quaking aspen, previously

idea books, and learning about scrapbook design…

Posted on: April 16, 2006

First, here’s a review I wrote at Amazon, for a book I bought there:

Review:
Step Up Your Scrapbooking seems to be based on the feature of the same name in the magazine Simple Scrapbooks. I found it a refreshing change from some idea books and magazines that are lovely showcases for products, but not really practical for real life scrapbooking.

This one actually seemed to want to inspire you to actually use what you have! (Caveney’s story of her early scrapping life as a pennypinching student lent the claim some credence.) Nice examples of simple design using only cardstock and a pen, then one embellishment (yes, patterned paper counts!), two, three, and so on. Includes pages by some of my favorite designers, like Shelly Laming, Allison Kimball, and others. It includes some design tips sections on color, taking great photos, and other topics, which I found useful, as well as “assignments” in each section to spur you to actually create something.

It’s not exactly a book on scrapping on a budget (for example, some of the cardstock-only and one-embellishment pages leaned toward using extremely large photos – not really the most cost-effective choice), but overall very encouraging for those who like simple and effective design, who are on a budget, or who may want to avoid crowding their pages with too many goodies.

Note to add: I put this on the ScrapFromYourStash list, and someone pointed out later that if you count the cost of an over-sized photo as an embellishment cost, then it’s really fairly reasonable, only 0.29-$1 or so, compared to premade, packaged things you might buy, say, $3 for a package of three tiles or a few flowers or whatever. And, since in the end it comes back to the photos, that could be a really worthwhile investment for your page. Still, it takes planning and so on, and I probably wouldn’t do it all the time, but it put a new perspective on it for me.

Idea books are funny: there being different kinds of course. The kind that has lots of past tips and mini-articles and such — those are often good, especially cuz if I buy the right one, that has the articles I’m most interested in, I can easily toss my old magazines! Then there’s the ones by the contributing editors (“celebrities”) of scrapping, like Becky Higgins, etc etc. I find Becky’s books (particularly the Creative Companion and the two Sketches books) extremely useful! Many of the others… not so much. Even when I really like the author’s page style, etc, it tends to not teach me in quite the way I was hoping for. For example, I got Ali Edwards’ A Designer’s Eye for Scrapbooking a while back. I love her style and the way she designs, but in all honesty, I learned just about as much from the article she did based on it (in the March 2005 CK issue) as from the full book. It’s nice to see the layouts and all, but most of the time I feel like they don’t have a lot of concrete knowledge in them, just a sort of “you have to decide for yourself” thing, which makes sense in the art aspect.

But for me, a design novice, I feel like I need more basic knowledge, like how to break down what I’m seeing on a layout I like, so I can basically analyze it, then actually use what I have, instead of having to go out and get that other exact paper, embellishment, etc. (Also, knowing how and practicing this “breaking down” process will help me figure out what I like, what my “style” is and how to apply it to pages myself, either in adapting an LO or sketch I see, or in designing something from scratch.) An article that actually was useful for that was also in the March 05 CK, by Faye Morrow Bell, talking about how to recreate a “runway,” fancy look in less time and using fewer materials. But frankly, articles like that seem to be few and far between.

Really, the most useful book I’ve read for scrapbooking (admittedly not out of THAT many; I haven’t even read Clean & Simple Scrapbooking, Cathy Zielske, though I’d like to) isn’t a scrapbook book at all; it’s The Non-Designer’s Design Book, by Robin Williams. Even though it’s a book about typography (designing business stationary, newsletters, posters, etc), I found it very useful in teaching principles that I can use to plan or analyze LOs. Like contrast, proximity, alignment, repetition. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who’d like to learn some real basics, presented in a way that you can apply them yourself to many different areas (but particularly scrapping, of course). I’ve even found that now I understand and get more out of the scrapping-specific design articles you find now and again in the mags, etc.

And I love The Big Picture, by Stacy Julian. I’ll probably have to do a whole separate post about that one, as I’ve gone on quite long enough….

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