When Two Obsessions Collide: Patterns & Disney

When I first started blogging (at my old site scottygirldesign.com), my husband and I were living in San Diego and we had annual passports at Disneyland. 

Visiting the parks was a frequent topic on my blog, but I didn't want to just do trip reports like everyone else on the internet at the time. When you're a local and can go to Disneyland several times each month, rehashing the same attraction or character photos each week just didn't sound like fun to me.

When Two Obsessions Collide: My Disney Pattern Project | shannonmcnab.com

I wanted to focus on writing something different, something utilizing my unique perspective as a designer. In my own words from an August 2009 blogpost:

I have long since wanted to do a project dedicated to Disneyland. Maybe I could take closeup photographs of small details that most people don't notice. Oh wait, Andy Castro already does that! Instead, I'm going to combine my love of Disney with another love: patterns.

So I've decided I would start cataloging all the patterns that Disneyland has. I know it is a big task, but I love uncovering all the little details of Disney that most people take for granted and pass by without a second glance.

For the next few months, anytime I went to Disneyland, I kept my eye out for and snapped pictures of all the patterns I found around me at the parks. I posted my favorites to the blog and called the series the Disneyland Pattern Project. Here's just a few patterns I was able to collect:

Patterns found at the Emporium on Main Street U.S.A in Disneyland

Patterns found at the Emporium on Main Street U.S.A in Disneyland

Patterns found at the China Closet on Main Street U.S.A in Disneyland

Patterns found at the China Closet on Main Street U.S.A in Disneyland

Patterns found at the Muppets 3D Theater in Disney's California Adventure

Patterns found at the Muppets 3D Theater in Disney's California Adventure

The only problem?? We ended up moving to San Francisco in January 2010. Having an 8+ hour drive to get to Disneyland meant I was no longer able to continue the series. And that's a shame because it would be an incredibly cool project to continue especially as it's something that would never be complete as the parks continually change over the years.

Revisiting my Disney Pattern Project

My husband and I leave for a long-awaited vacation to Walt Disney World in a few weeks and I have been looking forward to this trip all year long! Not only because I'm a huge Disney parks fan and am looking forward to the Food & Wine Festival at Epcot, but because I've been dreaming about revisiting this old series during our vacation.

We are going to take it really easy during our trip (no crazy schedule planning for us), so I know I'll have plenty of time to slow down and search for all the fun patterns Disney World has to offer. I'm planning on posting some of the patterns I find during our trip on Instagram. If you'd like to see them too, be sure to follow me or simply search for the hashtag #disneyworldpatterns.

New Work | Magic Memories Project Life® Cards

I've been keeping a secret of over a month now and I'm so excited that I can finally share what I spent most of April working on: a Disney vacation inspired card set for Becky Higgins Project Life®!!

Magic Memories Project Life Cards | Designed by Shannon McNab

When Becky's team got in touch with me in March with the idea, I could not say "YES" fast enough! I've been a Disney fan all my life, so it was a privilege to be able to design for something I love. 

I was also acutely and almost painfully aware of how passionate Disney fans (myself included) are about details. So although I put a lot of extra pressure on myself to deliver something that both Disney fans and the scrapbooking community could love, I can't deny that this was one of the most enjoyable projects I've ever had the pleasure to work on!

That's why I thought it would be fun to share a behind the scenes look at how the Magic Memories Project Life® cards came to life.

Hunting for Disney Inspiration

Becky's team let me decide what direction we should take for the Disney inspired cards, and so I knew I wanted the collection to be modern, bright and cheerful, while giving a slight nod to the vintage nostalgia that is so familiar and welcoming at the Disney parks.

Disney Inspiration Pinterest board for Magic Memories Project Life cards | shannonmcnab.com

I was particularly drawn to vintage Disneyland packaging, retro looking icons, hand-drawn patterns, marquee style typography, and high contrast color palettes. And if I felt stuck at any point in my sketching process (see below), I either went to my own public Disney Pinterest board or simply searched Pinterest for some more vintage inspiration.

Sketching My Heart Out . . . and then Sketching Some More

I usually sketch anywhere from 2-10 pages in my sketchbook for any given collection. So when I started sketching out my list of ideas for Magic Memories, I thought I would only be filling about 10-15 pages and that would give me plenty to work with. In reality, it took almost 25 pages for me to work out enough of my ideas for the initial development stage (see a small sampling of them below). The funny part is even now that it's complete, I still have ideas that I never got to!

Sketchbook for Magic Memories Project Life cards | shannonmcnab.com

I'm very thankful that my schedule was wide open and I could devote three entire days to sketching. It was easily the most time consuming part of the process, but it allowed me the time to really work out all the little design details that I feel make the Magic Memories Project Life® cards so special.

