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April 06, 2009

Design Do-Overs: The April Edition


Welcome to the first edition of Design Do-Overs, a new monthly blog column written by, well, me, with the express purpose of spreading a bit of the design love that is swirling around in the grey matter of my brain. Let's begin, shall we?

First off, I need to thank those of you who have submitted pages! I have lots of good stuff to choose from, and it's not because they're awful pages either. It's always interesting for me to see what readers think is not up to snuff, because I can honestly find good design points in all of what I've seen thus far.

That said…I didn't ask for your pages so I could bathe you in verbal sweetness! I have design to teach!

I'm going to show you how you can take a page from "Nice," to "Rockin'" by making a few simple design-driven choices. Keep in mind: 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. Shall we begin? Wait, I already said that. NEXT!

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

April's Lesson: How to Make the Most of a Single Photo Layout

This month's page comes from blog reader Sara. Sara created a layout around a photo that I know many of us would consider ourselves blessed to have: four generations of women in a single shot. Taken during the holidays, Sara's simple 8.5 x 11 layout features the photo, some simple embellishments and a title. Here is Sara's page: (click on the layout to see it larger in a new window)

4 gen vesh 

Sara's page has some nice design touches:

1. Repetition of both color and shape in the snowflakes, circles and white and green cardstocks.

2. A simple, asymmetrical balance, with most of the content residing in two-thirds of the vertical space on the page.

3. A simple strip of holiday themed patterned paper which supports the time of year in which the shot was taken.

After studying the layout, I wanted to find a way to make the absolute most of the photo. As it stood, the title felt like it was competing for attention with the photo. They both took up the same width, and the white in the "4 Gen" slightly overpowered the photo itself. To make the photo the star of this page would take a bit of tweaking and here's what I did.

Photo Tweaks


1. Convert to black and white.

Why? When you get four generations together in one photograph, this just screams heirloom photo. It doesn’t matter that some people have their eyes closed, either. It’s an amazing thing to have all of these women together. However, there was a lot of color going on in the shot and by converting the shot to black and white, it becomes a non issue for design. It also adds to the overall heirloom feel and timelessness of the shot. I should go on the record as saying in the past few years, I rarely convert photos to black and white. However, this shot really does fit the criteria of where I would make the choice to do so.

To convert, I opened the photo in Photoshop and applied an action called "B&W Beauty," from the free set of actions, Pioneer Woman Set 1. (If you don't have Photoshop, you can always order black and whites of your photos from nearly all photo developers.)


2. Crop in tighter

Check to see how much tighter you can make the crop of your photo. It will create a stronger sense of intimacy, as well as get rid of some of the distracting details.


B2-the result 

3. Burn the edges of the photo.

I applied another free action from the same free Pioneer Woman set called, "Quick Edge Burn." Why? It brings a bit more of the visual focus onto the subjects, and less on the wall paper or the bookcases. It also creates a more stylized, artistic feel to the shot.


Design Tweaks

1. Enlarge the photo. I printed the photo at a 7 x 5 size. You can do this simply on a home photo printer or through a photo printing service. The cost of enlargements is fairly minimal and when you have a special photo, it’s a great time to go ahead and get one made.

2. Rework the visual hierarchy of the design. I changed the overall scale of elements (photo, title etc) to make the visual hierarchy stronger. Here, by placing the photo at the top of the page and making it larger, it says, “Hi, look at me because i’m the most visually important thing here!" Tops of pages usually get more attention than bottoms, however, size can also draw the eye. Here, I have both size and position.

Here is my digital sketch that served as the base of my design. I use Adobe InDesign to digitally sketch out many of my scrapbook pages.


3. Use a simple, classic typeface. I chose Archer, a beautiful slab serif typefont from Hoefler & Frere-Jones, a fabulous type foundry. (Learn more about slab serif type here.)

4. Include simple shapes. I wanted to include circles in the revised design, to carryover the circles from Sara's original page, because they suggest a continuity of life and a connectedness. I created a "4" in a circle and placed it slightly overlapping the photo. Also, I wanted the title to feel much more secondary to the photo, thereby placing it lower and choosing a 64 point type size for the word "generations." The word "Vesh" is also smaller, but in caps and a different color to offset it from the word "generations."

5. Use a holiday color scheme. I decided to build upon Sara's color scheme as well, using deep reds and deep greens to complement the holiday timeline of the photo. (I choose all of my colors from the Pantone Process Coated Library in Adobe InDesign. Over the years, I've found a number that work well with my particular photo printer, an HP Photosmart 8750. Choosing color can be trial and error. I tried two shades of green to get the best match with my patterned paper.)

