BASIC DESIGN PRINCIPLES WITH DEBBIE HODGE: FLOW

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This is the final article in a series of seven covering scrapbook page design. Rachael Giallongo introduced the series and shared the mnemonic ECBARF that you can use to quickly recall six basic principles of page design. I’ve continued the series, looking at the first five of those principles: Emphasis, Contrast, Balance, Alignment, and Repetition.

Today’s lesson covers the 6th principle—the F in ECBARF—which stands for “Flow.” This is where we put it all together.

Think about the principles we’ve covered so far and how interrelated their applications are: Emphasis relies on the use of Contrast, and Balance can’t be achieved without taking into account the page’s Emphasis. What other connections are there? Read on to learn about flow and see how all of the design principles as you put together a scrapbook page contribute to good visual flow.

VISUAL FLOW

What is good visual flow? Good visual flow exists when the viewer of your page takes a tour through all of its elements, understanding what’s important, taking in the key pieces and avoiding snags or dead-ends. When visitors come to my home, I really don’t want them seeing into the bathroom that’s next to my front door. I want them to look straight in to my home—to the big windows overlooking the river. So . . . I keep the bathroom door shut (or at least I try to) and I have spots of color leading the eye right over to those window. Right now it’s a series of yellows—a large planter, a yellow vase, and a wide bowl.

CREATING FLOW

To create flow on your scrapbook page, you’ll combine

1) The natural tendencies any of us have in observing things, and

2) Design principles

The human eye (and mind) will follow the natural order of things—following:

  • sequential patterns
  • the eyes of the people in your photos
  • a line of perspective
  • implied motion in your photo

When you combine an understanding of these natural tendencies with good use of design principles, you’ll be offering guided tours of your pages with no problem. Understand that repeated colors or images will draw the eye. Understand that whatever stands out (i.e., contrasts) will draw the eye. Understand that you can create implied lines that will draw the eye with alignments. Read on for examples.

SEQUENCE

You can set up a sequence that the eye will follow as simply as by arranging similar shapes in a pattern. When it comes to “natural tendencies” any of us who read left-to-write and top-to-bottom are prepared to move our eyes in these directions.

On “Worth a Thousand Words,” JPrainaitis arranged two rows of circles in a grid pattern that draws the eye horizontally across the page to this delightful photo.

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“Worth a Thousand Words” by JPrainaitis

When you’ve got several of photos that convey a chronology of events, arrange them in a series as slurpeegirl13 has done on “Curiosity.” The three photos show her daughter checking out the doggie door at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. The horizontal flow is strengthened by other horizontal lines including the break between the two pieces of scalloped paper and the strip of small circles below the photo. The curved doodles and the loops of yarns add a sense of flow, again taking the eye from left to right.

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“Curiosity by slurpeegirl13

The sequence of elements on “The Best Gift” by tettletop20 creates vertical flow on the page. The three photos set up this pattern, and the embellishments and title are layered over them, arranged in a sequence that enhances the vertical flow.

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“The Best Gift I’ve Given My Dad” by tettletop20

VISUAL TRIANGLE

When you have three spots on your page that stand out, you create a visual triangle that catches the eye and guides it around the page. In design, odd numbers of objects are more interesting to the eye than even numbers of objects. An odd number of objects can be arranged both symmetrically and asymmetrically. Three is the odd number that is most frequently used in all kinds of design. Just for a start, look for it in architecture, home decor, and floral design.

Jenbreeze has arranged a visual triangle on “San Francisco Adventure” that begins with the compass at top left, moves on to the magnifying class and tag at the right of the large photo, proceeds to the title below the photo and to the left side. Many of us will follow this path the first time and then loop back around at least one more time—taking in the photo, the design, and the mood the page evokes.

If you’re wondering why those three elements are the points on the triangle think back to the lesson on contrast (what stands out?) as well as repetition (what things are similar and, thus, connected?).

