Creating a hymnal cover

Designers, editors, and marketers weigh in on Voices Together process

First impressions are important. A great book cover catches your eye in three seconds and you pick it up to read further or you move on.

As people who sing to articulate our faith, Mennonites care a lot about the cover of their hymnals, as hymnals are one of the ways that Mennonites talk about faith.

A team of designers, editors, and marketers from MennoMedia worked for months to develop a cover for the new Voices Together hymnal, and we felt convicted to craft something that would thoughtfully reflect who we are.

In the week since we have unveiled the Voices Together cover, we have received so much support for the design (thank you!) and a number have also asked about the thought that went into the development process.

Here is a look at some of the considerations that went into the Voices Together cover:

Durability: We knew we needed to find something to stand up to heavy repeated use over decades. In some congregations the Voices Together pew edition will be picked up and handled multiple times each week. Therefore we wanted to find a color and cover material that would wear well, something that would hold up to smudgy fingers, to occasionally being dropped, and to being carted around within congregations.

Previous hymnals and supplements

Color choice: Our first attempts to choose a color focused on colors that could be distinguished from the previous four volumes. We tested out ideas with various groups of people in the church. More than 900 people contributed to a cover survey we posted earlier this year on Facebook, and burgundy and charcoal gray rose to the top. However, these colors did not generate any cohesive excitement.

Some shades of red or burgundy looked too much like the 1969 hymnal, some shades looked too orange, and some shades already looked dated. Could a brighter red also be interpreted as placing a lot of emphasis on the blood of Christ and not enough on the love of God? (Red is associated with the blood of Christ liturgically.)

When we looked at shades of black some felt it would be too easily confused with pew Bibles, and also look like an older hymnal and not something brand new for 2020 and beyond. And the grays just did not generate excitement.

Blue? Too much like Hymnal: A Worship Book unless we went with a lighter blue, but that wouldn’t wear well.

When we reintroduced purple as an option it seemed that everyone was enthralled. There were some hesitations that it would be too similar to Sing the Story supplement but the overall positive response out-weighed that concern.

Purple works well for a hymnal because it is both a vibrant color and it connects well with the liturgical year. Churches all over the world often drape the cross in purple during Easter. During Advent, many congregations light purple candles. Jesus is sometimes pictured with a purple sash to signify royalty.

The brightness of this purple has a fresh look that makes this new hymnal stand out from past ones. Liturgically purple has associations with royalty, majesty, and the kingdom of God.

Fonts: The two fonts on the cover are Palatino (Voices) and Scriptina (Together). These fonts speak to our solid tradition in the Mennonite Church and the overlapping and inbreaking of fresh inspiration. Voices Together will contain hymns foundational to Mennonites, new expressions of praise, as well as those songs and hymns that have emerged in the last decades. The mixture of old and new fonts on the cover showcases this intermingling to create something fresh.

Dove symbol: The Mennonite Hymnal (1969) has a small crown debossed in the top right. Hymnal: A Worship Book (1992, copublished with Brethren Press), has a lamb in a briar, in blue foil. What kind of symbol, if any, should be on a new worship and song collection for the church? The dove was chosen to represent the gospel of peace and carrying Jesus’ message around the world. The circle can also represent wholeness, community, the oneness of God, and Jesus as light of the world.

Font color: We evaluated various colors for the fonts that you see on the cover and determined that gold works well with the purple background. The gold foil follows the same font color as in some of older hymnals, such as The Mennonite Hymnal (1969), Church Hymnal (1927), and Church and Sunday School Hymnal (1902).

Full package: The titles of previous Mennonite hymnals have emphasized the notes on the page rather than what we do in worship: raise our voices to God together. Worship is about God—a time set apart for honoring God. And it’s in worship where we as the church unite through song. As one person wrote on Facebook this week, “In an increasingly diverse church–theologically, racially, economically—Voices Together makes a theological statement: We are in this together. Our existence is not about the individual but about the whole; a whole that is held in Divine Love. Worship of the Divine comes out of this fundamental reality: We are One.”

Staff contributing to this blog post:
Amy Gingerich, publisher and executive director
Merrill Miller, senior designer
Bradley Kauffman, Voices Together general editor

All contributions that MennoMedia receives for Voices Together development costs are being doubled, up to $100,000 in the U.S. by Everence and MCC U.S. and up to $15,000 in Canada by a family foundation in Ontario, from now until Dec. 31, 2018. Read more here about the Voices Together, Giving Together campaign and consider a pledge at www.VoicesTogetherHymnal.com

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