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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!)
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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)