Designer Series: Your ‘Embellishments’ Questions Answered

Meet Cate and Jen
Cate and Jen belong to the fabulous Shutterfly design team. They are in charge of designing the photo book styles.

I’m Jen. I love traveling and own too many books. I have a music playlist for everything.
I’m Cate.
I love fashion, design, and anything food-related. As a recent transplant to the West Coast, I enjoy exploring my new terrain and the great outdoors with my Boxer pup Penny Lane.

Q&A with Cate and Jen

What photo books have you designed?
: Black & White Backdrop, Color The Town, Confetti Splash, Natural Neutrals and Patterns & Textures
: Travel Snapshots, Pregnancy Journal, Distinguished Textures and Family Portraits

Where do you get your inspiration? Describe your creative process.
Jen and Cate
: Research, definitely research.
: I like to look through design books and favorite websites for inspiration. I usually try out several different directions at first, then select the ones that are the most successful.

Jen: I’m always looking for new ideas for photography and book design. I’m also really interested in what people are taking photos of because it helps me design a book and the embellishments that best highlight their story.

What is the purpose of embellishments?
: Embellishments help the customer tell his or her story. Whether it’s a unique frame that highlights a special photo, a sticker that announces a first birthday, or a pattern band that’s in your favorite colors, embellishments make the book all about you and your memories.

Jen: Every style has a different way of using embellishments to help tell a story, depending on the book’s purpose. For a heavy journaling style like Pregnancy Journal, guided prompts and big chapter titles help divide your book into sections and make storytelling easier. For something like Travel Snapshots, the embellishments are mainly there to give your photos that snapshot feel, and present it in a travel journal style.

What medium do you use to create these styles?
: Watercolor, drawn embellishments with pen and ink, and created custom type treatments through hand lettering and calligraphy.
Jen: I work with pen and ink but I also scan elements to get certain textures.
Cate and Jen
: And of course, we both use Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop.

How do you keep the pages from looking too “embellished”? When is it too much?
: Photo books are first and foremost about the photos. When the embellishments distract from the photos, then you know you’ve gone too far.
: A simple rule to go by is, if it doesn’t do anything for the page or the photos, take it out!

Any tips for using embellishments?
: I tend to think that simpler is better. When creating pages, look for one or two key focal points to enhance.
Think of the purpose of the page. Embellishments should support your photos. Try a quote that speaks to a photo or a pattern band to add some color to the page. You may want to consider using embellishments with colors that complement the colors in your photos.

What is your favorite embellishment/style?
: Patterns & Textures. I had a lot of fun designing the colorful patterns and embellishments. I’m also really excited about the Woodland Storybook style that was just added to the Storytelling Collection™. It features beautiful watercolor illustrations and allows you create a custom storybook for your child.
: Family Portraits. It has a clean, simple look. The focus is on the photography, but it still feels warm and uplifting.

Do you have any questions for our designers? Post them in the comments below.


  1. Joey says

    This was great to read and learn about the designers of the embellishments. I love making books and playing with all the embellishments. Its fun to see what can be created and it does add to the page, but I can see where it would be easy to get carried away with too many.
    Thanks for the great article.

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