions are made regularly about who attends, and how to capture the attention of those who don't. Very rarely, however, do we actually talk to those who don't attend in order to provide an appropriate design piece.

Good design isn't just about looking pretty. It is about developing a piece that communicates effectively and yields results. If we are too focused on looks, or aren't evaluating the success of our products post production, most likely, we aren't nearly as effective as we think we are.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

YouTube Nonprofit Program

YouTube announced a new Nonprofit program that allows accepted nonprofits to obtain their very own nonprofit channel on YouTube (blog announcement). This is a great opportunity for nonprofits (and presumably churches) to communicate with donors, friends of the organization, and even potential guests/visitors in a very cool way. I see this as more powerful than simply creating your own channel, as it identifies the church as an institution focused on bettering our world. It also puts us in front of a crowd of people who may not really know what churches do. Is your church making an impact in the local community? This would be a fantastic way to communicate how God is working, and how others can get involved. What are some other ways you can think to leverage this tool?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


I just received an email from the publishers of Pixelmator announcing the software is now released, and I wanted to pass it along. I'm not sure if I mentioned it before, but I have been looking forward to it for a while now. It is a simple image editing tool similar to Photoshop Elements. Elements is a great tool, and edits images very well, but I was excited to see a different approach to an interface. The demo is now available, and from what I can tell, its only limitation is that it automatically shuts down about 5 minutes in. I haven't spent enough time to officially review it, but here are some things I noticed.

- Undo keeps undoing. As you know, in Photoshop Command + z undoes, then redoes. Undoing more than 1 thing requires the use of history.

- It has layer. Sounds basic, but I've used a few of these "simple image editors" before that don't give you that freedom. A must for anyone who has experience with Photoshop.

- Clean interface. Yes it is lacking the power of Photoshop, but man...this thing looks clean.

- Layer effects. Not only does it have layers, but you can apply effects to them. Very nice.

- Has quick masking. Nice little semi-advanced tool for the Photoshop familiar user.

- Key commands are the same as Photoshop (and InDesign, and Illustrator). Nice to not have to apply a new key set when working casually. That has been the biggest failing of Pages on the Mac for my personal use. Its so frustrating to hit a key expecting a tool to pop up and not see it. I still use it and appreciate it, its just annoying.

- Image color/lighting adjustments. Has most of the powerful tools you'd expect when subtly adjusting colors and tones in images. Nice to have.

Overall, a great little tool for the person like me who uses Photoshop at work, but can't afford it for home. The software is $59 right now, and I'm excited to see how it develops with updates and such. Enjoy.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Rethinking Podcasting and Notes

Podcasting isn't news, but I have always been a bit confused at how the church uses the medium. The vast majority of churches simply rebroadcast what the congregation already heard that week in church - the sermon. While this is very beneficial for those who were out of town or overslept, it isn't really that beneficial to those who attended that week. Obviously there are some advantages to doing this, and I know I subscribe to a few church podcasts to hear services of churches I love, but aren't in my area. But I want to challenge the mindset of "podcasts are for sermons". To do that, I want to present you with a simple piece of free software, and a really cool tutorial that got me thinking.

First, the software. It is called iPod Notes, and it is a very simple tool to use. 3rd generation and newer ipods support iPod notes, but often aren't used. This simple program helps you create and manage notes easier. Now, who really cares about notes? Lets chat about the tutorial.

I found this on the macworld site from 2004, filed unders "secrets". It goes through the process of linking to audio files in your library by using some basic HTML tags in your notes. I love their example of giving a new ipod to a significant other, having them start at a note with a message that then links to romantic songs to enhance the experience. Fantastic!

Now, on to application. How can we levereage this concept in the church? I would love to see a simple study based on the weekend service. Lets say you do a mini devotional on a specific topic. More often than not, there is more than one verse that contributes to a better understanding off the topic. Instead of simply listing the verse, or even putting the reference, why not link to a narrator reading the passage? It could be a very interactive way to engage people in a totally new way. This technology has been around for quite some time, yet I haven't heard of a church leveraging it yet. Podcasting is mainstream, but, in my opinion, it lacks the interactivity that younger generations love. What applications can you think of for this clever little technology?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A Handfull Online Freebies

A few quick things today. First, as this is a blog, I thought I'd pass along a blog management tool that I use that is easy and free - Google Reader. Now, I know other software can manage blog rolls, and safari even has it built in, but call me a sucker for Google. It is easy to set up folders so all of the blogs you read that have similar content can be organized. Very simple, but very helpful. Now when I stumble across a blog I like, I can add it to my feed and never have to remember to check it. I do however, have to remember to check Google Reader.