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“San Francisco Adventure” by jenbreeze

While Jenbreeze took us on a tour around one oversized photo, NikkiE takes a different approach on “Pretty Sassy Chick.” Here, each point on the triangle is a distinct element cluster on Nikki’s page canvas. The eye moves from the blue-framed photo at top left (where the title also begins), then down and over to the photo closest to page center, and finally to the photo at the right edge of the page. Bleeding two of the photo clusters off the page edge adds even more design interest to this atypical composition.

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“Pretty Sassy Chick” by NikkiE

What catches your eye on “Two Boys Playing Hockey” by pokey79? I immediately noticed the three gold spots on the page. This visual triangle of color takes the eye on a tour through the photos, title, and journaling.

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“Two Boys Playing Hockey” by pokey79

DIAGONAL DRAW

Composing a photograph so that your subject is at a diagonal almost always makes a more compelling shot. The same principle can be applied to page design. Note: the diagonal line does not need to be literal. Rather, you just need to set up at least two points along your diagonal that stand out

A diagonal moving from top left to bottom right is created on “Ben” by the placement of two photos in opposite diagonal corners.

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Ben by ViolaMoni

On my page, “You Use Too Many Dishes,” I set myself the challenge to arrange my page elements to create a strong diagonal on the page. Stepped and layered papers pieces create the foundation upon which photo, journaling, and title are placed. I’ve also placed journaling bits around the grouping to strengthen the line.

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“You Use Too Many Dishes” by Debbie Hodge

The composition on “Hello, Sunshine” by just jess has a similarity to that on “Too Many Dishes.” The elements are arranged in a stepped design with bits of journaling contributing to the diagonal line. This page has an “ascending” diagonal moving from bottom left to top right and incorporates five photos. Repetitions of shape and color give the page great unity.

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“Hello, Sunshine” by just jess

Z-FLOW

If you read a language that’s written left-to-right, your eye is accustomed to moving in a z-pattern: it begins at the left, proceeds to the right, and then comes back again to the left and then proceeds to the right. Since the brain already looks for patterns that flow this way, you can place items on your scrapbook page on a z-path to successfully guide the viewer’s eye through it.

On “Blueberry Bay Farm,” the eye begins with the title. This long horizontal title fills over 3/4s of the page width (and its length is accentuated by the blue ric rac below). The title ends with “farm” in blue and embellished by a flower. Color and embellishment connect this point to the only other embellishment point on the page—a blue and white circle epoxy layered with tags at bottom left. From there, the wide block of journaling moves the eye, again, horizontally across the page.

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“Blueberry Bay Farm” by Debbie Hodge

Can you see the z-flow on “Gone Fishing” by scrappin-grandma? The bits of brown ric rac lead the eye to the blue flower and series of three photos—ending the line with another blue flower. Next? The eye moves down to the embellishment grouping at bottom left (and it helps that another blue flower and more brown ric rac sit here!). The blue rick rack along page bottom completes the “Z” base.

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“Gone Fishing” by scrappin-grandma

CIRCLING

When you arrange your page elements (and the points that stand out and draw the eye) in a circular flow, you keep the viewer cycling through the page.

On “DIY Fun” by Kathleen Summers, the eye starts with the centered title and moves clockwise around the grouping of photos and paper pieces. Repetitions of color and the flower motif reinforce the eye’s tendency to move around the elements, ending up at the title and then circling around again.

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DIY Fun by Kathleen Summers

That wraps up the 6th design principle in this series. Challenge yourself to try each of these flow patterns and be conscious about how you apply the other 5 principles as you do this. If you want to learn more about design principles and their application to the specific parts of a scrapbook page (i.e., photos, journaling, title, embellishments, and canvas), check out the page design articles at Get It Scrapped! as well as my free 12-lesson e-class, “Where Scrapbook Ideas Come From.” You’ll get a lesson delivered to your email inbox every few days.

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Debbie Hodge shares scrapbook pages ideas, resources, and tutorials at her website Get It Scrapped! Her passion is showing you how to organize your memories and photos to make great-looking scrapbook pages that tell awesome (and meaningful) stories. She’s got an MBA with a concentration in operations management and has studied and practiced creative writing for two decades—even publishing a few short stories before publishing LOTS of scrapbook pages, articles, and even a book called Get It Scrapped!