April 27, 2012

Five (+3) for Friday: 8 Tips on How to Create a Challenge-Winning Project

Happy Friday, Moxie Fabbers! Last week we talked about ways to maximize your experience here in the Moxie Fab World. I hope you found that post helpful. Today I'd like to offer some tips on how to create a challenge-winning project, as I've had several of you ask me what it is, exactly, that I am looking for.


My standard response? I am always looking for creative approaches with good design and fine execution.


That really is what it all boils down to. And really, I'd like to emphasize that while I know that we'd all like to "win" on occasion and that "winning" a challenge in the Moxie Fab World is a goal for many of you, I'd like to hope that all y'all are here because you enjoy stretching your skills, taking some risks, and having some fun. I'm hoping that the deep-down reason why you join our challenges is to get feedback from one another, to champion one another, to learn from one another, and to grow together.

I know that sounds very kumbaya and all, but that really is my true purpose here. That being said, I do have a few tips that may help you get the results you're hoping for. Check it:

1.  Offer a creative approach. 

A creative approach is just that--it's an interpretation that no one else has offered throughout the challenge itself. Piali's recent card in which she stamped with okra for our Household Items Challenge in Practical Solutions Week is a perfect example:


Not only did no one else stamp with okra for that challenge, I have never seen it done in my nearly 7 years as an editor for Paper Crafts magazine. I know it's a cliche, but you really do need to think outside of the box in order to be a winner.

2.  Employ good design principles. 

This can be tough if you're not sure what "good design principles" even are. Paying attention to challenge-winning projects, projects that are published in magazines, or projects that really catch your eye online can be a great exercise in discovering what makes good design.

Dissect them. Pick them apart. Ask yourself, why do the elements in this card work so well together?


I don't know if you're aware of it or not, but I try to point out the good aspects of design in each of the Moxie Fab Alerts that can be found beneath each winning project here in the Moxie Fab World.  This is what I said in the Moxie Fab Alert for Jinny Newlin's card in the Don't Throw It Away Challenge in Practical Solutions Week, above:

Jinny used the back of some Jenny Bowlin packaging to serve as a template for her background paper in this super fun card. And note the diverse elements she's used--it takes a lot of skill to be able to combine this many embellishments without overloading the design. To see what I mean, start at the bird focal focal point and see where your eye is taken. No element is wasted. Each serves to drive your eye around the card until you are able to take it all in in its delightful, cohesive whole.

Feel free to take some cues from those. And you know that Paper Crafts magazine itself is full of tips and tricks on good design. (Click HERE to subscribe.)

Become aware. Try some new approaches. Ask your friends for advice.

And keep playing. If your goal is to win, then you've got to keep playing.

3.  Make sure your projects are executed well. 

It's important that your stamping is well-defined, ribbons are not frayed, and elements are perfectly placed.


The technique in this card by Gayatri Murali for the Cure for the Winter Blues Challenge is flawless.

4.  Learn how to take a good photo of your project. 

It may not sound fair, but first impressions are important in every aspect of our lives. Projects that are well-lit and free from background visual clutter that competes with the design will always look better than if these aspects are not considered.


Note the simplicity of the background and the loveliness of the foreground in the photograph of this card by Amy Wanford, one of the winners of the DIY Embellishments Challenge for Practical Solutions Week. You can see the elements in her card very well because nothing competes visually with the card, and there is plenty of light.

5.  Don't combine too many challenges. 

I get it. There are a ton of fun challenges out there and you want to play in them all. But I have found that more often than not, the projects in which 3 or more challenges are combined tend to stray from what the one challenge is looking for. And please don't misunderstand, I will pick a project that caters to more than one challenge, as long as it meets the guidelines I've outlined, as I did with this card by Virginia Lu. She combined the Household Items Challenge for Practical Solutions Week with the Runway Inspired Challenge #8:


Because the two challenges don't compete for the same design element requirements, Virginia was able to combine the two with great success.

6.  Don't underestimate the "wow" factor. 

You may have already guessed that I am emotional gal, a "feeler," if you will. Projects that make me gasp out loud will immediately be moved into the realm of "contenders" when I'm judging a challenge. They won't necessarily win, but they will definitely capture my attention.