Another solid product put out by Google is Google Analytics. The stats I received from a previous hosting company were painfully bad. Basically, the only information I could find was how many hits the site had each week. Enter Google Analytics. While it tracks more than I care to know, it presents it in a very clear and easy to access way. My favorite part is the map that shows you where in the world people are viewing your blog from (and where they came from on the web). A great way to track the effectiveness of your online and print marketing. It is very easy to install as well. Just paste some code that Google generates for you at the bottom of each page on your site, and you are good to go.

To complete the Google trifecta, I have to mention Google Docs. As I was playing around on my new iPhone, I discovered that Google Docs now works for Safari. I haven't played enough to know of stability, but it has now become a much more serious contender in the world of word processing (for me anyways). Something Google Docs just added to their corner is a presentation document that works like a watered down PowerPoint. Now, Google docs, for those of you who haven't used them, are by no means a replacement for all the features of Microsoft Office. But that is why I like them. I don't need 95% of what Office does, but I love the things that Google Docs does better - like file sharing. When you create a document, you are able to assign privileges to various people to be able to access and edit it. Google Docs then tells you what has been edited and by whom. It is a fantastic way to collaborate with multiple staff members on specific projects, share schedules and time sheets through their calendar or spreadsheet application, or whatever other creative solution you have for it. Because all it takes is internet to access it, it allows you to access all your information wherever you have the internet.

OK, enough with the Google stuff already. Another nice web tool I was introduced to just this week is called Picnik. I searched around for other options when it comes to online image editors, but I couldn't find anything as nice as Picnik. It is very simple, but is also very effective. It gives you some pretty robust features considering it is a web based application. The kicker for me is that it interfaces perfectly with flickr, Picasa web albums, and Facebook. I love that I can load my gallery from any of these three sites, edit photos for lighting and a few other basic things, and save it to be viewed in those galleries. Fantastic! No more downloading images to the desktop, opening up Photoshop for a simple correction, then uploading it back where it needs to be. Easy and fast.

Finally, another product that was introduced to me this week is called Pixer. This really is one of those applications where you say "where have you been all my life" when you first meet it. Now, this one is a free download, so I guess technically it isn't an "online" freebie, but you'll forgive me once you read how they describe this simple little tool on their website:
Pixer is a little application that helps you to rescale Png, Jpeg, Tiff, Pict, bmp and Photoshop images in batch.
You had me at "rescale Png". Great tool for automating the mundane task of resizing images.

Hopefully some of these nice little tricks are beneficial to you and can be integrated into your work flow. Know any other neat and helpful bits of software? Let me know and I'll be sure to post them.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Why Story Works

It seems that telling "your story" is all the rage in today's church. I get tired of hearing "journey" and "narrative" every time someone opens their mouth in the church, and I think the terminology is grossly overused. The content behind the buzzwords however, is the truest example of the health of the church. A Biblical church should be balanced in the way it approaches three things - "Ministry to God: Worship, Ministry to Believers: Nurture, and Ministry to the World: Evangelism and Mercy" (Systematic Theology, Grudem). So how does this relate to story?

Story is perhaps the most powerful and effective way of communicating the fruit that is being produced in your church. It also communicates another powerful truth of Scripture - we are not all called to the same impact. While the church is to be balanced in the three points above, the individual is not. Each individual is gifted and interested in different aspects of God's calling (which is the beautiful thing about the body). Stories show how a gifted evangelist can use his or her Gifts in a powerful way to reach people for Christ, while the story of one gifted in mercy can exhibit Christ's love to those in need.

A healthy church should be able to find stories that articulate each category mentioned above. Ok, so what? We have a healthy church, and we know people that balance our church. Great! But are you sharing those stories with the congregation? There is a big difference between a church that is about something and a church that is doing what they are about. Stories are a barometer for you and your congregation to ask, "are we doing what we are about?" If so, then stories about the fruit of your ministry will encourage further growth. If not, something needs to be tweaked or changed to cultivate the bearing of fruit.