6. Create simple type accents. I made a simple word strip reworking Sara's original wording, which I thought was simple and elegant.

7. Add patterned paper. I left a swath of grey to stand in for my patterned paper. I found a a subtle, holiday themed paper from BasicGrey, that would work with the red and green, which you'll see in the next few images. (The paper I'm using is from the Wassail collection called French Hens. I thought it felt a little heirloom-y and holiday-ish at the same time. Plus it sort of echoed the wall paper in the background of the photo.)

To create my layout, I basically broke the pieces out and placed them on new InDesign documents to print. The photo was printed directly onto a sheet of 8.5 x 11 photo paper, and the "4" in the circle, the word strip, and the "generations" title were all printed separately onto two different sheets of 8.5 x 11 white cardstock.


I placed the "4"s onto square rectangles leaving myself ample room to punch them out using my Fiskars Large Round Squeeze Punch. (And yes, I made multiples to allow for mess ups!)

Notice the crop marks around the word strips? I use a plug-in called Cacidi Cropmarks which places nice neat trim marks on any element in your document and make trimming a snap.

Next, after everything was printed out, it was time to build the document.

Punch close up 

I trimmed and punched and began to assemble. I decided to use some Bazzill Dotted Swiss cardstock for my background paper. I love the tone on tone texture and I think it adds a nice little extra visual touch without being overwhelming.

I mounted the "4" on some pop dots for dimension, and rounded the corners on the bottom piece of patterned paper. As a final touch, I added four small buttons to reinforce the four generations theme. Here is the final design do-over:


Why it works:

1. Unity—all elements now have a physical, direct relationship to one another, through touching edges, and even overlapping elements. This unified design underscores the unity of family relationships.

2. Repetition—Simple repetition of the red color, and the circle shape (the "4" circle and the buttons) contribute to the unified feel.

3. Emphasis—The large photo draws the eye in, and sends you down the page to take in the rest of the information.

4. Color Harmony—The base color scheme here is red and green, complementary colors on the color wheel (those that sit directly opposite one another. Known for giving the most energy and contrast, when they are heavily shaded (black is added to the color) as they are here, in the rich maroons and muted grayish greens, they become more understated and classic.

I chose to assemble everything using a brown background, which frames everything in a nice wash of warm neutrality (and a tiny bit of texture!)

5. Strong Symmetry—When the balance is symmetrical (an equal distribution of visual weight) it creates a solid foundation, which again, underscores the solidity of family ties. It's very grounded, equal and authoritative.

I'm sorry, but I have a huge crush on this scrapbook page, and I'm not ashamed to say so!

Now, meet Sara, the blog reader who shared her page for all of blogdom to see (or at least my readers!)


Photo 65

Name: Sara Schreiner

The place I call home: Byron, MN

Scrapbooker since: 2006

Favorite all-time scrapbooking tool: Deja View clear ruler

Favorite scrapbooking product company: American Crafts—totally into Thicker right now :)

Permanent or repositionable? Repositional

Making Memories or Memory Makers? Making Memories

Glass half full or glass needs washing? Definitely half full, clean and put away in the cupboard

Photos first or story first? Story first, but must have a photo

Six of one, or half dozen of the other? Half dozen of the other

If scrapbooking were to disappear from the face of the earth, you’d find me: Making photo slideshow dvds and finally working on my family blog.

I scrapbook because: OK, so I need to mention a few things here a) I love the tell the funny stories of our lives that make us all laugh b) my kids love looking at the albums and can't wait to see the new pages I make and c) it is my creative outlet, I love playing with paper, cutting, gluing, printing and crafting


Sara will be receiving the layout, plus a copy of one of my books for her appreciation in this new feature. 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.

Thanks for reading, and if you have any questions, please post them in the comments and I'll try to answer them (in the comments area) in a timely fashion. Until then, go forth and design (and I'll be back with another installment next month!)


(click on image to open larger in a new screen)


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Totally love the make over...maybe you could work on my hair, makeup, wardrobe!!!!!

Cathy rocks the do-over! I love this new unemployment gig.


Beautiful! But as much as I love the Quick Edge Burn, I would leave it off on this one. You cropped in so tight that it feel like the people have to duck from from the dark edges looming in.

I thought the layout was good before . . . but now that I see the after, WOW! The focus is really on the people now. Cathy you are awesome!

this is such a cool idea, Cathy. I love what you did!

once a month is not enough....LOVE the new layout!

