The Church would do well to be bolder with design

Lynda Relph-Knight

Suddenly, all things Biblical appear to be coming under review, at least in terms of publishing (see News Analysis, page 9).

Have Christians stepped up their religious interests to combat the strains of 21st century life and are they looking for greater accessibility in their texts? Certainly, Derek Birdsall’s design for Common Worship achieved that.

Or is demand for books such as the Bible and other tomes dwindling, prompting publishers to rethink their marketing, as Canongate Books did in the late 1990s with award-winning The Pocket Canons: Words of the Wise, designed by Pentagram partner Angus Hyland?

Royal College of Art rector Professor Sir Christopher Frayling is an expert in these areas. His brother is an Anglican dean and Frayling himself served as ‘guardian angel’ of the Faith Zone of London’s Millennium Dome in the run-up to 2000 and, more recently, on the selection panel that appointed Birdsall.

He believes the Church could be bolder with design. It has been a great patron of art, design and architecture, but most of what we see is centuries old. Why not have more commissions like Portsmouth Cathedral’s beautiful choir stalls by Barber Osgerby? Or, indeed, the design of the vestments or services themselves?

The same could be said of the legal profession, which masks its business in obscure terminology and revels in the tradition of wigs, stockings and robes. Frayling is vehement about the need for change in the interests of more open dialogue with ordinary folk.

We hear reports that a prominent law firm is instituting what could be an exemplary roster in a profession that is no stranger to identity programmes. But who is going to shake up the system through design?

If we had greater transparency in these fundamental aspects of life, people might have greater respect for both church and state. There might even be savings in time and money, which surely wouldn’t be bad.

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