FREE Product Brainstorming Worksheets | DSD 2016 SugarHillCo Blog Hop

Happy Digital Scrapbooking Day to all you talented designers out there!

If you're confused as to why the link to Scotty Girl Design took you here, well let me try to explain as quickly as I can: I retired from digital scrapbook design in June and decided to shift my focus to surface design, but also to be able to devote more time to helping digital designers (like yourself) streamline their businesses and maximize their design time. If you'd like to know more about how I came to my decision, you can read about my 3 main reasons for retiring.

Now let's get to the reason you're really here – your FREEBIE! When it came time to design something for this blog hop, I didn't want to do my "usual freebie"; I wanted to create something that could really help you in your business each week.

Below is a set of brainstorming worksheets designed to make your design time much smoother. All you need to do is take an hour before you start designing and write down or sketch all your ideas for your next collection. Click the image below to start the download.

The set above is for letter sized pages, however, I don't want to leave all the planner gals hanging, so I've made an A5 size as well. CLICK HERE to get the A5 size instead!

Next up in the blog hop is Wendy Page Designs, but if you like my brainstorming worksheets and want another FREE design resource to help you plan your products, don't hop outta here just yet! Make sure you scroll down to the bottom of this post.
 

DSD Specials at SHCO

I'm sure all you designers out there have been working hard for weeks to get ready for this weekend! To celebrate this amazing holiday, the entire SHCo store is 60% off from October 1-3 – including 7 new products of mine (one is a HUGE textures bundle for only $10).


FREE Product Planning Guide for Digital Designers

I wasted so much design time in my first few years as a digital designer and the main reason stemmed from not doing any pre-planning; I just jumped straight into design mode. If I had only taken a few hours each month to build a solid plan for future products, I would have saved myself HOURS of time.

So over the last two years, I dedicated a lot of time to developing my own product planning system so I could stop wasting time and I want to share my system with you.

Product Planning Guide: A Resource for Digital Design Creatives | Copyright ©2018 Shannon McNab | shannonmcnab.com

If you ever feel like you don't have enough hours in the day for design or are constantly scrambling to put together new products each week, this guide can help.

In the 12-page guide, I share with you my three part system that I personally used over the last two years. I lead you through each part step-by-step so by the end you can implement your own product planning strategy.


How Product Pre-Planning Can Save You Lots of Design Time

When I first started designing digital scrapbook products back in 2010, I had no idea what I was doing. I’d be full of inspiration one week, only to be scrambling to come up with ideas the following week. Sound familiar?

How Product Pre-Planning Can Save You Lots of Design Time | shannonmcnab.com

I wasted so much design time in my first few years as a digital designer and the main reason stemmed from not doing any pre-planning – I just jumped straight into design mode. If I had only taken a few hours each week (or month) to build a solid plan for future products, I would have saved myself HOURS of time.

Here are three time saving benefits to developing a product pre-planning system:

1. You Have Many Ideas to Choose From

Creating new designs is easier when you already have several good ideas to choose from instead of trying to come up with something on the fly. When I realized this, I decided to devote an entire day to building a list of possible theme ideas for future products.

Now you definitely don't have to take a full day to build an ideas list, but even 1-2 hours of focused brainstorming can easily give you at least a dozen good ideas for products down the line.

This is one step in the product planning process that is often ignored since we have so little design time to begin with, but to me it should always be the FIRST step in building a solid pre-planning system.

2. Gives You a Roadmap to Follow

Many designers (myself included) will often think of an idea and just start designing. This spontaneous method of creation can be a healthy part of the design process when you're wanting to experiment or stretch your design skills.

However, when it comes to developing a fully realized product (especially if it's a multi-product collection), I think going in with a bit of a plan is a much better place to start. By spending just an hour or so brainstorming ideas, you'll be giving yourself a plan of attack and visual cues that will help you during the design process.

And by creating your own mini product plan, it means that if you get stuck at any time while you're designing, you can just revisit your plan and know what step needs to come next. Without a plan, you'd probably end up wasting more time looking for inspiration to give you new ideas.

3. Makes You Feel Productive

It's such a great feeling to look back on your day or week and feel like you got a lot accomplished. That's because everyone likes to feel productive! And I don't know about you, but feeling productive is one of the main things that keeps me motivated to work on "the next thing" on my to-do list.