Oh I just love it! Thanks for sharing your design thinking - I'm loving this feature. Can I send you a whole album? :)

Lovin' this Design Do-overs. I learned alot! Thank you for doing this for us. Does it have to be monthly? More please!

I absolutely love it! Now that you say it I can see the title competing for attention. Great new feature. I want more - bring on May!!

Thanks for the do-over.

Hmm-- let me see -- um WOW!! Totally inspired me as I go into my scrap room with my friends today for a little scrapping frenzy -- will be looking at things a little differently. Also -- will be sending you a few pages --have not done that yet, but seeing this I definately will! If you do not choose mine, I would love to see you tackle something that is often a stumble for me -- using what you got. I typically print 4x6s and scrap in 12x12 books -- I know that is not always the best design base for what I am working with, but it is what I got --- what do you do if you cannot tweek the size of the photos?

What a great tutorial and a fabulous redesign! I love the way you changed the photo and the tips on printing cardstock elements is a great help!

Sharon, i too, have gone back and forth on it. You know, the photo printed out darker than on the digital version.

Good input!

Heather, good question. I would still create a gathering of elements that felt more connected. Maybe mat all of the stuff on a smaller piece of cardstock or something.

Wow, wow, WOW! I'm back in class! Gotta print/re-read/put this in my DYL binder! THIS IS SO WICKED!! I'm tellin' the yahoo group on you - gettin' their booties over to see what Mama's been doin'! Yipppeeee! DYL II, DYL II (deaux) - come on, you can do it! We're with ya! ;-)

Happy day,

All I'v got to say is WOW, love the page :o)

Thanks for all the tips & how-tos... wonderful step by step instructions for us all to do better

I love your new column/article/bloggy thing!!! I will be waiting with bated breath for the May edition. I learned so much. You really covered it. Thanks! Just awesome.

Awesome! I love the new layout. I like how you use the design elements to rock this layout. I see another BP class or book on this topic. I love your commentary!
Thanks for inspiring me. Can you do 12 by 12 next?

Fab-u-lous do-over! Can't wait to see more!

I love it! You are amazing. I learned a lot from this post. Thanks, Cathy!

oh please please please do this twice a month..I love inspiring.

Love the new layout (I'll bet she's thrilled!) but most of all, love this new feature of your blog. I can't wait to see more!!

Man you rock...You know, I would pay to see this more often.....

Cathy, this is great! I agree with the poster who said it feels like a continuation of DYL. Thanks so much.

Thanks for sharing this with us! I can see that a bit of what I'll miss from Simple Scrapbooks will still go on here. I'd hate to miss out on your creativity!

WOwzers, I love the re-design walk thru for the layout. With all respect to the original page, you really rocked the redo!

Oh I LOVED the do-over. That was so fun to actually see the process. Even my non-scrapping daughter loved it. Who doesn't love a make-over. I learned a lot.

This was unbelievably interesting! Best scrapbooking related read in a while... Thanks!

Oh. My. God. I LOVE this feature. I especially LOVE the step-by-step process. Kathy, THERE IS A BOOK IN HERE!!!

So embarrassed. I spelled your name wrong in my last post. (Brain is overcome by the wonderfulness of your blog!) It's Cathy-With-a-C!!! I know that. Please forgive.

I love the do-over!

At first I thought "oh no, don't change to black and white--but YES it made such a difference!"

Love this column! Love watching you think through the process. I think often, when concepts like this are taught the teacher assumes the 'students' know x, y and z, because to the teacher, x, y and z are so basic and require no thought for the teacher. But the student hasn't a clue. This was so valuable to me on many levels. Thanks.

Wow, love the do-over!!!! That is "rockin"!!!

I officially love this column.

this makes me feel a teeny tiny bit better about no more ss.

i liked the b/f, but the after is def better. i'm hoping studying these every month (along with my dyl stuff) will help me arrive at more "afters" than "befores."

Such a great idea! I too would like to see this more often, and would definitely pay for this. I was travelling during DYL and am eagerly wishing for a return performance!

Love this! Can't wait for the next one. Since your unemployed do you think that could be tomorrow? Your house must be in order by now! Thanks, thanks and thanks again!

Awesome do-over! Can't wait to see more!

wowee-zowee! Talk about do-over - pure awesomeness! Congrats Sara on getting all 4 generations in one shot. That is pretty incredible too.
Love love love it!

I love it!! You made a "good" page a "great" page.

I want to know more of how you got her photo into your computer......It seems like if I take a 4x6 and scan it...when I enlarge it is yucky!!! So how did you ever get such a nice enlargement.

Thanks for the lessons...

