Sorta like my wardrobe…

Let’s talk about my clothes. Anyone who sees me can instantly tell a few things about me: They can tell I am a simple person. They can tell I am comfort driven. They can tell that I am a creature of habit. They can tell that while I am laid back and unassuming, I also like little things that make me happy. My daily routine of jeans, a plain colored short sleeved shirt, ever-present flip flops, and the same silver hoop earrings and necklace let people know who I am and what is important to me.

Design is important. The design of a wardrobe (or house, office space, or scrapbook layout) makes a statement. It tells the person who is looking at it what is important to the person using/wearing/living it. It creates a feeling to everyone who sees it. It speaks about who the person is, what they care about, and what they want others to know about them.

With scrapbooking, we are making a statement. Through our pages we are telling people about who we are, what we love, and what we think is important in life. Whether we realize it or not, every item we place on a page and the place where we put it says something to the viewer. You can take the same papers, photos, and elements and put them all in different places and you will create totally different viewing experiences and therefore, different feelings (just like you will see in tomorrow’s MORE WITH FOUR challenge!)

In DESIGN 101 we are going to be looking at various design principles and how we can use them on our page to help us tell our stories. So much of the information we take in about the world is not through words, but rather, through colors, feelings, sizes, beauty, and more. Through our page design and the choices we make related to it, we can more effectively convey the feelings and tell the stories that are in our heart.

Just to get you thinking, here are some basic definintions of the design principles we are going to be looking at. An article on Design Principles from Wikepedia actually does a nice job of explaining them in simple terms. These are the (slightly modified) definitions that they gave. If you don’t understand them right away, don’t worry. We will be looking at each of the principles individually in the coming weeks, along with examples and ideas of how to implement them on your pages.

UNITY: Unity refers to a sense that everything in the artwork belongs there, and makes a whole piece. It is achieved by the use of balance and repetition.

BALANCE: Can be either symmetrical or asymmetrical depending on if the right or left side is identical or not. Also refers to a sense that dominant focal points are balanced and don’t give a feeling of being pulled too much to any part of the artwork.

HARMONY: Harmony is achieved through the sensitive balance of variety and unity. Color harmony may be achieved using complementary or analogous colors. Harmony in design is similarity of components or objects looking like they belong together. Harmony is when some or many the components share a common trait or two. A common trait could be: color(s), shape(s), texture, pattern(s), material, theme, style, size, or functionality. Harmony and unity generally make designs more visually appealing and interesting.

CONTRAST: Contrast is the occurrence of contrasting elements, such as color, value, size, etc. It creates interest and pulls the attention toward the focal point.

REPETITION (Rhythm, Pattern): The recurrence of elements within a piece: colors, lines, shapes, values, etc. Any element that occurs is generally echoed, often with some variation to keep interest.

VARIETY (Alternation): The use of dissimilar elements, which creates interest.

EMPHASIS (Dominance, Focal Point): Areas of interest. Guides the eye into, through and out of the image through the use of sequence of various levels of focal points, primary focal point, secondary, tertiary, etc. Emphasis or dominance of an object can be increased by making the object larger, more sophisticated, more ornate, by placing it in the foreground, or have it standout visually more than other objects in a project.

PROPORTION (Scale): Proportion involves the relationship of size between objects.

ATTRACTION: Attraction is how much an observer is attracted to a particular design such as a particular style of a page. May involve studying the psychology why certain people are attracted more to particular designs than other designs.


Now, I have to ask that pesky little question I always dreaded in school?

“Did you do your homework?”

Remember? I asked you to look at some layouts and write down (or think about) what you like about them, what drew you in. If you didn’t get a chance to do it, don’t worry. I want to show them to you again and point out some of the design principles they represent.

(Note: The artists probably weren’t thinking in terms of design principles when they created the page, but nonetheless they demonstrated them. Over time, these principles become part of us. They are what cause thoughts like, “Oh something just doesn’t feel right on this page!” or “what am I missing?”)

DRAGON RIDER: (by littlehiccup). This page immediately jumped out at me. In looking at it more closely, I can see why. The page shows:

  • Unity: Due to the simple embellishing, nothing seems out of place or unnecessary.
  • Balance: your eyes aren’t pulled away from the main focal point. If the colored blocks had been lower down or her journaling had been bigger or in a brighter color, if might have pulled the eye away from the great photo.
  • Harmony: The analogous colors (colors next to each other on the color wheel) hold interest to the viewer and bring out the colors of the carousel ride.
  • Repetition: the patterned paper blocks and the consistent alpha provide interest for the viewer and keep the eye moving across the page
  • Emphasis: It is easy to see that the main point of the page is the photo of her son and husband. The title and embellishment work to support the emphasis rather that detract from it

ELEPHANT TUB SHENANIGANS (by kayleigh): I just adore this page. The design is so fun and pleasing to the eye and makes you want to look closely to see all the little details.

