After the two 5′ x 12′ inkjet-printed banners were hung, the church office manager came up behind me and said, “I think we might need to include an artist’s statement in the bulletin.” What? Who could possibly not see what we were trying to visualize here?

Looks Like?

Joy was the theme for the new ministry season. “Joy” is a great word. It’s short and sweet, and we all know what it means. But visualizing the feeling is tough. After you clear your mind of cute toddlers playing with their food or the joy those cash-winning people on casino billboards have, what does joy look like? A quick search online for images representing joy brings up many pictures of people, often in groups, jumping for joy—jumping higher than any humans I know can jump. But I’m not sure that’s what Christian joy looks like.


Whether on boxcars sitting idle in a trainyard or in the masterful work done on the Wynwood Walls in Miami, graffiti’s bright colors and hand-wrought looseness capture freedom, spontaneity, and joy (and perhaps a misdemeanor charge, but for now we’ll focus on the positive).

Had I come to this design direction sooner (see disclaimer below), it would have been fun to get some real graffiti artists to paint a couple of large canvases, asking only that they somehow include the word “joy.”

Digital Print

Instead, working alone, I combined an image from a free stock photo site (, some linework (also found online and traced using Adobe Illustrator), and the word “joy” set in this church’s favored script font. I combined the files using Adobe InDesign, leaving the linework and type in a vector file format with the background image as it was in a bitmapped file format.

Wide-format printing on cloth and plastic has been getting less expensive. Price will vary, of course, but plan to pay $5–7 per square foot for cloth and $3–5 for vinyl. If you’re interested in trying this, it’d be wise to talk to the vendor you’ll be working with before putting your files together to make sure you have a good understanding of the factors involved in getting a good print (color space, resolution, etc.).

Post-Rationalization Disclaimer

Post-rationalization in art and design is when artists explain their sometimes unconscious artistic choices after a piece is completed. In fact, for many of us, knowing we’ll be able to come up with an explanation later is what keeps us going and gets us over more than a few creative bumps in the road. This banner design is a good example. In my search for an image to suggest joy, graffiti hadn’t entered my mind until I stumbled upon a photo of it.

Dean Heetderks is a member of Covenant Christian Reformed Church in Cutlerville, Michigan, and art director of Reformed Worship. Show and tell him about your experiences at

Reformed Worship 135 © March 2020 Worship Ministries of the Christian Reformed Church. Used by permission.