How NOT to Design Handmade Cards

Today I want to tell you a story about how NOT to design handmade cards.  My friend Janelle has been making cards for a long time.  She used to take classes with me when I still did them in my home, and now she takes my online classes.  She has the advantage of being able to come over for an afternoon of stamping from time to time.  I’ve learned a lot from watching her process.

She often brings over a “card she’s working on,” wanting feedback on her designs.  Here’s an example:


Janelle eventually made a card out of some of the pieces, but wasn’t very satisfied with the results.

As she showed me what she had tried, I started feeling overwhelmed by all the options she explored, and the way nothing ever seemed to come together into a solid design.  If I felt overwhelmed, just imagine what she felt!  This is a good example of how NOT to design a card!

When she came to classes in the past, we always started with a critique session, looking at card designs I’d found on the internet.  She developed a great sense of what makes a good design, and what makes other cards feel scattered or chaotic.  So I was surprised to see how much she struggled when it came to starting from scratch.

Janelle Varner at card class from Stamping Madly

Janelle at Card Class

Recently she came over, and I asked her not to bring something she’s been working on.  Instead I asked her to watch the videos in Part 1 and Part 2 of The Art of Designing Cards, and bring the printed outline. 

We had a very relaxed afternoon as she worked on her card, following the steps outlined in the videos.  She occasionally asked for an opinion or suggestion, but all the decisions were hers.  Here’s the Christmas Card she designed:

Handmade Christmas Card using Merry Mice stamp set from Stampin' Up!, designed by Janelle Varner

She found the system she learned from the Design Class very helpful, and said it gave her a clear path to follow.  She didn’t get overwhelmed with any decisions, and ended up with a card she really likes!

The next time she came over, she brought some Christmas trees she wanted to use, with a vague idea of a background.  At home she got as far as trying to configure an arrangement of the trees, then gave up.

I told her that I have the same trouble when I arrange 3 flowers or other shapes together.  I’ll find a harmonious position for them, but I have trouble duplicating it if I move them around.  That’s exactly where she was stuckOnce she adhered the three trees together temporarily, she could stop fussing with them and move on to the rest of the card.

Once again, she followed the step-by-step directions, asked for an opinion or suggestion occasionally, but the design is all hers:


If you’re tired of trying to design cards without a clear system, you could benefit from the class Janelle took.  Use this link to learn more:

The Art of Designing Cards

The next time you’re confused trying to create a card, remember this story about how NOT to design cards!

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2 Responses to How NOT to Design Handmade Cards

  1. Lisa December 12, 2016 at 6:46 pm #

    Thank you, please share the colors…great advice.

    • Sage December 12, 2016 at 8:13 pm #

      Thanks, Lisa. Colors–Merry Mice card is Soft Sky, Island Indigo, and Smoky Slate. The Festival of Trees card has Pool Party, Island Indigo, and Silver Foil. She used some old Designer Series Paper as a starting point for her color scheme. She has learned that trying to use the DSP on her cards just makes it harder to come up with a good design, so now she uses the colors for inspiration instead.

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