Guest Post: Borrowing Design Principles by Christine Okken
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Hello CardMaker Friends! It?s Christine here with my last guest post tutorial for CardMaker! I was thinking recently how the art of card making can borrow from other artistic endeavors. Design principles can crossover different platforms and mediums and still have the same effective result. Today we?re going to look at some design principles that others use in their art that can also translate to better card design.

1. Borrowing from Photography – Rule of Thirds 

One of the great design principles of photography that also works perfectly in card making is the Rule of Thirds. Have you ever looked in your DSLR camera?s viewfinder and noticed a faint grid line that overlays your photography space? This is actually designed to help with the composition of your photos. Imagine your image space is divided into nine equal sections made up by two horizontal lines and two vertical lines, you?ll have separated it into thirds. When composing a photo you should position your most interesting element along those lines, or at the points where the horizontal and vertical lines cross each other.

This can be applied to card making as well, and it will help you compose more eye-catching layouts.

I thought of a neat way to illustrate this principle by creating an overlay from acetate, sized 4 1/4 x 5 1/2 inches. I drew lines with a Sharpie marker at the 1/3 sections on the vertical and horizontal planes. Now I can lay the acetate over a standard sized card and have a guideline of where my focal points should land.

In card making we generally have a main, or most interesting focal point, like your main image. This focal point should align on one of the 1/3 lines or at one of the cross points between the horizontal and vertical lines. Take a look …

As you can see, the gerbera daisies are my focal point. They are the most interesting things on the card. I lined up my layout and attached this main image so that the center of the daisy hits one of those cross points, and the stems are along the left vertical line.

You might also be able to tell that the overall layout of the card assists in the design by adding the fishtail banners on the left side of the card so it feels weighted to that side.

A secondary focal point on a card is usually your sentiment. I added this sentiment along the cross points on the lower right of the card. It doesn?t take away from the main focal point, it still hits one of the cross points, and it adds a bit of balance to the left weighted card.

Here are a couple of examples from other cards I?ve recently made.

This cute bunny in the balloon has a right weighted card design where the bunny in his balloon sits on the right vertical plane and hits the lower right cross point between horizontal and vertical. The clouds add balance to the design hitting the top right cross point.

This design showcases the jumping rainbow trout. His fin hits the top left vertical/horizontal cross point.

Using this Rule of Thirds will help you design card layouts that are more pleasing to the eye.

2. Borrowing from Floral Design – Use Odd Numbers

The next design principle is borrowing from floral design. It?s the principle that odd numbers of things are more pleasing to the eye than an even number of things. When a bouquet is designed with multiple elements, most often it will utilize 1, 3, 5, 7 of something (etc). Put together, these odd numbers of things create balance.

Just look at this card again …

The beautiful gerberas were illustrated in a trio; this odd number seems to keep everything visually balanced. To continue that odd number balance, I added three fishtail banners, three enamel dots in the top left and then the sentiment and two more enamel dots on the bottom right, as well as one little baker?s twine bow.

Another principle of floral design is to use repeated elements throughout a bouquet. On this card you can see the repeated theme of dots. From the flower centers, the pointillism in the image background, the dots around the oval die, and the polka dots in the red and blue designer papers—all these elements incorporate dots. This type of repeated elements tie a design together.

3. Borrowing from Hairstyle – Triangles

The last principle today came from a conversation I had with my hairstylist. She continually goes for further education to hone her skills in cutting, styling and coloring hair. She told me at a recent hair convention she attended, the teacher talked about triangles. He said that in hair, a triangle is the most pleasing shape; so as you?re creating a style, look for ways to create triangles. I can totally see this in the side swept bangs that are popular, or the inverted bob I?m wearing now, they make use of triangle shapes.

I apply this principle regularly in my card making when it comes to my embellishments. Take a look how it works in this design again.

Can you see how the main image forms a triangle, and then the embellishments form a triangle? It?s another way of repeating a design element in a way that is visually effective.

Now all that to say, rules can be broken! See them as guidelines that can help you as you put your cards together. I love that we can borrow design principles! I hope these ideas are helpful for your designs. Thanks so much for stopping by!


Supplies Used

Gerbera Card: X-Press It Blending Card and Copic® markers (B0000, B000, B41, B91, C5, C7, G40, G43, G46, R20, R24, R27, R29, R39, Y13) from Imagination International Inc.; patterned papers from Teresa Collins Studio; Glads and Gerberas stamp set and Peonies and Tulips stamp set from Power Poppy; Pierced Oval STAX dies from My Favorite Things.

Bunny Balloon Card: X-Press It Blending Card and Copic® markers (B93, B95, B97, B99, BG10, BG32, BG34, BG45, W00, W1, W2, YR0000, YR04) from Imagination International Inc.; white and navy cardstock from Neenah Paper Inc.; So Rad patterned papers from Simple Stories; Drop In stamp set, Words of Love stamp set and Stitched Clouds dies from The Cat’s Pajamas; Pierced Oval STAX dies from My Favorite Things.

Rainbow Trout Card: X-Press It Blending Card and Copic® markers (BG0000, BG10, BG11, BG90, BG93, BG96, E13, E15, E42, E43, E44, E47, E84, R02, R22, W1, W2, YG61, YG63, YG67); Hunt & Gather patterned papers from Kaisercraft; Leaping Trout digital stamp set from Power Poppy; Buttons dies from The Cat?s Pajamas. 

8 Responses to Guest Post: Borrowing Design Principles by Christine Okken

  1. Parker says:

    Thanks a ton for this article. Now I just have to remember the Rule Of 3 while making cards now. Thirds (3), Odd numbers (3), and Triangles (3). Makes it tons easier knowing this information from you.

  2. Lynn D'Arcy says:

    Great tips – Often I am not pleased with the finished layout on my card and can’t figure out why. Thanks for sharing your creativity and your faith. I appreciate both so much.

  3. Irene says:

    This article was amazing!!! I have heard of the “odd number” tip, but the others are so helpful!!! Thank you so much!

  4. CherylQuilts says:

    Wow, Christine, first of all, I love your cards, and what a clever way to illustrate your point with the acetate and lines. It’s so helpful, and I will make one for myself. I always love your cards and (always love your coloring), and thanks so much for sharing this and how the principles of photography work with card making! You are so amazing, and thank you! Big hugs, my friend!

  5. Very cool, thanks for sharing that, I think I may have been doing that without realizing in some of my cards but now it will be easier with a piece of acetate to know that I am 🙂 Beautiful cards to show us your examples!

  6. Sharon says:

    Thank you dear lady for the timely article, I do some of what you talked about without thinking but it is very helpful to understand why I keep moving things about until I am visually pleased with the results. It was easy to adapt a 12×12 page protector into a grid for scrapbook pages!! The triangle, I will be looking to see that I place my embellishments accordingly! 🙂 Beautiful work!

  7. Lori says:

    Great tips, and those cards are beautiful!

  8. Carole Strawn says:

    Valuable information. I guess I was doing some of this by instinct as I arranged and rearranged card elements looking for some kind of balance. I can use these tips with more intention now that I understand the principles.

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