by Debbie Hodge

I approach making scrapbook pages by asking myself questions that are based upon my understanding of:

It’s not really as formal that sounds, though. The premise is:

  • If you know what the 5 page parts (or elements) are (and can hold them “loosely in your mind”) then you know what pieces you might be working with.
  • If you know what the 6 design principles are (and I always think “ECBARF” or emphasis, contrast, balance, alignment, repetition, flow) and you “hold them loosely in your mind” and trust the process—you’ll make a page that gets the job done!

Is that too much “loosely holding” for you? Don’t worry. The more you do this, the more subconscious the process becomes.

Here are three questions to work through.

1. What is this page’s purpose?

Knowing the answer to this will drive your page element choices and decisions.

There’s a good chance your purpose in creating any page will be one of the following:

  • for your creative expression.
  • to provide an opportunity to experiment and/or play with product and/or design.
  • to explore a topic and better understand it.
  • to create a record of a something that happened (anything from a brief moment to a big event).
  • to express how you feel about a specific subject and/or person.
  • to convey a message to whoever you plan to share this page with.
  • . . . or it may be something else . . . just figure that out and hold it in your mind as you move forward.

My purpose with “New Spot” was to play with the design principle of balance and to make something really pretty to present this moment that I was primarily recording for myself.

2. What role will photos and journaling play on this page?

Ask yourself about these two page elements first because they are the ones that usually define space needs.

ask yourself about photos:

  • what photos do you have?
  • which do you want to include?
  • which do you need to include to achieve the purpose of your page from step #1?

For more on the basics of making photo selections and organizing photos:

ask yourself about journaling:

  • how much journaling will this story require?
  • how much space (relative to other parts) will you need for the journaling?

For more on rendering journaling as well as the kinds of considerations to keep in mind:

On this page, two photos would probably have sufficed, but I loved all of these and how together they conveyed that this went on for a while. I also loved how they showed the interaction between my son and husband. Also, my personal tendency is to use multiple photos. I needed space for more than just basic descriptive journaling—but not tons of space. By using a linear/blocked design I was able to get everything on the page.

3. How will title, embellishments, and canvas support your photo and journaling choices?

Everything becomes more intertwined.

Start to think about these three page elements and how they should be approached to achieve a solid design. You’ll circle around, revisiting these pieces in your mind – not for a long time, but as you begin moving things around on the page.

It will be an iterative process.

consider title:

  • do you need a title?
  • would you like to use a clever title or would a simple label work?
  • how much space does it seem you have for your title given the photo and journaling requirements?
  • would you like your title to be a strong part of the design?
  • would you like to use it to create flow?

For more on choosing and rendering a page title:


consider canvas:

  • Given the amount of space it appears your photos, journaling and title will need, what kind of a design will work well? For example, will you need to fill the entire page or could you create a design with generous white space.
  • Given your page purpose what kind of tone do you want to set? A linear or blocked design will evoke different feelings than that of a freestyle design with flourishes and layers and unusually-shaped white space.

For more on the canvas:



On “I Am a Schlepper,” the title is probably the most important page part. It sets a fun, confessional tone and, along with the photo, cues the viewer to the topic. One revealing photo is all that’s needed and the result is lots of white space and a layered approach to the canvas. A cute bird and a row of aligned (but different) buttons are the embellishments.

consider embellishments:

As you start to understand how things are coming together, keep in mind the tone you want to set, and, thus, the type and number of embellishments to include.

  • What motifs will support your meaning?
  • How will you use color?
  • Will you use your embellishments to guide the eye around the page (i.e., create flow)?
  • Where’s the “charm” factor?

For more on embellishments:

And now start moving things around the page

The approach described here entails becoming familiar with the 5 elements of a scrapbook page and 6 design principles for visual design so that the questions presented here become second nature as you move things around and make a page you love.