  • Unity: the animals along the “ground” of her layout obviously belong on a layout about playing with an elephant in the tub. Makes you feel like her son was on a little safari in the bath!
  • Balance: With five photos on her page, she did a great job of keeping your eye from being pulled too much in any one direction. The eye naturally flows from one photo to another.
  • Harmony: the use of orange, green, tan and yellow all work together to provide one harmonious color palette
  • Repetition: the repeated use of square photos and patterned paper pieces along with the repeated animal theme help tie her page together
  • Variety: I love the little bit of hardware (staples) on an otherwise “soft” feeling page

ADORE (by Chris Turnbull): This layout is so pretty. I love the beautiful and flowing feel of this page. The design of the layout makes the viewer feel like the subject of the photo is living life carefree in a field full of flowers. It shouts happiness, love, and laughter.

  • Unity: Although there are a lot of elements on the page, they each serve a purpose. None of them detract from the theme of the page
  • Balance: By grouping all of her elements around the photo the eye isn’t tempted to be pulled elsewhere
  • Contrast: the complementary colors of green and red add interest and keeps the page from feeling monotonous
  • Emphasis: the one large photo with all the elements surrounding it show that the photo is supposed to take center stage

WATCH No. 9 (by Birgit): This page is just stunning. With the black background and perfectly shadowed elements, it just begs you to stare at it in wonder!

  • Balance: although there are lots of little elements on this page, the stitched border contains the viewer’s interest and then the eye is free to move towards the large photo. The elements do not distract.
  • Contrast: the black cardstock is the perfect backdrop for the red, green, and white colors of the photo and elements. It immediately grabs your attention.
  • Repetition: the repeated use of red, green, and yellow make the page feel unified and whole and creates visual triangles that guide the eye back to the photo.
  • Attraction: this page just looks awesome!

SILLY SADIE (by Gina Miller): This page is just too cute. The varied journaling, great use of multiple elements, and the sweet puppy dog eyes just draw you in!

  • Unity: Although there is “a lot going on” on this layout, the elements and other things “fit” on the page. The little paw prints and the “woof” element make sure the viewer knows this page is all about their sweet (and silly!) canine friend.
  • Balance: Since the journaling for the page spans the entire width on the bottom half, she wisely had her elements span the top of the page. If the elements stopped where the photo did, there would be a gaping “hole” on the top left of the page and it would have been distracting to the viewer.
  • Contrast: the black, orange, and blue provide visual interest to the page
  • Repetition: the puppy paw prints across the page: The fact that they are facing different directions not only provides a sense of realism (as if the puppy truly walked across the page) but also provides visual interest instead of monotony.
  • Variety: Gina is always very good at using a lot of elements and using them well. On this page she combined papers, stamps, buttons, stitching, hardware, cardboard, and ribbons in a way that still keeps the whole page unified.

DREAM (by Teresa): Being pregnant herself, it is no wonder Teresa wants to scrap pictures of her sweet little neice. I adore this page. The colors and playful design just bring a feeling of happiness and satisfaction, much the same way a new baby does.

  • Unity: There are many varied things on the page but they all have a sense of belonging.
  • Balance: Even though Teresa used some larger elements (the big title, the circle acrylic pieces, and list of words down the side) the page maintains balance. By using more than one large element it keeps any single element from drawing attention away from the sweet photo.
  • Harmony: Teresa used a variety of elements on this page and yet they harmonize. By repeatedly using black, red, and yellow the pieces all feel like they were meant to go together.
  • Contrast: the black and red against the neutral kraft paper really makes a statement and begs you to take a peek.
  • Emphasis: Because all of the elements are grouped together and create a frame around the photo, the viewers eye naturally still goes to the photo. If the large elements had been placed elsewhere, they might have been distracting. In addition, due to their placement, they naturally draw the eye in a specific path: the large title, then up to the photo, then to the “dreams” (stars), and then to the journaling with acrylic stickers.


I know that this is a lot to take in at once, but I wanted to give you an overview so you can start to grasp why these design principles are important and how they affect your page. In time, they become part of the artistic process — so much so that you don’t know they are there. You just start to notice that things that “aren’t quite right” on your pages and then you will be able to ask yourself why…and know the answer!

And that is exactly what your homework is. I am sure we all have a pages that we have done that we just adore and others that never seemed to work the way we wanted them to. I want you to take a look at both. For the pages you love the look of (we are leaving the specific memories aside right now), look closely at them and try to pinpoint what design principles were used that makes the page “work.” On the pages you don’t love, look and see what you could implement from a design perspective that would improve the overall look of the page.

Okay, breathe deep, school’s out and future classes won’t bring nearly as much information. Just soak it in and then come back tomorrow to see what four AMAZING scrappers have done with our MORE WITH FOUR challenge.