Monday, March 8, 2010

Scrapbooking Workflow Part 3: Organizing Ideas

In last week's post on working with photos, I glossed over the details of how I store and subsequently rummage through all the sketches and potential scraplifts that I collect (because, let's face it, everything I do is a scraplift).

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time (or if you know me at all :) ) it will probably come as no surprise that I save all my ideas digitally. I have tried the pull-pages-from-a-magazine-and-put-them-in-a-binder method (it grew to be nearly a half dozen binders and I couldn't find anything I wanted), the cut-ideas-out-and-put-them-on-index-cards-in-a-file-box method (it failed for pretty much the same reason as the binder method), and also the ever popular post-it-note-every-page-you-like method (it failed because the magazines took up so much more space than either the box or the binder method, plus it was impossible to sort ideas into any kind of category).

After several years of trying different methods of organization and trying to get a handle on what worked, I realized that there were three criteria that my storage system HAD to meet:
  1. All ideas, whether they come from sketches or magazines or downloaded from blogs, needed to be stored in a single location.
  2. I really, really needed to sort the majority of my ideas by number of photos on a page. That's just how I scrap. I do have categories for other things, like certain types of embellishments, but for the most part they're sorted by number of photos.
  3. I needed the storage system to not take up a lot of space and be quickly accessible and easy to flip through. I know it sounds like those are two separate items, but really they work together.
The binder and box methods both met the first two criteria- I had all my ideas in one place, whether I'd torn a page from a magazine or printed an idea from the web, and they were sorted by number of photos- but they failed miserably at meeting the third. They were big and bulky, and as a consequence they were not at all easy to use. Imagine leafing through 6 big binders (having to haul the binders off the shelf and then put away the pile of them when you were finished looking) to find a page idea. Ugh. It was not cool.

Now, let me introduce you to my new storage system.

Ta-da! No, seriously, that really is it!! Just a bunch of folders on my MacBook, most of which are labeled based on the number of photos on a page. It meets all three criteria with flying colors (and I've been using it for quite a while now and am sure of that :) ). Want to see how? Let's go through each one individually.

1. Everything is stored in a single location.

It's all on my MacBook in subdirectories in one folder. Everything (with the exception of some books that I refuse to destroy in order to scan them in) is there. No more digging through a book here or a binder there- it's all in one place, right at my fingertips.

And it's backed up. In triplicate.

In case you're wondering how I managed to get all those ideas from various sources (and various types of media) onto the computer, I'll clue you in to my two main tools.

First, Command-Click (right click on Windows) and Save As are your friends. When I'm surfing web galleries or reading blogs and I see something that I like, I simply save the image to my hard drive. I have a folder on my desktop of stuff to sort, and that's generally where I save new items to. About once every couple of weeks I'll go through the folder and put items into their permanent homes.

Second, for all those paper items that you want to get into your computer, scanning is the way to go. I couldn't be happier with my Fujitsu ScanSnap S510. Unfortunately the model I have has been discontinued (and the used prices on Amazon are outrageous- I paid $350 for mine when I bought it new), but there are several other similar scanners that will work just as well. The two features you need to be on the lookout for (well, three- make sure the quality is up to snuff, so at least 300dpi) are the ability to auto-feed sheets (scanning both sides of the page at the same time is a plus) and a direct-to-PDF feature. A flatbed scanner will work just as well quality wise, but it will take longer since you have to change out each sheet manually between scans.

If you don't have the money to invest in a scanner right now (I originally bought mine to scan in business papers and receipts, so I certainly understand not buying a scanner simply to scan your scrapping magazines), there is another option for getting at least some of your magazine ideas in PDF. If you can find an online digital edition of your magazine, you can "print" straight to PDF using a tool such as CutePDF (free for personal use). You may have to search around a bit to find digital issues- I wrote about Scrapbooks, Etc. digital editions last week, Scrapbook Trends offers digital subscriptions, and there are several back issues of Simple Scrapbooks and Creating Keepsakes available online to premium members of Club CK.When you find an idea in your digital issue that you like, simply start the printing process as your normally would, but when you select your printer choose CutePDF instead of your normal printer. You'll be asked to give your file a name and choose a place to save it, and the PDF will be generated for you.

2. The majority of ideas are sorted by number of photos.

Done. There was a time when I sorted my ideas by source- PageMaps sketches in one place, Got Sketch in another, scanned in magazines over here, blog ideas over get the picture. At first I was really nervous about putting all these sources together in a single directory structure- what if I didn't like them that way? But one day I threw caution to the wind and just went for it and sorted everything by number of photos, and months later I could not be happier with the results.

3. It doesn't take up a lot of space and is easy to rummage through.

Now that I'm back to living in a tiny house (and loving it), the size of my idea collection is probably one of the most important considerations. In this case, it's no bigger than my MacBook, which by weight and size takes up the space of a couple of scrapbooking idea books or 3-4 magazine issues. I do also have to store the scanner itself, but it folds up to about the size of a football and fits neatly under the bed or on a small shelf (or more often on the floor next to Darren's desk).

As for the easy to rummage through part, check this out!!

This is one of the folder view options available in Mac OS X Leopard- it's based on the same Cover Flow interface found in iTunes, and it lets me flip through ideas easily using just the right and left arrow keys. Unfortunately, if you have OS X Tiger or below (or Windows) you won't have a similiar view available to you. Picasa makes it easy to browse image files, but since it doesn't support PDFs it may not suit all your needs. Unfortunately, I don't know of a similar browsing technology for Windows. If anyone does, please leave a comment and let me know!

So how does all this tie back in to my scrapbooking workflow? If you recall from last week, I had selected 6 photos to use on a page- 5 vertical and one horizontal. After making my photo selections, I simply went to the "6 Photos" folder on my MacBook and started flipping through ideas until I found this one- with 5 vertical photos and one horizontal one. :) It took just a few minutes to do- so easy!

Next week I'll cover the fun part- choosing supplies and making a page kit!!


Valerie said...

amazing - it has never occured to me to store ideas I find online like this..especially from my online magazine subs. I don't think I can part with my binder but I will definitely start a file for the online stuff asap! Thanks for the idea.

Aimee said...

I'm starting to implement this brilliant idea. Just wondering though, what do you do with a scan that may have multiple sketches on it, each for a different number of photos? Do you duplicate that page and put a copy of each in the relevant folders? Ie, if a SBE page has a sketch for a 2-photo layout, 6-photo, 3 photo, and so on - do you make three copies of that page and put them in their respective folders?