Design Do-Overs: The May Edition

Cathy ZielskeCZ Life62 Comments

Welcome to the May edition of Design Do-Overs. In the last installment, I tackled the always delightful (and some would say much easier) single-photo layout. This month, we step into multi-photo, two-page spread territory, but not just any old multi-photo, two-page layout… this one has 26 photos covering a 24 inch by 12 inch space.

The layout we'll be doing over today was the very first one that arrived in my inbox when I first put out the call for pages. I took a quick glance at it and thought, "Ummm. Okay. Ummm. Maybe I'll start with something simpler." And that was that.

Now keep in mind, it wasn't because the page was awful, but rather, there were just so many photos with so much color that quite honestly? I didn't know what I would do with it.

But like any capable designer, I like a challenge, and I like to think I can work good design into multi-photo pages. You can decide if I've succeeded, or… missed the mark completely.

The "keep in mind" catch-all disclaimer: I'm redoing pages in my style, and my style, while it may not be for everyone, will in fact illustrate some pretty basic principles of design.

(Note: I use Photoshop CS3 and InDesign CS3 for all of my digital processes.)

May's Lesson: Multi-photo Design Made Easier

This month's page comes from blog ready Holly. Holly made this page as part of a class she took at a scrapbooking convention. Holly told me, "Every time I look at this layout, I cross my eyes," and I really hate to hear hard-workin' scrapbookers go cross eyed, so I decided it was game on for Holly. Holly's two-page, 12 x 12 spread features 26 photos. Here's the original page:


(click on layout image to see it larger in a new window)

Here are some positive points about this page:

1. Symmetrically balanced design—these two pages are a mirror image of one another, and that's a good thing to do in a multi-photo spread.

2. Lots of shape repetition—all those square photos create a sense of connection across this page.

However, the spread has so many photos, and so much color that it does start leaning into the category of visually overwhelming, which is where we begin.

Step One: Pare Down the Photos


Before we jump into design, we have to talk about a little bit of scrapbooking philosophy and that philosophy involves letting go of the pressure to get a bazillion photos on a page.

I'll be the first to admit, I err on the side of too few most of the time, but I truly believe scrapbookers put too much pressure to use all their photos and scrapbooking should not be about stress and pressure! And I'm sorry, but figuring out what to do with 26 photos is mind boggling to me. That's when photo albums start to look mighty appealing.

The first thing I did was go through Holly's photos and eliminate half of the shots from her page. (Oh no she di'int!) Oh yes, she in fact did. And now, she's gonna tell you why:

If you find that you have a series of shots from any event, try to eliminate the ones that feel like near duplicates. I promise you this: one shot of your adorable baby eating the gift wrap will be enough to capture that adorableness. I also decided to eliminate the studio shots and just focus on the related Christmas gift opening shots. I'm all for mixing photos from different times, but I thought these felt a little out of place with this particular visual story. Once I had the photos narrowed down, it was time to open an Adobe InDesign document, and start designing.

Step Two: Create a Design Concept 


Starting with a two-page, 12 x 12 document (with an equal, 1-inch margin) I wanted to create a similar grid-based approach as was used on the original page. However, with fewer photos, it meant larger squares for the shots. I also decided to select a focal point shot that focused more on cute baby Riley. Keep in mind though, the spaces in this design could easily be swapped based on what photos were most important in the story. I point this out because Dan looked over my shoulder and said, "But what if they wanted the family shot as the biggest shot, like on the original?" To which I replied, "You are very handsome. Please leave now."


Here, I placed a focal shot (which required an enlargement beyond a 4 x 6), and several smaller, equal squares. The large red swatch on the left would hold a title. I planned for the red squares on the right to be pieces of holiday-themed patterned paper. The thing I love about digital sketching is that it allows me to quickly see if what I want to do will work, and lets me change my mind easily.

3-stuffdropped in 

The next step was to drop in titles, little words, and a poem that Holly had wanted to include on her original layout. I chose one typeface, Archer, as the font for both all the words. A very quick way to create font harmony on any layout is to take the one font approach, and simply vary the sizes and weights to create a bit of contrast.

Notice too, how I preserved a common margin of space between the elements (made easy by the InDesign columns and margins I set up when I started). This space, combined with the large one-inch margin both connects the two pages, but also lets this layout breathe a bit, something the original page wasn't able to do.