I really like how you layed this lesson out. I didn't immediately scroll to the end to see the redesigned layout and I learned a few things along the way! Nice job Cathy. I look forward to the next episode.

Amazing... The before was something I would have done so I liked it but you made it sing!

I'll echo what many have said: MORE, MORE, MORE, pretty please.

My personal album is 8 1/2 x 11 so, I'll definitely scraplift the after. However, I also have done many 12x12s and would appreciate some to come. You're fantastic, Cathy. Can you tell we love your style and eagerness to share your know-how? And did I say more please? MORE, please!

OMG. That was AMAZING. Now I want to see one of these like every day. Seriously- that was SO flippin' cool. What an awesome idea you had and you executed it brilliantly. Totally love this. And thank you! Cause the way you took it step by step was a great way to share your knowledge. THANK YOU!

Thanks, Sara for sharing your layout.

Cathy - you totally rock!!! (And that is not a phrase I throw around often.) I learned so much in your DYL class at BPS, and this takes it to a whole 'nother level (as we say here in the South). Seeing how a layout can be changed, as opposed to seeing one designed from scratch is a fantastic learning tool.

Again, thanks!!!

Thanks so much Cathy. This is one of the best tutorials I've seen in a long time. You should really do this more than once a month. Or maybe a class or a book. Yeah a book!

I loved this post! I think we all have pages like today's example. Very fun to see the difference. Before I scrolled down I tried to use some of the lessons learned in your BP class on design to think what you would think about it. I am proud to say I recognized that the title was fighting for attention with the photo! This is something I would not have been able to identify before!

This was a great idea Cathy, love it.

Oh, and if you are reading this, and have time, I have spent WAY too much time trying to find your post with your son's cartoon drawings of Club Penguin. I would love to know what month that was. My son wanted to see that but I can't remember when it was posted. He loves Club Penguin too. (he is "Master9466" look for him to say hi! wink) Maybe your son will have a little fan out here in blog land. He is seven and also loves legos and drawing. He has looked at your son's creations and gives very profound comments like, "cool." hahaha

CZ, thanks for continuing to teach us on your blog.
I really miss Simple Scrapbooks Magazine and your

You may be a genius. Such a good idea, and so beautifully executed. :)

Great walk through of your process. It really highlights the importance of a good photo. Is there any chance that you could suggest some PSE equivalent actions, or maybe get the Pioneer Woman to start creating some (serious about the first part, joking about the second)

Such an amazing idea to do this, can you do it more often than monthly, it's too long to wait for more design goodness.

Love iI! One question: Why didn't you choose to round the corners on the photo to match the bottom paper? I would have done that, and am curious as to why it wasn't your choice. Too much?

Jess, i will most definitely do a 12 x 12 next!

Ann, she sent me a digital photo that was 300 dpi and bigger than a 4 x 6. : )

What do you shoot on in your camera, size wise? I"m no expert on that sort of thing but...

i do shoot on high jpeg which gives me 8 x 12 shots to start with.

Wow Cathy, that tutorial was awesome. I loved how you broke down each process. I truly appreciate the time it took you to complete this process and document it. I see a book in your future - you have such a following!

Kathie, good question.

Because initially, it felt like it would be to matchy matchy and I mostly did it to create something a bit more visually interesting. I like the opposite thing, you know, square on one end and rounded on the other. Strange at it sounds, it creates the tiniest bit of visual tension, which isn't a bad thing.

I like to sometimes also round opposing corners on elements as well.

Cathy, I bow down to you, O Goddess of Design! If the people at CK are paying attention, they'll try to talk you into turning CZ's Design Do-Overs into a monthly column at the least!

Dude. That was seriously cool. :)

This was a wonderfully enriching blog entry. Who doesn't love makeovers, and the idea of the scrapbook layout makeover is brilliant. On top of that you provided detailed instructions and the reasoning behind every action. Thank you so much for sharing your vision, expertise and artistry.

wow - that's awesome - gonna have to copy that! Love the addition to your blog - agree that once a month is not enough...

Wow, you are fantastic, truly an inspiration! Thanks so much for this post. As always, you rock, truly.

Cathy, wonderful design do-over.
Thank you, Sara, for submitting it.
I LOVE the step by step process -that really helped me see where the vision came from and potentially how to help my less than desirable pages :)
I'm already looking forward to next months edition!!

Once again you taught us how to make the most of your picture. As a Design your life student, it's good to get back to all those principles I studied...Oh, and I agree with a previous comment : once a month is not enough ...we want more of the good stuff....Thank you again for leading us toward better layouts.