The "wow" factor in this card by Laura Bassen for the DIY Embellishments Challenge for Practical Solutions Week is high, high, high!

7.  All styles are welcome. 

Believe it or not, I love all styles. When judging submissions as creative editor for Paper Crafts magazine, I was always a champion for including all styles. It is just as difficult to create a clean and graphic card as it is to create a layered and shabby card. And I promise you, if it is done well and offers a creative approach, it will be a contender.


This gorgeously layered card by Joan Ervin for the Embossing & Debossing Challenge for Cool Tools Week is definitely a "winner"!

8. Check your intentions. 

The goal of these challenges is to stretch your skills, to foster growth, and to have some fun. If your desire to win is getting the way of any of these things, then step back and take a look at why you're playing. It's the same as with anything else. If you are not in it for the right reasons, then the right reasons will begin to elude you.


In the email JJ Bolton sent me regarding her win in the Fascination with Feathers Challenge, she said:

I'm so excited that you picked my card(s) for the Fascination with Feathers Challenge! Your kind words mean so much to me. :) I've never done anything with the theme of feathers before. Who knew it would be so inspirational (except you, obviously)? That's what I love about your challenges!

Now that's what I call a "winning attitude"!

In closing, I hope that I have earned your trust and confidence to select winning projects that I know will inspire you, my moxie fab readers. Because that's what it's all about, inspiring one another. We may not all have Moxie Fab World badges on our sidebars, but I hope you all know that in my book, you are a winner every time you take the risk to play.

Here's to the "good stretch" that is Moxie Fab World,

~Cath

PS Speaking of the "good stretch," we've got two challenges currently happening in the Moxie Fab World. Our weekly Tuesday Trigger (the deadline is Sunday at midnight), and our Spectacular Spectacles challenge, due Monday, May 14. I would moxie love to see you there!

48 comments:

Morena Hockley said...

I always enjoy and appreciate the comments you leave explaining why you chose a card. I have learned so much about design, focal points, the rule of three, etc, from your mini lessons. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us!

leslie (crookedstamper) said...

Excellent post, and great things to think about. FYI: *I* have stamped with okra in the past, just not on a submission. :) Personally, I think it's the only thing okra is good for.

Cindy C. said...

Hi Cath, your blog have so much to offer sometime I don't know where to begin! I really enjoyed last week's recap of all the feathers on your blog, and I enjoyed more of today's post! It makes me take a good look of not only my cards, but my thinking behind them. Thanks so much.

flowerdisco said...

All I am saying to your words is thank you and thank you.

Piali said...

Awesome post! I always knew that it takes something different and special to make a winning Moxie Fab World challenge project.Thats why I took part in only a very few challenges....only when I felt my creation is one of my best work. Thank you so much for all the info you shared with us....it will helps us all to create more beautiful & amazing projects.

NinaN said...

Thanks for this post. It was very well written.

And thank you for the reminder. It is not about winning :)

Virginia L. said...

AWESOME post! Thank you, Cath, for your wonderful insights and advice. This is the reason why I love playing MF challenges. They have helped me grow so much as a card-maker over the last few years!

Annette said...

Thanks for the fun tips...Love all these amazing projects...so creative and fun...

Clare D. said...

Cath Thanks for this post! I so agree with #8! Of course, I haven' always agreed, winning a Moxie challenge at some point became too important. So, I will always visit the challenge and the fabulous entries, but will only enter those that fit my current projects. And,the value of leaving comments for those who participate has become clear: they need to know they are fabulous even if they don't win the Moxie challenge!

Michelle said...

Thanks for thwe tips-and LOVE that feather card. I missed it the first time somehow!

sanketi said...

What a wonderful insightful post..thank you so much!

Susan said...

I love the challenges because they give me new inspiration and ideas to try that I'd never have thought of - and get me out of my same old rut!

Jennifer said...

Thank you for this post Cath! I've only been around the blog world for a few months but I've already learned so much and have become a better carmaker and creater.

I know there is so much more to learn and I happy to learn it from you! You're like a virtual school for crafters! Thank you =)

Lin said...

This was SO helpful, Cath, to see things from your viewpoint - I loved all the examples you gave us to illustrate your ideas. Thanks!

Kathi said...