Step Three: Printing out the Pieces

I placed the title and the words (which I turned into small strips) onto one new document in InDesign. Then, I printed it out onto photo paper. Why photo paper and not white cardstock? Photo paper gives you such a different result, with much richer and more accurate color.


Next, I grabbed all of the photos from the digital sketch, placed them into a new document and also printed them on photo paper. I decided to include one shot from the set of studio shots to use as an embellishment, which you'll see shortly.



Using the CropMarks command made trimming super quick. (I use a plug-in for InDesign called Cacidi Cropmarks, which adds little marks on all of the objects—photos, journaling blocks, word strips—in my document.) Once the pieces were trimmed out, I chose one sheet of holiday themed patterned paper, and began assembling the layout.

I chose a kraft colored cardstock for my background to help neutralize the brightness of the photos. Here is the newly designed layout:

(click on layout image to see it larger in a new window)

Step Four: Why it Works

1. Fewer photos equals less chaos—by making some cuts in content, the layout feels far less chaotic than the original.

2. White Space that invites—by including a full inch margin on each of the pages, a bit of breathing room is introduced making the viewing experience a bit more restful and inviting. There are 13 active spaces on this design including the title bar. I've only chosen to use 7 photos (one of them, on the lower right, takes up two of the squares). But, with white space included, it doesn't feel chaotic, even with all the bright colors of the photos.

3. Neutral grounding—the kraft cardstock background provides a nice does of neutral color to offset the bright photos, allowing them to stand out, but not overwhelm.

4. Repetition—repeating the red and white of the title block and the three word strips creates a nice visual link between the two pages. Further, the punched out circle shape of little Riley's cute face, repeats with the kraft cardstock circles behind the word strips. The square photo shape is repeated 9 times and the patterned paper appears three times as well. Finallly, note the rounded corners on the far edges of each page in the spread. All of this repetition serves to unify the design.

I also did a little bit of word repetition in the form of the alliterated "M" words.

Note: Lisa's original page really did have a nice sense of repetition, it simply lacked a bit of much needed breathing room.

5. Linear, grid based design—the overall design can be seen in six column spaces, and all of the content is divided up equally among the spaces. This linear approach creates a much more solid and predictable feel to the design. Predictability in design can be a good thing. It gives the reader something to easily follow and understand.

6. Left-hand focal area—by combining the title with the punched out circle, the larger photo and the journaling block, the overall area has a stronger visual pull. In the original layout, there are two larger photos, but each pulls the same weight. You don't need a focal point for a successful design, but when you choose to create one, it helps to create areas with more visual interest to lead the eye exactly where you want it to start.

Step Five: The Wrap-Up


The after page is simpler, and easier to take in. Yes, there are a lot of shots that I left off of the page, but in the end, the essence of a first Christmas is still captured. I am a firm and true believer that your kids will never look at what you've created and say, "Um, Mom… why didn't you include a photo of [insert any number of things here]!"

Now for Holly's after page, she might have gone with different shots on the right side, and the great thing is, when she gets this page in the mail, she totally can.

Feel free to post questions in the comments and I'll do my best to answer.

Step Six: Meet Holly


Name: this one is so easy!  Holly A. Moss. (Yes, I do realize my initials make me a HAM, please don't start with the jokes, you'll make me hungry for a sandwich).

The place I call home: Ah well… home is where the heart is, but for mailing purposes, et al, Lynnwood, Washington.

Scrapbooker since: I don't really consider myself a 'Scrapbooker'. I am more of a Scrap-a-holic' and I have been that pretty much since October, 2006.

Favorite all-time scrapbooking tool:
Geez! Ask for my first & only born child why don't you? Truly, this changes constantly. Right now, this month, my all-time favorite scrapbooking tool(s) is/are my Fiskar's Border Punches.

Favorite scrapbooking product company:
Hands-down Bazzill Basics.

Straight or tilted?
Well, since I can't cut a straight line with a ruler or paper trimmer (magnetic or other), I tend to look at things from a bit of an angle, and most of my projects end up slightly tilted no matter what I do or how hard I try to make it straight. That suits me just fine, I like my view of the world from this angle much better, thank you very much!

