6 Tips to Inspire Originality in Your Minted Designs

Written by Kim Dietrich Elam

“Freshness of aspect, design, or style” is one of the ways Merriam Webster defines “originality.”

In late 2010, I received a Minted holiday card designed by Kelli Hall, and was so impressed with the originality of the design and the quality of the paper and printing, that I entered my first Minted Design Challenge a couple months later. Designers and design connoisseurs alike are drawn to “the freshest designs on paper” at Minted, which are created by its community of independent artists around the world.

The great thing about originality is that each of us has it—we all possess a different combination of educational, professional, and life experiences that lend a fresh aspect to the creation or choosing of a design or art piece. Because my degree and experience is in civil engineering—rather than in a traditional art- or design-related field—I tend to avoid complex illustration and, instead, boil a design idea down to its simplest execution, which has resulted in a minimal design style.

If each of us is true to ourselves and our own unique talents, the diversity of the Minted community is what makes Minted and its designs special. Here are six tips offering sources of inspiration to help designers bring their own style and originality to Minted Design challenges.

1. Make lists and brainstorm words and ideas related to the category in which you are working.

Thinkertoys by Michael Michalko offers wonderfully creative brainstorming techniques. One chapter is dedicated to SCAMPER, a checklist of nine idea-generating techniques (“M” and “R” each represent two techniques). I used “C”—“combine with something else”—when I created my “Ripped” digital holiday party invitation, which combines a cocktail party with a gift exchange, resulting in the “ripped” double entendre.

Rippedholiday party online invitation by Kim Dietrich Elam

2. Look for inspiration in your past submissions.

If you are anything like me, you have plenty of ideas that, in your head, seem pretty amazing, but may not result in a winning design on the first attempt. Mine your past entries for winning ideas that could be executed differently. My “Greatest of These” Christmas photo card, an Editor’s Pick in the 2016 “Oh Come, All Ye Faithful” Religious Christmas Photo Card Quickfire Challenge, started a year earlier as this submission.

3. Look to the Special Awards listed in the challenge brief for inspiration.

For example, if there is a “Multi-photo Award,” experiment with new multi-photo layouts.

4. Use a new or different font or font combination.

Make a point to use one of the seldom-used fonts on Minted’s Font List, or look through your own font folder and use one of those pricey fonts that you bought and never used. “Estate is an example of a design for which I purposefully used fonts that were rarely used in the wedding category.

Estate” wedding invitation by Kim Dietrich Elam

5. Challenge yourself to letter or illustrate something by your own hand.

You may not think you are capable of such things, but, until you try, how do you know? My first attempts at hand-lettering and illustrating did not get picked in Minted Design Challenges, but it gave me the confidence and know-how to letter and draw for future submissions. What’s more original than your own handwriting?

6. Check out the glyphs available with the fonts you own.

Some fonts come with special characters called “glyphs.” It’s like a whole new world waiting to be explored! One of my favorite design ideas was inspired by a connecting glyph: “Love Connection” wedding invitation.

Love Connection” wedding invitation by Kim Dietrich Elam

Kim Dietrich Elam is a Minted designer who lives in Cincinnati, Ohio. Kim is the “k” in k notes LLC, a wife, mommy, traffic engineer, and lover of Tex-Mex, fine chocolates, palmistry and all things Elvis.

I’d love to hear your own originality-inspiring tips. Please share below in the comments.


Published March 14, 2017

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