Thanks for taking time to explain how and why you select a card to be "Moxie Fab".

Stamping with okra? Wow!!!

Pamela Haskin said...

Thank you so much for this post! It's so encouraging to see how much you care about our work. You do have some of the moxie-funnest challenges. I am learning so much from your blog and all the cards you spotlight.

Tona said...

Thanks for sharing all this great info. One day I will get brave enough to submit something. In the meantime, I'm really enjoy seeing what everybody else has come up with.

Linda said...

I love the Moxie Fab Blog...particularly the product shares. I did challenge myself to make some really great cards and share them on the blog (after I got brave enough). When I started focusing on the winning rather than the doing I had to pull myself back. I was stressing myself out. I use my hobby as a stress reliever from the day to day stuff from work and caregiving. Most of the cards I make I donate to Operation Write Home. I may try my hand at future challenges sometime...I love the inspirations!

Linda said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
heidi @ ggip said...

Great article! I have never entered a design contest, as I am really a newbie, but I appreciate your guidelines for crafting in general.

Carol Gibson said...

Great post. Thank you. Okra, who knew?

Mirta Sanchez said...

Thank you so much for this post and for the other post about how to get noticed. You've answered a lot of my questions and helped me maintain perspective. I am a pretty brand new blogger, challenge participant and out and abouter in the blogosphere. On Dawn McVey's blog, on this page: http://dawnmcvey.typepad.com/these_are_a_few_of_my_fav/publ.html
she outlines a few tips for being published. At the end however, her greatest tip is to just ENJOY the process. I want to win, I really really do but more than that, I just really want to do what I love and that's STAMPING. After all, is ANYONE papercrafting who DOESN'T luvluvluv it?? Thanks so much for this reminder!
(HOPE IT'S OK THAT I LINKED HERE??)

Helen F. said...

I am definitely printing this Moxie Fab advice to read over and over!!
Thank you for this and your everyday inspirational posts, Cath!
Love the challenges not only to get feedback from other way-more-talented-than-I crafters, but also to stretch and grow in this wonderful world of cardmaking.
PS: I think I have come a long way, but feel I have soooo much more to learn :)

Emily H said...

Thanks for the tips. I don't really enter challenges yet, but when I do I will keep these tips in mind. I noticed that almost all the photos you shared, the cards were placed against a white background. Hmm...

Michelle said...

Thanks, Cath! I love your explanations of each point. I do feel like I win every time I enter, because EVERY time my imagination and skill are stretched a little further. :-)

Becky Green said...

Thank you Cath! I was wondering just HOW you went about choosing for these challenges! You ALWAYS pick SUPER CARDS for them! I am ALWAYS AMAZED at the talent out there & feel SOOOO INADEQUATE!!!!! BUT, it WAS SO MUCH FUN to play along with the Spectacles challenge! AND believe me, I HAVE BEEN thinking on the Tuesday Trigger! I HAVE all the stamps etc to make a SUPER CARD! Just haven't put to together in my head yet! I know, TIME IS RUNNING OUT! :)P.S. I LOVE the fact that you want others to encourage each other! EVERYONE needs a little love!!!!!!! :)

Colleen Dietrich said...

Fabulous tips, Cath, and worded so eloquently. :)

Robin K. said...

Very well put! Not that winning isn't an excellent thing - it's just not the only thing this wonderful world of on-line cardmakers has to offer! If one's vision is only focused on winning then the opportunity to encourage one another and be encouraged will sadly be missed.

Suzanne Russell said...

Thanks Cath! I do trust your judgement and
experience when it comes to choosing winners! Studying those examples and reading the comments about them has taught me pretty much everything I know about card making. I am loving this site and just venturing into the challenges you offer. Who know, maybe one day I will even submit for publication!

My Paper Epiphany said...

Thanks Cath for your explanations about Moxie Fab World. I only recently discovered your blog and love it - there is so much inspiration and I can already see what a great 'community' of crafty bloggers you have contributing to MFW. None of my 'real' friends are in to papercraft, so I gain so much in reading your blog and then surfing the links. Thanks also for your wonderful advice and tips re the challenges. When I make a card for for a challenge, I never seem to want to stop at 1, because I have soooo many ideas going around in my head thanks to your inspiration!Ps; I love your boa feather - makes me smile!

