Project Life: the process so far with design

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First of all – you should know that I am not a designer.

I don’t even own Photoshop.

I design my sidebar buttons -> in PowerPoint to the horror of Allie’s soul

I do, however, know the *basic* principles of design (repetition, using white space, balance, etc) …. partly from being a scrapbooker for almost 20 years, and partly from taking Design 101.

That said …. Here are some of the deliberate design-related decisions and techniques I’m using as I prep my Project Life book:


I originally purchased a combo photo pocket pack of Project Life pages from Amazon … but by the end of the first week decided I wasn’t going to use half of it (gifted to my sister-in-law as part of her baby’s first year book).

I have committed to ONLY using Project Life photo pocket page Design A for the weekly spreads. I find I prefer the visual repetition of having each week structurally the same. Especially as I am not sticking to a set color scheme.

I have also committed to only doing ONE spread (left and right) per week and ONLY including 1 6×12 insert each week as needed.

In the case of this insert, for example, I could have easily included many more photos of my adorable nephew. Let’s admire again how cute he is!

6 - 7 PL  009

As Megan points out in her Project Life post, there is no wrong way to do this project. She, for example, is a lot more thorough in her Project Life documentation than I am, including multiple-page spreads and inserts for every week.

I have chosen to limit my Project Life spreads for 2 reasons: Deliberately editing the content down to fit in this space helps better me focus on what stories I want to tell; and deliberately limiting the space to fill helps me stay caught up.

If I happen to have an event or subject with many more images than will fit within this self-imposed limitation, I take that as my cue to create something beyond Project Life to record. Like my nephew, for example. Or my new kitchen.

There’s no reason you should do this too – I have just found that sticking to this structure is working the best for me.

Reoccurring elements:

I’ve decided to have 2 reoccurring design elements each week: a whit index card with hand-written journaling and the date; and a 3×4 grid journaling card with the books we’re reading that week and the movies we’ve watched.

4-5  002

Neither of these 2 elements is very difficult to produce week after week.

When I very first started Project Life, I typed out all the dates and printed them for the year. The slip of paper with the date is mounted on gray cardstock and then mounted on the plain white index card. I can easily prep a bunch of these in advance, stick them in the appropriate week, and then when I get to that page just have to fill them out.

Same thing with the Read-Watched cards. I can prep a bunch in advance, and fill them out as the week goes on.

Since nearly every other pocket in the spread is filled with a photo, I like have these couple reoccurring elements to help tie each spread to the next.


I knew early on that I wanted to try to do a lot of my Project Life journaling directly ON the photos. This saves me time, space (the book isn’t too bulky yet) as well as the cost of supplies. Plus, I love the simplicity of it.

When choosing what typeface to use that very first week …. I went with Tw Cen MT. This font is sans serif and completely non-ornamental. You can see this typeface used directly on the photos, as well as the date cards in the top left of each spread.

Week 3 - left

This is the ONLY computer font I use. And I use it every single time I type text directly on a photo.

Again. Repetition. Tying the spread together (without using a set color scheme)

I knew that the other “typeface” I would be using a lot would be my own handwriting which is a lot more messy and flourishy ….

You can see the 2 juxtaposed in the image above.

I also wanted to mention that using the same basic typeface for every single spread helps me stay caught up. No deliberating or trying out different fonts. Which I have a tendency to do because they’re just all so pretty. Having that decision already made for me definitely cuts down on the time it takes me to put each week together.

And, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned before ….. Storytelling is my #1 priority.

I am totally OK with my pages not being as elaborate or aesthetically pleasing as some of the other designers – because I just want to be able to tell our story in the time I have.

Do you have any design tips for me for future Project Life weeks?

Project Life, created by Becky Higgins, is a flexible, easy-to-use, highly customizable way to preserve your memories and record your stories in an easy way. Learn more about getting started with Project Life or check out all my Project Life posts.

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  • Megan Anderson June 6, 2012 at 5:37 am edit

    I think that your PL is awesome. It’s inspiring me to do more spots with just journaling. I also love the repetition with themes (“watch and “read”). I’m planning on doing those in monthly spreads, I just havent’ got around to making them yet.

    Also, I’m pretty sure that mine’s so thorough because I take too many photos (it’s getting to be a joke among friends) and I can’t leave any of the ones out. I’m sort of addicted to this project.

    Yours is the first PL I’ve seen that is really doable for people that aren’t all that interested in “scrapbooking”. All of the products and worry about design is intimidating to people interested in documenting their lives: photos, words, and one computer font is so much more accessible to more people.

    Lastly, I’m super impressed that you have things lookin’ as amazing as you do using Power Point. I can totally see Allie recoiling in horror, but color me impressed. (How much time you must save!)

  • Amy June 6, 2012 at 6:01 pm edit

    Thank you so much Megan :)
    I sometimes feel like a traditional-scrapbooking-pariah …. but not enough to do anything about it :)
    Erin from Carosello commented on a recent post calling this a ‘photo journal’ – a description I LOVE since it’s not *exactly* a scrapbook

  • Allie June 6, 2012 at 7:22 am edit

    This is true. I am shaking my head– maybe not recoiling in horror, but more like, LET ME HELP YOU AMY! 😉

    I’m just impressed with how much you get done. My excuse for not being “caught up” is my new house and my new job– but you have both of those excuses and still kick my butt.

    Love your Project Life. You’re doing a great job, and it looks awesome :)

  • Pidgen November 26, 2012 at 4:49 pm edit

    I also limit my fonts to TWO – Ali’s handwriting font and Eras Light ITC. This saved so much time this year – and looked so nice and consistent. I loved using the handwriting font for “titles” and emphasis, and the sans serif font is so clean! Win-win!


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