Images and design are not often thought of being combined with faith and values. However, for a Christian to design images and be involved in these types of things without thinking about culture, and what they value and relating it to their faith is a serious error. Design and images are critically related to what our culture values and what we as Christians believe. These things cannot and should not be separated, but in contrast they need to be closely linked and combined. Images and design display what a culture values and what they hold to in tradition. In our modern church image and design display these attributes combined with faith, and sometimes design displays cultural values that do not reflect true faith.
In my study of images and design I want to be able to display my faith as well as my values, making them culturally relevant without displaying values that I do not agree with. I draw most of my philosophy of images from H.R. Rookmaaker, who states that a Christian artist is free to make art that is relevant to our day, through understanding our culture and studying it, however, he continues to say that the Christian artist is not purposelessly free, but he is free to praise God and love his neighbours. As a Christian artist we are to work to create art that has a meaning and a purpose in our culture, one that displays our values, our faith, not “Art for art’s” sake as Rookmaaker puts it.
Images and design display our cultures values and traditions. John Heskett displays this concept by his example of toothpicks. While the Norwegian toothpick represented a value of efficiency through its design, the Japanese toothpick displays a cultural value that was long established through tradition. Therefore, design must be thought of in terms of values, culture, and tradition. As a Christian artist, there is not a real Christian tradition in the arts today, but a Christian artist has to do something that establishes a new tradition, this can only happen if they understand their work and task of understanding their world and all its values. As a Christian then, we must be critical by what we design, are we displaying cultural values and traditions of the world with our faith, which would in turn lessen our faith. Or are we using these values and traditions to heighten the impact of our faith in a positive light. Values, culture, and faith are so connected with design and images that we must be very careful what we design.
As Neil Postman points out, our technology, which is part of our cultural values, affects the design of images, and how culture will understand our values and faith. Just as he talks about the symbol drain so we must remember that this does apply to the design and images that we as a Church are trying to use to communicate its message. As much as the church tries to do everything like popular culture, we must also remember that the culture has a particular value associated with those symbols already, and we need to ask whether that is the value that we want to communicate our faith.