Sue Lelli said...

What a GREAT post, Cath! I LOVED reading all of your insights. I really like your inspiration to play in the challenges because it makes us stretch and grow. I can tell such a difference in my cards from when I first started just from playing in challenges! Can't wait until I move so I can play with Moxie Fab and Tuesday Trigger again! Thanks for such a Moxie Fab blog!

Anita Recksiedler said...

I really really really enjoyed this post! Such a great reminder of playing for the right reasons! :> And great tips on a winning card! :> We all started this hobby for the right reasons because we enjoyed it and loved it and to me that is to remain my 1st reason to create! :>

Myoriah said...

Thanks for these great tips. I will keep them in mind.

NanaBeth said...

Great tips and not just for submissions.I'm saving this page to refer back to-thank's Cath!

Zeffy said...

It is the first time I read your blog....thank-you very much for all of these wonderful tips...I will bear them in mind,when having funat my scrapbook desk...

kathy/North Carolina said...

One of the things I love best about you Cath, is your thoughtful and often insightful commentaries on the projects you publish here. It's as good as taking a design class. I've learned so much from your column. I get a line on what will be trendy, get inspired by your gorgeous photo arrays, learn how to "read" a card, and always, always get inspired to try something new. It's not about getting published...it's about daring to try....Thanks for the excellent reminder.

Brenda said...

Ah...well said! For me learning from others is what this is all about. Not only do I get inspired by what I see on blogs like Moxie Fab World, but it's a chance to refine and stretch my creative abilities. There are so many opportunities to see how other's think outside the box, to try something new and to let my creative juices flow!

anya said...

What perfect timing for this post - I really needed to be reminded of this right now! Thank you!

Teresa Zuehls said...

Thanks for this wonderful post. I love coming to Moxie Fab World for inspiration and so many times I will find a new technique or a different way to do things. I enjoy seeing every ones creations and that every one has there own way of doing the same thing. I think we are each Moxie Fab in our own way even if we don't think so.

Donna Bowman said...

Beautiful cards and great info Cath!!!

Stephanie said...

Great post, Cath! Good tips and a great philosophy - create and play for fun, to grow, to get feedback, and let what happens, happen. Winning is making a creation one can be pleased with and happy to share.

suzARTe said...

Hi Cath thanks so much for this post. in the past I used to tear up my cards if I didn't win a challenge, spoilt brat/only child behavior. I have now grown out of this and love taking part in challenges, its great to be able to be able to try something new so that we can grow as crafters.

Aimes said...

Fantastic advice, Cath! I wish I could bottle up your enthusiasm and team spirit - I love it!
Thanks so much for featuring my sushi card with reference to photography. I'm completely flattered as I only use my basic point and shoot - no fancy top of the range camera y'know - so it goes to show that you don't need all the high-tech/expensive gear to get a decent pic! :)
Hugs!
x

SusanB said...

This is sage advice for any creative person. It is important never to lose the fun element or creativity will be sapped. Thanks for taking the time to share this.

Katy said...

Cath, thank you so much for taking the time to write this post! I really enjoy the Moxie Fab World and I'm glad to be apart of it :) I also love the inspiration photos that you post. :) *hugs*

Laura B. said...

What a great post! Lots to learn to keep improving! Thanks so much for including my card in your post! That was a wonderfully unexpected surprise!!!

Laura {aka scrapaddict} said...

Thanks so much for the insight into "the process". I'm newer here, but I always join in for the fun, now that I've found you! It still is hard to get a "no" every time--even when you do play for fun, but I still come back fingers crossed everytime....lol. I enjoy the challenge of not giving up....lol.

Sharon D from Canada said...

Really great and helpful post, Cath! I don't think your admission about the importance of a well lit photo is unfair at all - I know a good photo helps catch my eye too. And I say that fully knowing I still need more work on my photo quality. :) As for playing along (or submitting), sure, I'm always hoping to win (or be accepted). There have been some times when I've made a card that I'm just so happy with - like giddy, squeely, clap my hands delighted - and it hasn't won or been accepted, but I enjoyed making it so much and I have a card that I love, so I still count that as a good outcome. And if you don't play, you can't ever win. :)