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Douglas Davis’s talk on September 9, 2016 exceeded our every expectation. It was a sell-out, for one, and that’s an encouraging way to begin our Fall Forum Series.

I think a big part of its success derived from my Board’s decision to move the Forums into the Square Halo Gallery, located in The Trust Performing Arts Center at 37 N. Market St. in downtown Lancaster.

Not that holding public events in my home (the original “Row House”) isn’t memorable in its own way.

There’s nothing like piling in, knees-to-knees and dogs-to-feet, while you strain to hear a lecture on anything from law enforcement to butterflies.  Amidst balanced coffee cups, sirens on College Avenue, and folks ascending and descending creaky stairs, our little “salons” created a unique vibe.  

It didn’t hurt that our speaker came to us from Brooklyn, is an author, and demonstrated he has serious cred in the design world.

I was glad for the crowd of 55 that never would’ve fit in my house!

Davis seemed to strike a nerve with the working designers who made up about half the crowd. I saw a lot of heads nodding, and I heard the air punctuated by steady “mmms” and “uh-hus.”

As a conceptual person myself who uses my good friend Ned to actually do the work of design for me, I took away two main points:

First, design is good if it works.

That is, if the design work matches (or in many cases enhances) the client’s vision for success, and there are results to prove it, it’s good. In this way, design is different from so-called Fine Arts.

You don’t have to be a sell-out to be a successful designer, but you sure better sell.

Think of the immense following Apple has cultivated through their simple, elegant, and powerful design of the iPhone. Somebody made a few bucks.

Davis was plugging content from his new book, Creative Strategy & The Business of Design. His passion is to equip creative people with the framework and tools for getting their work implemented.

Too often, “creatives” who can execute striking campaigns lack the communication and business awareness to actually talk to people who can employ their gifts.

Davis admitted he’s had to learn this art of collaboration. You imagine him making friends with his clients and not talking down to them from an aesthetic tower.

To be honest, my non-pragmatic self had a tough time with this concept. As a theologian and liberal artist, I’m apt to think that something works because it’s True; not True just because it works.

Davis addressed that too, which leads me to this take-away:

Second, design is possible because humans are designed to design.

He actually began his talk sharing his personal reflections on the opening chapters of the Bible. Another nerve was struck when he likened the Creator’s process to a “creative brief.”

Now, being a layman of design, I picture Mad Men: a room of agency people meeting with company execs hashing out an ad strategy. Exactly.

In the beginning, God held a creative brief within Himself, and said, “Let there be…” whatever I want to create.

His theological reflection could’ve gone south easily, and Davis admitted that he attempted to explain the why of good design in this fashion only once before.

But he pulled it off. He was creative, cogent, and brief. His assessment of design “ontology” was helpful for a general audience, biblically literate or not. And he spoke honestly and reflectively, not dogmatically.

Why, then, does good design matter?

First, because our work of design (whether we intend it or not) shines a spotlight on the Creator of the universe who ain’t such a bad Master Designer.

Second, because people matter. Humanity, divinely-distilled in the person of Jesus Christ, demonstrates God’s role not only as Creator but also as Lover. He love us so much, he gave himself for us.

In his image, then, we are given the privilege to design ideas, cultural artifacts, and stuff that serves other people. That is what the Bible calls very, very good.

I’m thankful that Douglas Davis helped us launch our series on such a lofty note and that his remarks were a help to many in his field.

If you missed it, come see us soon in Lancaster City!


THE PRE-FORUM PROMO: To discuss why design matters, we've invited Douglas Davis from NYC to launch our Forum Series in the Square Halo Gallery.

Does design really matter? If so, why? Aren't nice-looking things chust fer purty? (For those of you outside of central PA, we ask you bear with our PA Dutch).

Douglas is the author of the new book, Creative Strategy and the Business of Design. If you order his book now or at the Forum, you'll receive 20% off with this code: CSBD20. Better still, if you become a Row House Member at his talk, we'll put the baby right in your arms (the book, that is)!

Please note, our Forums are now ticketed and cost 5 bucks. They are free to Members and one guest, so why not sign up now?

DOUGLAS DAVIS enjoys being one of the variety of voices needed both in front of and behind the business of concept, strategy, or execution.

He is the principal of The Davis Group LLC and an associate professor within the Communication Design department at New York City College of Technology in Brooklyn.

Douglas holds a BA in graphic design from Hampton University, an MS in communications design from Pratt Institute, and an MS in integrated marketing from New York University.