Embossing or bossing around? Oh, definitely bossing around so I can avoid admitting to myself and the world that I have absolutely no clue what embossing has to do with scrapbooking. It really just boggles my mind.

Twitter or Facebook? Facebook primarily; however, I do have a Twitter account that I use (very infrequently), mainly for Cathy's class. To be honest, I only signed up for Twitter out of spite for Facebook when they changed the format and I couldn't find anything on the website anymore. I stayed with Facebook and I still can't find anything, but Twitter wasn't as interactive as I thought it was or what I was looking for it to be.

Lisa Bearnson or Lisa Marie Presley? Umm, who's Lisa Marie Presley?

If scrapbooking were to disappear from the face of the earth, you’d find me:
in a padded room, rocking back and forth, hugging myself while humming inane lullabies I don't know the words to, surrounded by warning signs of "quiet" & "no sudden movements".

I scrapbook because: it makes me happy.


Holly will be receiving the layout, plus a copy of one of my books for her participation in this edition of Design Do-Overs. If you would like to add your layout to my pool of possible candidates, send me a low res scan and the reasons why you'd like to see it made over to, and put "DESIGN DO-OVER" in the message line.To read about the original impetus for the blog column, go here.

Cathy ZielskeDesign Do-Overs: The May Edition

62 Comments on “Design Do-Overs: The May Edition”

  1. #10
    Michelle Giaimo

    In your element baby! Love the process I always learn something. Like I said before, I see a book in the making and it is Fabulas

  2. #11
    Sherry G

    I see that you caught it by reading the above comments but I noticed hers says 2007 and your do-over says 08.

    Love the digi-planning process. I will have to play with that.

  3. #12

    Fabulous transformation! I’ll say it again:
    There’s a BOOK here! I can see zillions of Zielske-philes making a beeline to the bookstore to own the wonderfulness of your wisdom!

  4. #13

    LOVE it!! Your do-over is awesome. The original was so busy that you really couldn’t “see” anything. It’s nice to watch it get done-over to something much more pleasing to the eye. I love your explanations and walk-thru.
    Have a great Monday!

  5. #14
    Kim K

    Love to see your thought process through this whole thing. Thank you! This is why I miss Simple!!!

  6. #16

    Absolutely awesome transformation, miss! Thanks for the lesson! Um – another BPS class format here? Eh? Holly – thanks ever-so for the challenging lesson presented! You had some good style ideas going into it with your repetition efforts, trying to focus the colors – man, cutting pix is tough, ain’t it? Thanks to both of you!

  7. #17

    I agree. Wonderful. Write a book! Write a book! Write a book! But only if it doesn’t take you away from teaching awesome classes at BPS.

  8. #20
    amy j.

    Very cool Cath. Now, can I just send you stuff and you do the layouts I’ve never done?


    Call it more of a do versus a do-over. 🙂

  9. #21

    CZ, you never cease to amaze me with your talent. Now I know what to do with a few pages I’ve been hesitant to start. Ditto on a new book!

  10. #22
    Melony Wells

    OK, you got me thinking. You see, I like to fit as many pics as possible onto my layouts, but looking at this fantastic do-over I may have to step back and reevaluate. SS has introduced me to so many other creative ways to use up lots of photos in photo sleeve albums, maybe I can use my 12×12 layouts for more quality story telling and less quantity pics. You got me thinking Cathy, that’s why I love your blog 🙂

  11. #24
    Molly L

    Awesome, awesome, awesome…makes me want to dig out my “clean and simple” books and re-read them BOTH cover-to-cover…thanks for starting my week w/ your excellent teaching and coaching. I’m off to create “something unnecessary” (thanks to a class from Stacy Julian last weekend in South Dakota) right now!!! (And you can bet it will contain Cathy’s principles of design!!)

  12. #27

    I LOVE to see someone else who uses InDesign. Most of the scrapbooking blogs I like to real all use Photoshop and only Photoshop. I use Photoshop for photo editing only and InDesign for layout and love to know, I’m not the only one. 🙂

  13. #32
    Marcie Howe

    Fantastic! I love all the white space! Holly thanks for sharing your layout.

    Cathy thanks for giving us your workflow process on the layout. That really helps me see the page in a whole new way.

  14. #33
    lee i.

    as usual, i am in awe. i copped out of sending you a layout to do over, but i am learning a lot from this segment. it’s even better, i think, cause i am spared the embarassment of having to share my layouts.

