Each Sunday at The Austin Stone we make a concerted effort to construct our entire campus environment to be beautiful, but minimal and undistracting. We intentionally design these environments in order to point people’s hearts to what matters: worshiping God, hearing from the Word of God and communing with the people of God.
There are times, however, when the things we put before our people are intended to be seen and have a special impact in and of themselves. We make these exceptions for certain preaching events or series when we know in advance the sermon topic so our visual environment can especially prepare our people to receive that message. For instance, we designed a special visual identity and environment for Easter.
CHOOSING A STYLE
To illustrate the idea of the resurrection, we decided to use linear imagery to form one monoline Gothic art deco illustration. We wanted a piece that could stand alone and inspire an awe like that of Jesus’ empty tomb.
We liked art deco and Gothic styles because we wanted to create an artwork that felt grand and glorious. Both styles are most prominently known for their applications in architecture, and while we weren’t exactly putting up new brick and mortar, we were effectively designing new building facades. We would install or display things in our current facilities that could have the same effects as a permanent structure. In a real way, even if for just a single day, we were reshaping our built environment to encourage certain responses in our attenders.
We liked the potential of the Gothic style for its vertical orientation (think towering religious cathedrals), its intensity, its ability to dazzle, inspire awe, encourage its viewers to feel smaller than what’s above them, and direct minds and hearts heavenward, ultimately encouraging worship. And we liked the idea of using art deco as a complement to Gothic because of its heavy use of geometry and symmetry, ready embrace of real-world images, and its openness to a rich, high-contrast color palette. We wanted our work to strike our attenders with awe, and we imagined these two styles working together could make that possible.
What else we had to consider in styling was the script for the word Easter, which by this time we had firmly decided would be monoline style, or a single-weighted line. While choosing monoline had originally felt like a stand-alone decision, at this point it proved significant because it led us to consider making the entire piece a monoline artwork in which the word could fit.
We loved this opportunity because we knew the work would look meticulous, it would be lines weaving in and out and across one another’s paths and yet they would all be a part of the same work, just like the events of passion week. As arbitrary as every circumstance and event might have looked, God foresaw it all and weaved it together beautifully.
DESIGNING THE ARTWORK
To execute the idea and prepare for production we worked as a team — three designers developing the single piece in parts, sharing one another’s progress, remaining conscious that we’d bring it all together in the end for cohesion. The only restrictions we agreed upon going in were that our piece would be symmetrical, so drawing one side was all we needed, and that we’d have the grave at the bottom and the crown at the top. Beyond those ground rules, any image we could include was fair game. We divided the piece into sections and started drawing shapes we thought would fit best.
We decided to illustrate the cross as the base, signifying Jesus’ death as the inciting incident of the resurrection narrative. We made the top of the cross form the spine on a cross section of an open Bible, which opens to the open tomb. The tomb’s cover we fashioned as a brilliant gemstone, rolling away to reveal a sunburst coming forth from its interior, all under the gaze of a stunned onlooker.
Now if you pause here you’ll notice the tomb and its surroundings makeup the single asymmetric feature in the work beside the word Easter. We embraced this idea because the tomb really is the grand interruption in the story. Its opening and Jesus’ walking out of it catches us all off guard in the best way. To have it stand out and not subtly weave it into the rest of the work ultimately created the sense of surprise we wanted and reinforced the idea that the resurrection event is precisely what we’re here to celebrate.
Since the intent was to have viewers look follow the work from bottom to top, the asymmetric tomb and sunburst lines aren’t too tightly enclosed with other lines, meaning we left more space here to draw viewers’ eyes to the bottom of the piece first. To further reinforce viewing from the bottom-up, the light beam moving directly vertical from the tomb becomes an arrow very plainly directing viewers to look the way it is pointed.
We wanted to use the middle space to illustrate the places Jesus showed Himself after He rose. He met with His disciples on the roads, in homes, and eventually under the rising sun of a new day. It was under that rising sun that He restored Peter, showing the same grace and warmth He brought forth upon the world when He rose, effectively rising the dawn of a new era in God’s redemptive history.
We knew at the top we were working toward Jesus’ crown He received in glory, but to build up to it we wanted a gate and doves. The doves to illustrate the Spirit descending upon Jesus taking His throne and crown, and the gate to enhance the image of where exactly Jesus ascended to.
The process was as simple as drawing arbitrary shapes that looked like those things, then adding lines around them and connecting them, setting ourselves up to shift and balance and make everything feel consistent — considering spacing, angles, and the direction certain line patterns might point the eyes.
To finish the work we rearranged and streamlined so all elements fit together and made similar sense in the format. Gaps became space for new lines or cause to extend or move existing ones. One guiding concern was to keep the bottom and top feeling distinct from one another, almost as if on a continuum, or a gradient like we used in some of the applications.
The spacing toward the bottom we wanted to feel farther apart to direct your eyes there first, but the line shapes and angles we actually wanted to feel more sharp, abrupt, jagged, and somewhat chaotic. We wanted this to illustrate the broken nature of the world Jesus came into and which ultimately pierced Him.
Toward the top we wanted the lines to feel more clean, easy, soft, and focused. This all to help the viewers feel the new order Jesus brought when He ushered His kingdom into earth.
We made these adjustments and then the piece was done.
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