As creative minded people, we have been gifted with the ability to solve problems in unique ways. I encourage you to figure out the most effective way to use stories in your work. What does the congregation of your church need to hear? How is God using the people in your congregation to Worship, Nurture, and Evangelize? I'd love to see some of the things you have learned in the comments. How do you use stories?

Friday, September 14, 2007

Idea Management

As creative types, we often have "inspiration" come to us in ways that simply aren't relevant to the projects we are currently working on. I tend to get ideas about icons or logos while playing video games, but those ideas rarely have practical application in terms of my current project load. So, if I am lucky enough to remember the idea when an appropriate project comes up, I'm excited about it. However, most often, I completely forget this moments of "genius" and lose the idea.

Recently, through the Accidental Creative podcast #71 (great listen if you haven't heard it already), I was introduced to a program called DEVONthink. The concept is rather simple - create a database that stores just about anything in it, and equip it with keywords and a powerful search function. I love the concept because it doesn't require me to leave my "creative state" to create file folders and figure out my file structure for ideas. I can simply enter my idea, attach some keywords like "stock photography idea, design inspiration, branding, church marketing, etc'. This then makes for some powerful search results. I can search "stock photo idea" and come up with an interesting combination of thought processes that can yield yet another idea. Very cool.

So, the point of this post is not to plug any one solution specifically, or even to provide an in depth review the options. Rather, it is simply focused on informing you of the different types of software out there as each caters to a different bunch. Here is a brief breakdown, but with some simple research you can find which software meets your needs best. Also, there may be a few others that I am not aware of, so feel free to mention/link them in the comments.

Yojimbo - $39
Yojimbo is my personal preference for a few reasons. It is cheap and simple. It is not as robust as many of the options you will find (noticeably lacking video/audio support), but it does everything I need it to. The price tag and my limited needs make this my best option. I will say that .mac is the only reason I choose this over Journlr.

DevonTHINK - Office Pro $139, Pro $79, Personal $39
I don't know the differences in the feature sets, but as I tried out Office Pro, it was by far the most robust of the idea management type software solutions. It sounds like it has some great features, it syncs with .mac if that is a desire, and it sounds like it has the most powerful search.

Journlr - Office $25, Personal $10 donation
I really liked Journlr, and would choose it as my solution if only it had .mac support. They have nice media support, and a clean interface (though to be fair, most of the programs look exactly the same). Not a bad option if you only have one machine that you anticipate using it on. The software also has blogging built into it. It also sounds like it has great features designed specifically for writers. Worth a look.

SoHoNotes - $39.95
SoHoNotes almost sold me. It has a large amount of powerful features, but is packaged in a way that keeps it from feeling too overwhelming. The only issue I had (as well as a good friend of mine) is that the software didn't work. We had issues with menus blurring together and the software crashing often. Not sure if that demo is indicative of the actual performance of the purchased product, but this software is worth a look assuming the stability issues are solved.

With all of these products, you will see a ton of overlap. They are all designed to to basically the same thing. Where they vary is in the forms of media they support, their effectiveness of search, and some extra features like blogging and .mac sync. Overall, all of these software solutions are a great way to consolidate much of your information in a way that is easy to find later.

Monday, September 10, 2007


No doubt most of you have heard of (or regularly use) iStockphoto. It has proved to be a great and affordable resource for many churches across the country. While it regularly delivers many of us from the last minute crunch that often besets the church designer, it doesn't always prevent us from having to shoot our own photography to solve a design solution. That being said, I would encourage those of you who do shoot custom photography for those larger projects to upload them in iStockphoto to be sold. Not only will you be providing design solutions to churches around the country, you will also be putting some cash back in your budget...or credits if you'd rather.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Painter Alternative

Painter is a fantastic program for getting that thick, gloppy paint look for an illustration or background element, but it isn't exactly cheap for those of us who don't use it regularly. I was recently introduced to Art Rage, a simplified painter-like program that does everything I need it to - including save me money. At only $25, it is worth the purchase if you find the need for a textured look in some upcoming projects. They have a great demo that gives you access to enough of the tools to get a good feel of it, so check it out. An illustrator friend I talked to who use painter doesn't think Art Rage has everything he needs to eliminate the need for Painter, but it does handle some things better (in his opinion). For the other designer however, it is enough to create some great textured elements for your next design project. Enjoy. I'd love to see your thoughts about the two programs in the comments.