by Timothy Schaser / May 2017
Project critiques in a college graphic design class can be a very interesting thing to observe. Usually they involve each student bringing in their project assignment (be it an illustration, logo design, poster series, etc.) printed out and ready for judgement by teachers and classmates. This would be the equivalent of a written test that a normal college student would take, except it’s art and it’s “easy” and the letter grade isn’t terribly important. I digress.
With each student’s project tacked up on a wall in the room, the teacher goes through each one and critiques each student’s work. The comments are related to concept, originality, color scheme, type choices, use of white space, and many other things. The discussions get very long-winded, especially with other students chiming in with their opinions like: “Helvetica is overused, try using Akzidenz Grotesk instead”, or “Flip the painting upside down, it gives a whole new perspective”, or “The color scheme makes me feel sad, and I’m not sure if that’s what you want to go for”, or the horribly useless comment: “I think it looks cool”. The main point here is this: Critiques in a graphic design class take a long time, and people always have lots to say.
Hopefully you’re still reading, now for some relevance. I was in many of these types of classes during my college years. In one particular class we were given the assignment to design a poster based on a single word of our choice. It’s not often that we were given projects as unrestricting as this one, so it was exciting to have the freedom to create what I wanted. Among the popular words chosen were love, stress, depression, anger, and happiness. I decided to go a different route. I chose the word ‘Faith’.
It was the most inspired I’d been working on a project. I spent lots of time writing, sketching, and concepting. My focus was the section about faith in Hebrews 11, specifically: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 1:11). Skipping all the inbetween stuff, I’ll show you my final product:
(If it looks familiar, you may remember it from here.)
Pleased with my results, I brought the poster into class the day it was due to face one of the aforementioned critiques. As usual, my turn to present my project to the class came way too quickly. I stood up, fighting the clammy jitters of public speaking, and began. I started off talking about how my faith in God is the most important thing in my life. I explained how my faith does not involve sight or human reason. Resembling the lighthouse, I am almost consumed by constant battering of waves of doubt. Yet within the swell I stand resolute, not because of my own strength, but because of the faith I have in Christ’s redeeming sacrifice for the world’s sin, mine included. I ended saying that this poster was created just as much for me as it was for the class, as an expression of my faith.
When I finished talking, I received the response that I was dreading: Complete silence.
It wasn’t the kind of silence you would hear right before a huge standing ovation, but an awkward silence. As you can imagine, it felt embarrassing to get this type of reaction after working on something so important to me. The silence continued on for a few seconds (or years, to me) before we moved on to a different student’s work.
We are not promised an easy faith life. Inevitably, we will all be subject to trials in this world where our faith will be tested.
I’m not writing out of complaint for the college classroom, nor is this a sob story for my personal trials. My intention here is to encourage you if you’ve been in similar situations.
Overall, I took a lot of good away from this experience. The passion I felt for expressing my faith through design has helped me not only with my career, but also here for The Witness where I’m able to create and share my work with all of you.
One of my initial feelings after this experience was shame over a “failed” witnessing attempt. I thought that the response I received was an outright rejection of the message. I realized how dangerous of a thought that was when I read this section about Moses in Exodus 3 and 4 (specifically Exodus 4:10-12). My words and delivery hold no weight in sharing God’s Word. The Holy Spirit does the work in the hearts of those hearing the Word, and there is nothing else we are instructed to do but to be God’s mouthpiece and share the Gospel with all (Matthew 28:19-20).
The stark difference between secular college and my previous years of Christ-centered education was never more apparent than in those few moments after my presentation. We are anomalies. We’re living in a world in which we don’t belong. As Christians, we should feel alienated in these secular settings. When we are surrounded by the things of this world, it’s easy to feel alone in your faith. This feeling is especially magnified when attending a secular college, potentially far away from family and friends. Unfortunately, this situation makes it very easy to lose faith and fall away from Christ.
This is why fellowship is so important. When I attended church and Bible class the following Sunday, it felt faith-reviving. Being surrounded by those who shared my faith, confessing and praising God through word and song filled a void in my heart that nothing else could replace. In order for our faiths to grow we need to live in Christ in Word and Sacrament. We hear from our Savior in John 8:31: “So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, ‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples,’”.
We are not promised an easy faith life. Inevitably, we will all be subject to trials in this world where our faith will be tested. However, we are given encouragement in James 1:12: “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”
Keep Christ in your life, strengthen your faith by studying His Word daily. Keep in touch with your Christian friends. Share God’s love with everyone, even when you know your words may not be well received. “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.” (1 Peter 3:14-17)
If you take anything away from this article, let it be this: As Christians we are never alone. Even if The Witness didn’t exist, even if you are the only Christian in a 30,000 student college, even if there isn’t a church close enough to you, God goes with you wherever you go. “The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6).