I am a graphic designer by trade who utilizes principles of visual communication to help draw attention to goods, services, and physical environments. Graphic designers are curators and purveyors of information. Our work in the creative field entails studying an organization, its products, or services, and arranging images and words in order to make them accessible to specific audiences.
I learned from Dallas Willard that every one of us can learn from Jesus regarding best practices—not just religious things: “whether it is making ax handles or tacos, selling automobiles or teaching kindergarten . . . performing in the arts or teaching English as a second language.”Dallas Willard. The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God, (New York: Harper, 1998) Christ is immensely interested in our line of work and has the best knowledge to assist us in performing our duties in unique and creative ways. Those of us who rely on Christ are at an advantage should we choose to learn from him. As a designer, I find myself at even a greater advantage. For, after a decade into my career, it dawned on me that Jesus was also a communications specialist. Without intention on my part, I find myself in the same field as the Man who was the best at the discipline.
Jesus was a carpenter by trade in his early life and a professional communicator in his later life. Not only is Jesus a masterful communicator—regularly joining together images and words to make information accessible to his audiences—but he is also an enthusiastic student of the practice of communication. He had worked out theories on the topic which he made available to those listening. He had strategies and ideas about how best to communicate the Kingdom of God, which he very clearly spells out in his addresses to the public. Since my line of work involves making information accessible to others in memorable ways, I can routinely refer to the New Testament accounts of Jesus not only expressing his ideas, but letting me see the innerworkings of his method of communication.
02. The Parable
So, what made Jesus so effective in getting ideas across to people? What methods did he use to convey truth to his hearers?
Jesus’ primary mode of communication was parables. Jesus constructs his parables relying on multiple principles to make complex truths simple. An initial compilation of these principles includes indirect, veiled, and hidden communication, placing the old with the new, hierarchy, essentialism, comparison, symbolism, simplification, exaggeration, clarity as its own form of originality, and remembrance and discovery. This list is not exhaustive. Pages could be written on how Jesus masterfully marshalled these principles in his parables. Any competent graphic designer knows their potency. But in order to provide us with a sampling, I will focus on three foundational communication strategies of Jesus that we graphic designers also use: (1) Indirect Communication, (2) Simplicity, and (3) Combining Old and New.