  15. #34

    Oh my goodness-just loved the do-over. Learned so much! I was so in need of the “less is more” concept. I hear it all the time but to actually SEE it work was great.

  16. #35
    Judy Sanza

    Gee…they all said what I was going to say! Yes, you are terrific…yes, write a book…yes, you are terrific…ooops I already said that.

    I am a retired technical writer and you do it all just right!!!

    Love that white space!

    Judy in Fernandina Beach, FL

  17. #36

    Wow, that looks fantastic. Instead of this page makeover thingy can I just send you a whole album full of my … design hiccups???

    Holly, I’m in Edmonds. If I see you at Lasting Memories I’ll jump up and down and yell “Hey! You’re the one from Cathy’s blog!!!”


  18. #37

    I can see that eliminating so many photos did not change the impact whatsoever, well at least for this impartial viewer.

    This is such a great column and I get so much out of it. Please don’t stop.

  19. #38

    I’m someone that had to use all the photos in the past, since my mind said “what else are you going to do? Toss them? Heck no!!” but with digital photos one can be more particular about what gets printed. This was a great example of how to pick & choose what to scrap. I also loved to see how InDesign is used with scrapbook page layouts since I’m currently enrolled in a terrific free online webinar InDesign class! Thanks for showing what can be done—design-wise & InDesign-wise!

  20. #39
    Sev from france

    fabulous ! I really love what you did with these pictures.
    Thank you for sharing your skills on your blog.

  21. #43

    Wow…what an amazing transformation!
    Thanks for the step-by-steps explaining what you did and why you did it (the why being more important to me).
    You rock!

  22. #44
    Melanie C

    Thanks for the great lesson. It is nice to see the “why and how” included in the do-over. I often look at layouts in mags etc and think “I could do that,” but your explanations and theory tend to stick as I attempt my own!!

  23. #45

    Thanks for another great do-over. It’s great to see a two-page, multi-photo spread, since that’s what I do more often than anything else. These design principles are sinking in little by little. Thanks!

  24. #48

    I love this column. As a designer, I find it intriguing to see how you approach “spreading the word” (and action!) of good design on your blog – thank you, it’s a true inspiration to do so myself.

    Speaking of multi-multi-multi-photo layouts, Ali Edwards just showed a double page spread with 31 photos on her blog – and here, too, the linear, grid-based design and simple rule of repitition make it work. This could be another way to consider when wanting to show many photos in a layout. Although she inlcuded so many photos, less (“stuff” going on apart from the photos) is more in this case, too! ~ Okay, I just saw you were actually the first to comment on her entry … but here’s the link for other interested readers, anyway:

  25. #49

    Cathy, I love seeing your process. If you can find willing participants, plz keep the “do-overs” coming.

  26. #50

    loved seeing the redo process last month, loved it even more this month. This would make an awesome class, or a book, or a month long getaway 🙂

  27. #51

    What a great do-over… I love the design priciples you’ve illustrated here, and the pep talk about scrapbooking philosophies too. Thanks for that, Cathy… and thanks to Holly (lucky gal!) for providing the before design and the adorable photos!

  28. #52

    WOW! Holly, thanks for sharing and being open to change! Cathy – this is amazing – I love how you explain everything … I need to read one of these doovers WHILE I’m scrapping to remind me of some great techniques – I LOVE THIS DESIGN DOOVER THING!! please keep it up 🙂

  29. #53
    Margy Eastman

    Nice layout, ladies! Cathy, your re-do was lovely, and Holly – what cute photos! I have a Christmas layout that is similar – and I may just redo it as well!

  30. #59

    I just love design do-overs. While I have not done any pages over I have used both your new layouts. I learned so much from your step by step tutorial. It is like taking a class once a month. Thank you thank you!!!

  31. #60

    Wow! So helpful and insightful – I know I will keep this in mind as I approach my layouts in the future. THANK YOU!

  32. #61

    See, this is why I loved your Simple Scrapbooks column so much — when YOU talk about design, it makes SENSE to me. This was great! I am going to join the “do a design do-over book” chorus as well… I love your books and think you should do another!

  33. #62

    Cathy – what kind of printer do you use, and is it affordable for the common man…er, woman?

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