Digitizing My Sketches in Illustrator

Sometimes I have an exact idea of how a finished illustration will look, like my popcorn cart below, and so going from the original sketch to digitizing the final illustration takes very little time.

Illustration for Magic Memories Project Life cards | shannonmcnab.com

Other times, the way I envision the end result of a sketch takes a lot more work to come to fruition. Take the castle I drew for one of the vertical 4x6 cards, for example. You can see my drawing on the left and while the final design on the right shares a lot of similarities to the original sketch, it took me a couple dozen tries to get there.

Illustration for Magic Memories Project Life cards | shannonmcnab.com

It was especially challenging in terms of color. There's almost no gray anywhere else in the collection, so I needed to find the right balance of grays with the core color palette. So while it may have taken me a while to get to the finished illustration, I really do feel the final result was worth all the trial and error.

Finalizing my Designs

One thing I really loved about this particular project was getting feedback from Becky's team after I finished my first pass of designing. Usually, I'm a one woman show making all the final design decisions, so it was nice getting thoughtful critiques on things I may not have noticed myself.

Magic Memories Project Life cards | Designed by Shannon McNab

And after I made a few quick adjustments based on the feedback I received, all that was left was to package them up using the design guidelines I was given and then pass them off to Becky's team to upload to their site. Then it was time for a celebratory dance in my office and wait on pins and needles until it launched on May 9th!

Getting Inspired at CHA 2014

Last fall I promised myself to make it to CHA this year. It's been three years since my last visit to the trade show and I really missed getting to drool over all the products and chat with all the amazingly talented people. Luckily for me, I also got to travel with some of the aforementioned talent - most of them being fellow designers from Pixels & Company.

Pixels & Company Designers visiting CHA 2014 together | shannonmcnab.com

Clockwise from top left: Jeryn, Deena, Kelleigh, Laura, Gennifer, Amber, Shen (and daughter), Me

We decided to walk the CHA floor on Saturday. I've never been on the floor with such a large group of women and although it was sometimes like herding cats. And every time we went to a new booth, it seemed like one of us would know someone there to chat with.

Meeting Mari Koegelenberg at CHA 2014 | shannonmcnab.com

Kelleigh and Laura both knew Mari Koegelenberg (above) from their time at The Digi Chick together, so we had to make it over to the Pink Paislee booth to see her new collections – all 4 of them. Seriously, this girl is a design making MACHINE!

I've always been a HUGE fan of Mari's digital designs and never thought I'd be pouring over her paper collections with her standing right beside me. And did I mention she is truly is the sweetest lady in the world and lives less than an hour from me?? I may have made plans to go wine tasting with her in the near future.

The most memorable moments of the day were getting to see my fellow P&Co designer's new product lines in the flesh. I felt like a real scrapbook groupie!

Amber LaBau in the Becky Higgins booth at CHA 2014 | shannonmcnab.com

Amber (above) has a brand new Core Kit with Becky Higgins' Project Life. And our store owner at P&Co, Gennifer, had her first ever line, Just Splendid, debut with My Mind's Eye. I'm hoping someday I'll be able to walk the show floor and be able to see my own work up in a booth.

My only regret of the trip was that I hardly took any photos of new product. There was so much to look at and too many people to talk to that my brain was truly on creative overload. Despite not being able to share photos of new goodies I'll be coveting, I did notice a few major trends:

  1. Non-symmetrical geometric prints

  2. Handwritten & watercolor typography

  3. Travel/vacation themed lines – I was surprised to see them out so early in the year

  4. Specialty albums – Instagram sized, PL centric, etc.

Overall it was a really inspiring day. I just hope the inspiration will last long enough for me to get some major design work done.

Then on Sunday, while a few girls opted to leave Anaheim, the rest of us headed to Disneyland. Several of us are big Disney fans – and me being married to a Disney employee helps – so we had to go and let off a little steam at the happiest place on earth.

Pixel & Company does Disneyland at CHA 2014 | shannonmcnab.com

And since I was the designated "tour guide" of our group, I gave them lots of fun facts about the park. I always worry about being too chatty about my park knowledge when I go to Disneyland with new people, but these girls totally indulged me. They sounded genuinely interested in all the crazy facts I had. 

All in all I think every single one of us found it to be a really successful weekend. We finally got to meet each other in person, made great new professional contacts at the CHA show, drooled uncontrollably at all the new pretty product, and even got to act like kids while spending the day at Disneyland. I couldn't have asked for a better weekend!

My Sketchbook | Dreams Do Come True

Disney is a constant source of inspiration for me and since we've been planning our next trip to Anaheim in December, Disney has been one my mind even more than usual. So I guess it's not surprising this was the first phrase that came to mind.

Dreams Do Come True typography by Shannon McNab