Hopscotch Value Kit for Becky Higgins

Last summer, I had the chance to work on another project with Becky Higgins and I'm happy to say that it finally made its debut at the Creativation trade show last week! 

Hopscotch Value Kit for Becky Higgins LLC designed by Shannon McNab

Back in August 2016, Becky's team contacted me and asked if I would be interested in designing a value kit for their 2017 CHA lineup. After we worked so well together on their Magic Memories cards last spring, I couldn't say yes fast enough!

The concept for Hopscotch was centered around the idea of "play". It's a theme I'd been developing for awhile, I was just waiting for the right project to come along. So I'm was incredibly happy when Becky's team was 100% on board with the idea! 

The value kit was larger than my Magic Memories card collection, so it took a bit more research and lots of sketching to fulfill my vision for the kit. Here's just a few pages from my sketchbook for Hopscotch:

After a whirlwind couple of weeks, Hopscotch was finalized in early September and all that was left was to wait a few months for it to debut.

This is the first time in four years that I haven't gone to CHA's January trade show, so I'm a bit disappointed I wasn't able to see it in person on the show room floor. However, I'm hoping to have this kit in my hot little hands in the very near future!

Hopscotch Value Kit for Becky Higgins LLC designed by Shannon McNab
Hopscotch Value Kit for Becky Higgins designed by Shannon McNab
Hopscotch Value Kit for Becky Higgins designed by Shannon McNab

If you're wondering where you can find Hopscotch, it's now available to purchase on Becky Higgins' website. However, if you're looking at your local scrapbook store (or Michael's), it likely won't be in stock for a few more months.

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:

Making a Tough Decision: My 3 Reasons for Retiring from Digital Scrapbook Design

If you had asked me even a year ago if I would ever be retiring from personal use digital scrapbook design, I would have said you were crazy – that could NEVER happen! Well, a lot can change in a year and I'm not the same designer I was 12 months ago (and I don't see that as a bad thing).

I had (and still have) so much love for the digi scrapbook community and have enjoyed watching my designs get used by countless, loyal customers. So why then, have I made the decision to retire my personal use store?

I never like to make rash decisions, so it's something I've given several months of thought to. And the truth is that my decision mainly boils down to three reasons:

Reason #1: Scrapbooking Is My Job, Not a Hobby

I started in this industry like many others; it was a side hobby while I worked a "regular" job and then it eventually became my full-time job. I've been a scrapbooker since the age of 13 and after receiving a design degree, it felt natural for me to design products for a hobby I enjoyed so much.

At first, designing scrapbook products actually fueled me to scrapbook my own stories more often. I started participating in Project Life, created vacation albums again, and even enjoyed making pages for store challenges. But that feeling didn't last and scrapbooking started to lose its luster.

One of only 6 scrapbook layouts I completed in 2015.

One of only 6 scrapbook layouts I completed in 2015.

I didn't notice it at first, I only knew I wasn't scrapbooking as frequently. I used to believe it was simply due to a lack of time, but then I realized that was only a small part of the puzzle.

The main reason I had lost the motivation to scrapbook was because it was no longer a hobby for me; it had become part of my job description. For the past 3-4 years, anything I scrapbooked was created to help promote my business. Scrapbooking for scrapbooking-sake was no longer my primary motivator, it was all about showcasing my products as best I could or to illustrate tutorials I wrote. And bit by bit, I stopped enjoying the "hobby" of scrapbooking.

And that's makes me sad. Knowing that I took a hobby I've enjoyed for almost two decades and reduced it to nothing more than a marketing tactic. I know I always want scrapbooking to be part of my life, but I want it to become a hobby again and not "my job" anymore.

Reason #2: My ROI (Return on Investment)

For the first two years I was designing for the digi scrapbook industry, I spent about 75% of my time developing new product. The other 25% was mostly admin tasks, plus a little bit of marketing. I didn't have a creative team to manage, I didn't have a newsletter to send out each week, and my blog was only used for announcing new product and sharing personal interests like recipes and vacations.

