Welcome to the belated June edition of Design Do-Overs. In the last installment, I tackled the ever challenging two-page spread, but not just any old multi-photo, two-page layout… that one had 26 photos covering a 24 inch by 12 inch space. And victory was in fact, mine.
This month, a much more simple and subtle do-over is on tap.
Blog reader Heidi Haakenstad from Norway sent me the following page and said:
I have a hard time choosing colors and patterned papers for my layout. Especially when I work on multiple photo layouts. Can you do something about this layout?
When I saw the photos I had to laugh. What a little imp, going and spraying her kid sister in the face like that. Totally fun and a very authentic little slice of life to scrapbook.
Heidi's digital page isn't horrible. Not at all. In fact, I was impressed with the nice common margin spacing between all the photos, and the simple type treatment and title.
Still, the goal of Design Do-Overs is to share with you how to take a page from now to wow and to do so by employing a few simple principles of design. With that said, let's begin.
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.)
JUNE'S LESSON: Create a layout with unity
Heidi started with a great collection of photos, and ones that told a definite story from beginning to end. I wanted to create a design that told the story using a bit of suggested direction, and then punctuating it with one big focal shot—the money shot, if you will—of sweet little Mia getting the hose in the kisser.
STEP ONE: Create a Sketch
The first thing I did was create a digital sketch using Adobe InDesign. I settled on a 12 x 12 size because I wanted to make the photos as large as possible using the idea I had in mind. Digital sketching helps me to visual how a final page will look from a space standpoint. I rarely finish pages in the purely digital realm, but almost always create the start of them in this manner.
I like the way Heidi had the "money" shot as the largest one on her original design. I just wanted to make it pop a bit more by making it a slightly stronger focal point of the design. Often, I'll start with simple black boxes to stand in for my photos. It lets me look at the space without the actual photos or colors getting in the way.
What this sketch does is something I do on many of my pages: it gathers a group of photos together in a way that everything is connected to something else. Think of designing layouts as making a puzzle. If one of the pieces of the puzzle is missing, it will feel off. When elements feel connected and and appear as one, the design is said to have gestalt. Gestalt is a theory in design that states: the whole is more than the parts. In other words, everything depends on the other thing to be in the right place, and create the appearance of the whole. (I know, I'm starting to sound like a scientist here, but just tuck that word into your grey matter and pull it out at crops. People will be in awe of you!)
Next, I dropped in photos, and added a black bar to the very top.
The photos follow a logical left to right, top to bottom pattern. Your eye can easily start at the top left photo, and follow the progression. Sure, it could have been a clockwise set up, but… I liked setting stage with the three shots across, underneath the title bar strip, and then punctuating the design with the spray shot, and the money shot.
Then, I added text for the title box (which is really just a continuation from the black title bar), and using InDesign's Eyedropper Tool, picked a yellow from one of the photos to serve as the yellow background for my title box.
STEP TWO: Choose a Patterned Paper to Match
One of Heidi's complaints was not knowing what papers or embellishments to choose, and here's my advice to anyone who faces a similar dilemma when scrapbooking: don't sweat it! You may not need much at all to make a beautiful layout. In fact, the truth is this: you actually don't.
I decided to search out a sheet of yellow patterned paper to use on this layout. Why? Because there's a bit of yellow in a couple of the shots. Always look for a common color in your group of photos. Often times, it's possible to find one that stands out.
It was just the right shade of yellow to match my yellow title square, and it was very monochromatic. Monochromatic-toned patterned papers are easier to use and I stock up on them whenever I can!
I also planned to adhere my photos onto another sheet of cardstock, then mount that grouping onto this sheet of patterned paper, which would then serve as the background.
STEP THREE: Print and Assemble
Next, I printed out the various components of the digital sketch onto two sheets of 8-1/2 x 11 photo paper and trimmed them out. I use a sweet plug in for Adobe InDesign that adds automatic crop marks to any elements on your page, which makes trimming a snap.
I created two yellow boxes: one with an ellipses, and one without, thinking I might want to toss a simple little flower embellishment on the left edge of the box. (In the end, I didn't, but if I'm sending a whole sheet of photo paper through my printer, I like to get as many options as possible.)
Once everything was trimmed out, I decided to mount the photo grouping onto a sheet of white cardstock. I also thought it would be fun to add a scalloped edge using my Fiskars Threading Water Punch (partly because it's cool, and partly because I have barely used it and I love it so!)
Plus, adding a small unexpected edge or simple texture can be just the right amount of embellishment to make a layout interesting. You really don't have to go all out with embellishments just because you have them in your stash.