So Cathy, can I keep submitting the same LO over and over again, in the hopes that you pick it for the Design Do-Over? LOL. ;)

This is wonderful!!! What a great feature and what a great instructor you are. FABULOUS!

Oh you clever lady! I can still get my montly dose of Cathy!

Looks great! Thanks for the tips!

Very cool- love the layout makeover! :)

I love this new column, especially your insights into why you made your design decisions. The new layout really did make the photo seem much more special. Can't wait for your next installment!

Yep, definitely a book in there, Cathy! Love seeing and understanding your process, and thank-you for taking the time to show us in so many steps! In case Maureen (above) doesn't get to read this, there are great actions for PSElements with EZactions. Just in case you wanted to be able to alert people next time you're on this topic (but you may have known this already!).

Cathy, how come you rounded the bottom corners of the patterned paper? The re-do is amazing!!

Here, I have both size and position. <---size and position. two very important things.

oh wait, what are we talking about again?

i kill me

Hey Jeanne, someone asked that question above, and i answered this:

Because initially, it felt like it would be to matchy matchy and I mostly did it to create something a bit more visually interesting. I like the opposite thing, you know, square on one end and rounded on the other. Strange at it sounds, it creates the tiniest bit of visual tension, which isn't a bad thing.

I like to sometimes also round opposing corners on elements as well.

OMG... this is exactly what I've been after for so long.. to see how to take a nice layout and make it rock the fab! Thank you so much for sharing your process :) wow... talk about empowering, Cathy.


Looks amazing. I love your typographic work.

i love how you explained your process - i learned a lot!

Thanks for the step-by-step. I wasn't a huge fan of "convert to b/w" at first, but I must say that after a number of months of doing just that, I now "get it" thanks to your books. I like that you explained your "thinking behind the scenes" too. Thanks for doing this - yes, much appreciated. ;-)

Hi Cathy, It is gorgeous! I certainly DO NOT want to question the "Master", but if I could just pick your brain on 1 item....(please, please, please!) Why did you choose not to round all of the corners? Is it because you did not want to disrupt the photo, or does it have more to do with design and/or balance?

BTW, I agree with Juanita...a book!

Disregard.....I saw the answer in a previous post, sorry! :)

I forgot to mention, I LOVE this idea of yours!

I LOVE this new do over feature. I think I am going to learn a lot! Thanks so much for sharing with us all.

Beautifully done!!! Great feature to include in your blog. I always refer to your books again and again for style elements to add to my pages. Any chance for a future class on design at BPS?

Sara, thanks for sharing. What a great bunch of girls.
Cathy, thanks for sharing some more DYL stuff.

Mighty magnanimous. Me likee.

Regina, i'm hoping to offer Design Your Life, a 12 week workshop, in 2010 at bigpicture. Stay tuned.

Such a gorgeous job. Thanks for (once again) sharing your amazing talent and re-inforcing the basics of good design. You're the best!

I am sooooo gonna look forward to this every month. Such an awesome photograph for her to have and I love your explanations. Now I just wish I have PS and not PSE.

I'm going to love this blog. I took your BPS class last fall and am now just finishing up the album full of design option layouts. Thanks Cathy for offering up more ideas.

Thank you for using your blog as a teaching tool. I like how you "talked about your thinking" -an excellent teaching strategy. Your clean and fresh style is so pleasing to the eye. I am just getting into the hybrid scrapbooking on my new mac and loving using Pages blank canvas. Amazed at what I ca do through it.

My question: What type of cardstock do you use to print your elements. I just got a new HP printer and could use a tip on cardstock selection.

Thanks so much!

Wow, seriously... Wow!

Feels like being back in DYL! (Except it's autumn and not spring down under)I loved this Cathy and hope maybe you will do this twice a month. It really is a wonderful learning tool.

Maribeth, my most favorite cardstock is the orange peel texture from Bazzill, in white. (OP texture). It takes ink really nicely.

Wow- - that was awesome! Thanks Cathy. And I can see Sara in the family photo, cool.

WOW! Thanks for taking the time to reply. I really appreciate your time! I am beginning to wonder how you fit it all in!!! Are you superwoman? LOL

Did I ever tell you you're my hero?

Yes I totally get this. So great to see the steps and most importantly - the results.

Thanks Cathy

I love this idea so much...I want it to be a daily occurance!
And I really love that you are answering questions in the comments section.
Damn, I wish I had a clever question.

love all your inspiration in this do over and love how you created the accents. I think this is one of my favorite posts

This is such a great idea!!! I feel like I will be learning a bunch just reading this new feature on your blog!

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