Day Glo Papers: A favorite digi paper packs from the early days of my scrapbook career.

Day Glo Papers: A favorite digi paper packs from the early days of my scrapbook career.

Fast forward to the last two years and the percentage have reversed. Now, I only spend 25% of my time on designing new product (some weeks it's more like 10%) and 75% on administrative and marketing tasks.

And it makes sense. It's inevitable that as a business grows, it will become more complex. And there will come a point where you have three choices: cut your design time so you can complete all the other business tasks (which means you never put out new product), ignore the list of business tasks so you can keep designing (which doesn't help your business grow), or hire someone to do those things for you.

But here's the rub: I'm in an odd spot where I have enough admin tasks to fill my days full-time, yet my business isn't large enough to be able to support a salary for myself AND an assistant.

Now I'm successful digital scrapbook designer and I can afford to pay myself a bit from my earnings, however, living in the Bay Area means that my income doesn't stretch nearly as far as it can elsewhere. That's why I am so very thankful for the most supportive husband I could ever ask for, who works at a job he loves that can completely provide for our family.

And even though our family is financially secure right now, that doesn't mean we always will be. Just last year, Jeff's work project was cancelled which left him without a job for three months. During his "time off", it really made me realize that I want and need my own business to grow, so I could help support our family during rough times.

However, with digital scrapbook products being sold at such a low price point, I analyzed my business from the last three years and found that I needed to have the ability to churn out collection-sized releases each Friday and I just don't have the bandwidth to do that. So right now, the reality I'm facing is that in order to be able to grow my business, I need some things to change. Which leads me to reason #3...

Reason #3: Too Scared of Change

Ever since I fell in love with patterns during graduate school, I've been in awe of the massive industry that is surface design. I remember my professor explaining the possibilities of surface design and about Surtex (the premier surface design and licensing trade show in the US). It was an inspiring moment for me; I knew in my heart that I wanted to be a part of that industry and dreamt of exhibiting at Surtex someday.

Nani-Kapa: Meaning "beautiful cloth" - it was my favorite pattern I designed during graduate school. It's inspired by traditional hand-painted tapa cloth.

Nani-Kapa: Meaning "beautiful cloth" - it was my favorite pattern I designed during graduate school. It's inspired by traditional hand-painted tapa cloth.

But when I finished graduate school and tried to pursue a career as a corporate graphic designer (it's what I went to school for afterall), I completely rejected my dream because I felt like I couldn't abandon the career I spent 7 years in school to get. Looking back, I can tell you with absolute certainty that my decision was based on my fear of failure and of the unknown. 

However, even with my initial rejection of surface design, my passion for patterns slowly crept back into my life in the form of digital scrapbook design. These past six years have allowed me to experiment and grow as a surface designer, so much so that I even now teach other designers how to create their own patterns (I absolutely love being a teacher and plan on continuing to be). And I'm proud to say that I finally have the confidence in myself and my abilities as a surface designer and believe that it's time for me to take the next big step in my career.

I want the opportunity to design patterns and illustrations for companies like Target, Hallmark, West Elm, and Disney. I want to spend more time experimenting with my design style, using new-to-me techniques and learning from leaders in the industry. I want to build a recognizable brand aesthetic that's attached to my name, Shannon McNab. And most importantly to me right now, I want to exhibit my work at Surtex in 2017.

Unfortunately, in order to be able to dedicate myself completely to my dream of becoming a surface designer, I've had to make a tough choice. I know I simply don't have the stamina or time to continue designing PU products while pursuing surface design simultaneously. And I'm tired of letting my fear and indecision rule my business choices.

Do I know if I'll succeed in my goal of becoming an incredibly successful surface designer? No, I don't. Do I know whether I'll ever come to regret my decision to retire from the digi industry? No, I don't. I just know that I don't want to put off pursuing the dream I've been holding onto for nearly a decade anymore.

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!