As I was going to place the photos, now mounted onto the white cardstock and then onto the yellow patterned paper, I realized there was one more small touch: grounding the entire layout onto some kraft colored cardstock, and… adding a date accent.
Oh, and one more thing: I put the entire photo grouping onto pop dots, just for a bit of elevation to the final design. Ah, finito!
(click on image to see it larger)
supplies: patterned paper (Bo-Bunny) • stamp (Cat's Life Press) • edge punch, circle punch (Fiskars) • mini stamps (PSX) • font (Archer) • note: I had to hand cut the circle out of the large photo. Sometimes, you have to make do if you don't have a certain supply. Go me! And small scissors!
STEP SIX: Why it Works
1. All elements on the design have a direct relationship to one another. They are all housed together in one big square shape. When things "hang" together well, they are said to have strong unity. Unity in design is the number one thing I see go wrong on scrapbook pages. Elements have to have a direct relationship to other elements to feel visually pleasing to the eye and the brain. It's not just because I'm anal retentive and crave order. Visual unity implies a sense of order and predictibility that makes people feel good when they look at things, as if to say, "Yes. This makes perfect sense."
2. Common margin spaces between elements creates allows the background paper to ground the grouping. They also provide a bit of repetition by having the same amount of space in and around the elements.
3. Square shapes are repeated several times. All of the photos are cropped to squares. I adore squares. They are my go-to shape when scrapbooking. Aside from being all nice and equal, when you repeat them, and then form a large grouping in the shape of a square, this type of repetition strengthens the overall purpose of your design.
Design choice note: Even though cropping some of Heidi's shots lose a bit of the initial shot detail, you don't lose the essence of what's going on in the images.
4. The color yellow (and the kraft cardstock) repeats, connects and unifies. The yellow patterned paper links to the yellow that appears in two of the photos. The subtle pattern also adds a bit of fun and femininity to the page. Also, I decided to add the date circle using the kraft cardstock to create another visual link to the background cardstock.
5. The scalloped edged provides an element of suprise. Even a simple design can have one little surprise on it. This is something I try to do on my pages. Whether it's a simple embellishment, or a decorative edge, or a rounded corner here and there, little elements of surprise add charm and interest to a page without going overboard. I'm all about being charming and staying on deck, if you catch my drift.
6. The entire design is framed with white space. Yep, even patterned paper counts as white space. Why? Because other than the pattern, there's nothing else in it to compete for your attention. A pattern like this one tends to recede a bit more, allowing the photos room to breathe.
The final result isn't a huge departure from what Heidi submitted. It's simply rearranged, and a little bit of color has been added to create a new page that packs a punch for unity. The point is to show you how very subtle shifts, and a focus on true emphasis can make a strong visual statement.
Also, it shows how you don't have to be a master of working with patterned paper. One monochromatic-toned sheet can be all you need to complement your photo story.
Feel free to give this design a go on one of your next pages.
Feel free to post any questions you might have on this edition of Design Do-Overs, and be sure to submit your own pages for consideration by emailing me your low res page scans and why you think it needs to be done over. Email me and include a low res scan of your page and your design dilemma. I can't acknowledge all submissions, but if I choose your page I'll be in touch.
Now, meet this month's featured scrapbooker!
Name: Heidi Haakenstad
The place I call home: Where my daughters and husband are. We're moving in a couple of weeks, so that's really true right now…
Scrapbooker since: 2007, when I was expecting my daughter ("the bad" one (that's only in the layout of course)).
Favorite all-time scrapbooking tool: Photoshop! 🙂 I love being able to scrapbook without having to clean up (other than the snacks that I leave all around my computer desktop).
Favorite scrapbooking product company: It must be DesignerDigitals.com. I love Anna Aspnes' products. But I seem to be purchasing more than I use. I think that's the scrapbooker's bad conscience. Mine, at least…
Digital or traditional? Well, I guess the two previous questions answered that…
Glitter is… not for me. I'm the "come as you were when you got out of bed" kind of girl. I love it simple.
Twitter or Facebook? Twitter. (click here to check out heidi's Tweets! P.S. Knowing Norweigan will help!)
If scrapbooking were to disappear from the face of the earth, you’d find me: On the hunt for another planet, preferably one with access to the internet and all the online scrapbooking stores.
I scrapbook because: I want to preserve the memories I create with my family. The good, the bad… 😉 And everything in between.
Thanks for letting my play with your pictures, Heidi!