That's why I love creating a product list anytime I make a new collection (you could also do a list of tasks needed to complete a single product) because I can immediately see how far along in the design process I am. And nothing beats the feeling of getting to physically check something off a list – it can really empower you to keep going!

So how do you create an easy to implement product planning system??

Well, I'd like to share with you the three part system I developed and personally used for the past two years! In my new FREE Product Planning Guide, I lead you through each part step-by-step to help you implement your own product planning strategy and gain back some valuable design time.

Here's just a taste of what you'll learn:

  • Why building a design idea library is so important for long term success
  • How to discern good product ideas from bad ones
  • Creative and unusual places to hunt for inspiration
  • Tips for keeping your design files more organized
  • How to build a product inventory spreadsheet from scratch

Want more creative business advice? Check out these recent blogposts:

Happy New Year | My 2016 Design Goals

As I reflect on the past year and look towards 2016, I definitely feel like this year is going to be a year full of change. While I've been giving most of my energy for the past two years toward my "side" business (which frankly, became my main business at the beginning of 2014), I have been a bit restless working solely within the confines of the digital scrapbook market.

Happy 2016 | shannonmcnab.com

And although I never like to make "New Years Resolutions", I still think it is important to choose a few goals – things to focus on that keep me moving forward in my business. Right now, here are my two main design goals for 2016:
 

1. Focus on Continuing Education

I've always been interested in trying new techniques or learning a few new-to-me keyboard shortcuts in Illustrator, however, I've barely focused on my creative development as an artist over the past two years. The result is that my business is not where I'd like it to be.

Education is such an important part of growing as a designer whether you're a newbie or a veteran in the industry. It's funny to me that I continually tell my pattern design students to keep learning and practicing, yet I haven't been taking that advice myself.

So one of my main goals for 2016 is to sign up for a few design classes that I've been wanting to take. Not only will it help me gain a fresh perspective on my work, but I also believe it really does help reignite that passion I have for what I do.
 

2. Work on my Drawing & Lettering Skills

If you've been following me on Instagram this past year, you may have noticed that I've been posting a lot more doodles and hand lettering in my sketchbooks in recent months. While I absolutely adore Adobe Illustrator and can work happily on the computer for hours on end, I've really been yearning to work in more traditional mediums lately.

Practicing my hand lettering skills | shannonmcnab.com

Fancy computer programs and fun digital gadgets like Wacom tablets are great, but they'll only get you so far. The best way I know how to get better at something is to practice... A LOT. And I didn't do that much practicing in the first half of 2015 (and I feel like the quality of my design work suffered as a result)

I know my pattern making skills are great, but I feel like I still have lots I can improve on in regards to my illustration and hand lettering skills, so that's where my focus will be in 2016.


Why Taking a Month Off Was the Best Business Decision I Ever Made

It feels good to be back in the swing of things after I made the decision to take all of March off from my business. However, I should confess that there is a tiny part of me that is sad my "vacation" is over.

While I got several things accomplished, many of which I had been meaning to tackle for years (top to bottom house cleaning I'm talking to you!), I came back last week not entirely sure I was ready to settle back into work.

We took a weekend vacation during my break to Monterey and the change of pace it provided was very refreshing.

We took a weekend vacation during my break to Monterey and the change of pace it provided was very refreshing.

Fortunately, I was happily surprised that I got more accomplished in 4 days last week than I did in two full weeks pre-break. So what's the difference between Feb 28th and now?

Well I'm not 100% sure, but I know I can attribute a big part of it to the shift in my attitude towards my business. Before I went on break I was drained of creativity, having become a self-mandated digital scrapbook collection making machine for the past two years.

That design mentality was toxic and it made me resent and regret certain choices I had made.

And more importantly, it meant that I started to lose sight of the reason I started this business five years ago: because I have a passion for designing and enjoy seeing what scrapbookers can do with my kits.

So while starting my design break with a less-than-awesome mentality and after taking four full weeks off to do whatever I felt like, you'd think I would either be:

  1. Completely uninterested in design and ready to shut the doors on Scotty Girl Design and move on to other creative endeavors OR
  2. Exploding with design ideas and salivating at the thought of building my first new kit in over six weeks.

