Basic Design – Emphasis


I am really excited to bring back our Basic Design Principles series. Debbie Hodge will be going through each of the letters in the accronym ECBARF (can’t help but giggle). She is a great teacher and I am thrilled to have her here! Here’s a little more about her:

DebbieHodge Debbie Hodge owns, teaches at, and writes for the website Get It Scrapped! She’s the author of the F+W book Get It Scrapped! and two e-books on digital scrapbooking: Embellishing with Alphas and Every Little Thing, both available at DesignerDigitals where she is a creative team member.

Why is emphasis on a scrapbook page important?

Incorporating a strong focal point that immediately draws the viewer’s eye is a good thing. If all of the elements on your page have the same weight or emphasis, everything takes on the same level of importance—and then the viewer has to find a way into your page on their own. When a viewer can easily identify a starting point, though, and thus understand where to look first and then next, you’ve established a hierarchy and you’re guiding your viewer through the page. This is a good thing because then the viewer is taking in your story as you want it to be understood.

On “Again” by Katie the hierarchy established by varying levels of emphasis is: 1) photo, 2) title, 3) journaling. The oversized photo immediately draws the eye and conveys the subject of the page: exercise (and probably health). The title further amplifies our understanding of the page subject. You read “Again” and understand that this is something she’s worked on more than once. At this point you’re totally primed to quickly settle into reading the journaling. It’s a page that is accessible and successful in conveying meaning and story.


Supplies: Photo from istock, Katie Pertiet Naturally Krafty Paper 03, Ali Edwards template No. 25 (modified), Impact and Century Gothic fonts

What can you emphasize on a scrapbook page?

Your decision about what to emphasize should take into account the story you want to tell, the message or meaning you want to convey, and what’s pleasing to the eye. It’s great when a page has charm–when it has some pizzazz—and your emphasized focal point can be that pizzazz.

emphasize a photo

Much of the time, your scrapbook pages will be inspired by and built around photos. On “A Boy and His Dirty Ball,” Amy M’s focal point is the larger photo. It’s an engaging shot that immediately draws the eye. It’s well supported by the three smaller photos which add context to the moment.


emphasize a title

On “I’m a City Girl,” Heidi2008 emphasized her page title over the photos and journaling. Rendering the title larger than the photos and in strong contrast to the background gives it priority. The specifics of these photos aren’t as important as the message. This isn’t a page about a particular city or a particular sight, it’s about a way of being, and giving the title top billing is a great way to make that point.


emphasize journaling

The key message on “Part of the Story” by Britgirl is that Melanie is constantly recording her daily life on scrapbook pages. The act of storytelling—of maintaining an ongoing narrative—is the point of this page, and, thus, it is fitting that the journaling is the strongest visual element. The blended self-portrait runs a close second with the small but clear title in third. The design is simple and strongly in support of the page’s meaning.


How can you add emphasis?

There are many ways to set one element apart from the others on a scrapbook page. Try one or more of the following.

use contrast
Contrast is about differences: light against dark, small next to large, a portrait-oriented photo next to several landscape-oriented photos.

See the contrasts and subsequent focal point on “Love that Summer Feeling” by Dunia. The focal photo is a rectangle alongside many squares; it is the largest shape on the page; and it is colorful against a black-and-white backdrop.

Layout by Dunia, supplies: That Summer Feeling Kit by Gina Marie Huff, Give Me Simple Template by Vinnie Pearce

use isolation (i.e., white space)

The more an item is surrounded by white space (or is isolated from other elements), the more weight (and, thus, importance) it takes on. The journaling on “Part of the Story” shown above is set off and emphasized with white space.

use placement

An object placed in a “sweet spot,” on the page will take on importance. To find the four “sweet spots” on your page, divide it into thirds horizontally and vertically (as if drawing a tic-tac-toe board over it) and find the four spots where your dividing lines intersect.

See this principle applied to Amy M’s “A Boy and His Dirty Ball.” The four sweet spots are circled in green and the delightful face in the focal point photo sits smack-dab at a sweet spot.


establish and then break a pattern

When you have a series of elements that are sized and arranged in pattern, the element that breaks this pattern will stand out.

Anke used a grid of nine squares as the foundation for her page “Tie-dyed.” By breaking one photo out of the regular sizing and placement on this grid, she created a focal point photo of the finished egg in the center. This “break-out” is differentiated from the others with sizing, a tilted placement, and the addition of a ribbon.


use framing, embellishment, and anything else that calls attention

It’s all about being different and catching the eye. Add a fancy frame, place embellishments at the corner, raise an element up, tilt it—just do something to give it emphasis the other elements do not have.

On my page, “If Your Friends Jumped Off a Bridge” the focal point is a photo that is not the largest or the smallest, but, rather, the one that’s framed and embellished. The photo at top left stands out because of its white frame and funky embellishing at top center. Its placement at a sweet spot on the page also adds to its importance in the viewer’s eye.


Take a look at the pages you’ve made. What have you emphasized and how does it work in support of page meaning and look? When you start your next page, set yourself a challenge to make a conscious decision about what to emphasize and then put some of these techniques to work.


P.S. The random winner from yesterday’s feature on Joyce, was Tamara who said: “I absolutely LOVE Mumbai Lullaby (and the add-on)! And Commitment and Serendipity are gorgeous too. Thanks!” Check your inbox!