Web Design Worldview (Part 6): A Christian Web Design Manifesto
May 21st, 2008 in Web Design Worldview
by: Matthew Griffin
Just exactly how does a Christian worldview shape a web designer? Should it change the way he or she approaches ethics, style, or even layout? We've journeyed through a maze of worldviews in the last five articles rounding out our discussion with a look at the Christian worldview. But now we've come to the point. In this final article, the focus will be narrowed to the vocation of web design. In , I listed and explained basic Christian design principles derived from classic Christian thinking. In this article I'll build a practical model of a Christian web designer with those principles as the foundation. To start out, though, we need to define and discuss web design itself. That is where I'll begin.
Creative Convergence: The Paradox of Web Design
Web design truly is the cosmopolitan medium of creativity. Never have we seen a vocation reliant on such a diverse set of skills. This diversity is a paradox to the modern mind forcing it to break out of the function/form, left-brain/right-brain, math/art paradigm. The quintessential web designer looks and acts more like a product of the renaissance than post-modernism. You will catch him/her talking about Photoshop in one breath, and PHP in the next. Graphic design, layout, typography, literature, data, programming, music, video, animation, philosophy, sociology, and business are all the domain of the web designer. Categories that have been perceived as contradictory for over one hundred years are blurred in the web designer.
This concept is huge. As a culture, we may not realize what a monumental thought shift this is for another fifty years. But it's important for Christian web designers to recognize it now and see the opportunity that has been given to us. Classic Christianity has always seen the individual human being as a whole person—capable of learning, growing, and changing. We recognize that God has endowed each of us with specific talents. But as Christians we are to pursue sanctification of every part of our being—to be well-rounded. There should be no such thing as a "right-brained" or "left-brained" Christian per se.
A Picture of a Christian Web Designer
I wanted to insert a section here about analyzing web design through the Christian worldview lens, but it would have made the article entirely too long; so I'll be posting that part as a separate article in the next few weeks. Right now, I'm going to move on to a practical manifesto of Christian web design. What defines Christian web design?
A. Purpose Oriented
Web designers develop each website to accomplish a specific task, and for the Christian web designer, the legitimacy of the task is determined by our understanding of God's principles and purpose for life. Purpose is the core of Christian web design. As we hold fast to legitimate purpose as described by God, all style, layout, and spatial composition fall in line—all of these are subordinate to purpose.
B. Personal and Relational
I'm sure you noticed that, unlike modernism and post-modernism, I explained the Christian worldview through a narrative with personal and relational aspects. Christianity is personal. And because it is, so is our view of design and humanity. Fallen as we may be, all humans have the image of God stamped on their being and are the recipients of his common grace. The people in our "target audience" are not bits of matter to be manipulated. They are people.
When we see web design as personal and relational, the road is naturally paved for web design as ethical. We have obligations to God and to his creation, and the foundation of these obligations is described in God's word in the form of moral law. The Christian designer should never act in a way that defames the name of God, and should never lend his/her talent to an immoral enterprise.
Mediocrity has no place in the work of the Christian web designer. This is not to say that Christian designers should wait for perfection before attempting to enter the design market; only that there is no excuse for laziness and deliberately sloppy web design work. Ideally, our work should raise the standard of excellence in our industry.
Balance is an integral part of the Christian worldview in every area of life. In his book The Micah Mandate, George Grant perfectly summarizes the concept of Christian balance when he says:
Biblical balance is more practical than pragmatism. It is more thoughtful than rationalism. It is more experienced than existentialism and more romantic than sentimentalism. It is more stable than conservatism and more progressive than liberalism.
A balanced web designer is one who doesn't let any one principle rule his/her work. Just as life is complex, web design is complex. The Christian worldview provides a complex (not complicated) grid of principles for making decisions, and allows for an almost infinite number of legitimate styles and approaches by which a purpose may be accomplished.
Sanctification is the process given by God through which we are conformed to his revealed will and fulfill his purpose for the fullness of time. This process is seen in the life of the individual and in God's people as a whole as we move through history. As web designers, we are to continually improve our own skills by aligning them with best standards and practices in our vocation. At the same time we are to work to improve our vocation itself by proposing better and more effective best standards and practices. Since our eyes are on God's plan for all time, we make decisions and implement plans with proceeding generations in mind rather than only considering our own short stint on the Earth.
This brief manifesto has been carefully, prayerfully, and painstakingly assembled. But it is in no way the final word. I fully expect to make corrections and additions in the future, and would appreciate input from other Christian designers as to what those changes and additions should be. I will be keeping the most up-to-date version posted on the Worldview Center page from now on.
Again, I must give credit where credit is due. I didn't pull this list out of thin air. I'd like to cite The Liberated Imagination by Leland Ryken, Total Truth by Nancy Pearcy, The Everlasting Man by G.K. Chesterton, He is There and He is not Silent by Francis Schaeffer, A History of Graphic Design by Phillip Meggs, and Paradise Restored by David Chilton. Thank you to everyone who has stuck it out from the beginning of this series. I thank God for your perseverance and I believe that in him, truth will be made clear. To God alone be the glory.
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