Well, the truth lies in the shades of gray between those two options. During my time off, I did sincerely contemplate moving on from scrapbook design, but I had to be honest with myself that I'm too fond of the industry to move just yet. And while I wasn't bursting with new design ideas, I did come back last week with a renewed sense of purpose and a slightly altered mindset, a happier one at that.

So while I wouldn't say I found the meaning of life or the key to my business's prosperity, I do know I want to continue to search for what will make me happy and successful.... one design at a time.


Finding My Happiness Again

It's been two months since I published the post about my battle with depression on my sister site Scotty Girl Design, so I thought it was time to address it on this blog and give an update on how things have been going. Have I reached a new self-enlightenment in the past two months since my commitment to change? The answer is "maybe a little.”

Take Time to Do What Makes You Happy | shannonmcnab.com

After realizing that overworking myself was having an adverse effect on both my physical and mental well-being, the biggest hurdle I overcame was making the decision to slow down and reprioritize:

New Releases

I decided that churning out weekly or even bi-weekly collections of new product just wasn't doable for me in the long term, as I firmly believe in quality over quantity. So for 2015, my new product goal is to create only one kit or collection per month in my personal use shop at The Digital Press. (UPDATE: I retired from digi design in June 2016 to pursue a full-time career in surface design).

There will be times, of course, when I'll break this rule as inspiration will strike and I'll decide I want to create two kits instead of one. And that's ok, because it will be because I WANT to and not because I feel like I HAVE to.

Work that's created when you're excited to design always turns out much better than those that are forced.

I can actually look at any kit preview in my shop and immediately tell exactly how psyched (or not) I was to make it. And from now on, I want to be amped up about EVERYTHING I make.

It does not mater how slowly you go as long as you do not stop. -Confucius | shannonmcnab.com

Learning a New Skill

I feel that one of the best ways to grow as a designer is to learn a new technique or add to your current skill set, yet last year I was in the mindset of just maintaining where I was at and churning stuff out.

I feel like my creativity has suffered as a result, but it's not something I realized until I was in the middle of teaching my pattern design class at Scrapaneers – NOTE: I now teach design and business classes on Skillshare. Throughout the course of the class, many of the students had "ah-ha" moments when everything they learned came together and suddenly creating tiling repeat patterns just clicked. It was a joy to witness!

So they inspired me to revisit something I've always wanted to improve upon: my hand drawn typography skills.

I've dabbled in typography in the past, but I'd love to dive deeper into it and learn some tricks of the trade from the best in the business.

First up, I'm taking a Skillshare typography class by none other than Jessica Hische. I've worshipped her type skills for years, so I'm really excited to take her class! I'm also hoping to follow it up with a class or two from Mary Kate McDevitt, another hand lettering goddess I admire.
 

Breaks Are Totally Ok

Perhaps the biggest shift in my mindset is realizing that it's ok to take breaks from the business. Actually it's not just ok, it's essential to be a happy, creative business owner.

That revelation actually started back in December when I was neck-deep in work, and then I opened an email from Do What You Love. Beth Nicholls was sharing her very personal story of being in a constant loop of burnout---quick break to recover---repeat and boy did it sound all too familiar!

But then she said something that gave me pause: "...so we have decided to take December off – no classes, no deadlines, no stress." How could a business owner just stop working for a month?

At first, I didn't understand how it was possible, but as my own personal burnout was manifesting, I realized how could a business owner NOT stop working on occasion to recharge?!?

Of course at the time I knew I couldn't just drop the ball and take January off – actually that should be plural since I was juggling so many different balls in December (PHRASING! <--Archer reference, I couldn't help it!) – but I knew I wanted to take some time off to help find some happiness and get a bit of my design mojo back. So after planning things out, I've decided to take the entire month of March off from my business.

Now that doesn't mean I'll become a hermit over the next four weeks while I recharge, I'm actually hoping for exactly the opposite, but it does mean that I won't be creating any new designs until early April. 

As for my blog, if I feel like I have a personal story to share, I may jump on here to share it, otherwise you can still keep in touch with me on Instagram. Toodles til April!