5 tips for applying to design teams

This summer several paper craft and scrapbook manufacturers will be rotating their design teams and looking for new team members. It’s an exciting time for many crafters! It can also be somewhat stressful and disappointing. I’ve been there. I’ve worked as a project designer for several major manufacturers, and now I’m a design team coordinator for multiple companies. Since I have a unique perspective on the process, I thought it might be helpful to share a few tips on applying to a design team in the scrapbook and paper craft industry.

I have to start with this caveat: no two design teams are the same. These tips are based on my personal experience, but each team coordinator and manufacturer is looking for different things in a project designer. Needs and goals are based on their their brand, marketing plans, and company goals. So, obviously following these tips won’t guarantee you a spot on any team. Sound good? Okay, good. =)

That said, these tips are helpful for sure. With the direction the paper craft industry is taking these can only help your chances. A paper crafter who wants to be taken seriously and noticed by manufacturers will implement these tips to increase their relevance and appeal in the industry.

So…now, without any more of my blabbering, here are 5 Tips for Applying to Design Teams!


This one is first because it is seriously THE most important thing you can do. Our industry is a VISUAL industry! Projects and products need to be visually appealing to consumers. Plus, with the growing popularity of Instagram and Pinterest, a gorgeous image is worth a thousand words. Your projects will be competing with some pretty amazing shots on Pinterest and Instagram, so they need to be stunning.

I’ll be honest and say that I’d rather post an average project that was staged and photographed beautifully than an amazing project that was not staged and photographed beautifully. It’s all in how you present your project friends. That’s the simple truth.

So, hop online and do some research. Figure out how to improve your project staging and photography. Don’t feel like you have to have a $1,000 camera to do that. I know several amazing designers and bloggers who take photos with their phones. But they’re great photos that are beautifully staged. Invest in some inexpensive backdrops and props to enhance your project photos. Along with good staging, lighting is huge! Learn how to properly use natural lighting. Or maybe ask for a basic lighting kit for Mother’s Day, your birthday, or Christmas. Do whatcha gotta do friends! Take amazing photos!


Seriously. I can’t stress this one enough. This is a job friends. If you build a reputation in the industry for being dependable, it will follow you everywhere and speak volumes wherever you apply. Get your projects in early, or on time…but not late. Plan ahead. Leave an extra day or two in case you have technical problems or photography issues. Keep a calendar and stay on top of it. Whatever you have to do to be on time, do it.

Life happens. We all know it does, and it happens to all of us. If some kind of emergency or unforeseen event comes up, be sure to communicate this to your team coordinator before your deadline. Most likely he/she will totally understand.

Now, I have to add this warning friends. It’s tempting to do this because of all the free product, but it’s important to remember: don’t overload your schedule and get yourself involved with too many design teams. I’ve seen this several times and it’s not fair to anyone. You’ll be stressed out and always late, and you won’t be able to give your best to any of your teams. It’s all about balance, right?


Having a blog or Instagram/Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest account used to be optional when applying for a design team. It’s pretty much necessary now. Design teams are a branch of the social media marketing team for manufacturers. Your projects are used for marketing, and a lot of that is going to happen via social media.

Aly on FacebookAly on PinterestAly on InstagramAly on TwitterAly on YouTube

Manufacturers are looking for designers that have a solid social media following. I’m not going to talk numbers, because it’s not so much about that as it is about using your social media platforms (whatever size they are) to help promote the brand you’re designing for. I’s always good to build up a group of friends and fans online. You’ll have something extra to bring to the table, and manufacturers will notice that.


Just as happens with almost all industries, the scrapbook and paper craft industry is changing. While manufacturers are still producing products for scrapbookers, the truth is that side of the industry does not bring in enough profit to keep companies afloat. To stay in business, smart manufacturers are evolving with the market by branching out to include craft supplies that are selling well right now, like DIY party or home decor supplies, designer office supplies, planners, coloring books, hand-lettering supplies, bible journaling products, watercolor, yarn crafts, and textiles.

Manufacturers are increasingly looking for designers who can do more than just make scrapbook pages and cards, so take on a new skill set or two to make yourself stand out from the crowd. If you’re a scrapbooker, try something new that fits with that skill set. Maybe incorporate some watercolor on your pages, or take up memory planning. If you’re a cardmaker and stamper, try bible journaling, coloring, or hand-lettering. If you like to use paper to make altered projects or home decor, try your hand at other DIY projects like party decor.


While a really good designer definitely catches a manufacturer’s eye regardless, who you know in the industry can definitely help you find opportunities for work. Take the time to attend any trade shows or conventions in your area so you have the chance to meet your favorite manufacturers.

Never underestimate the importance of a real-life conversation. In this technologically-driven world full of digital communication and virtual interactions, face time with those who work in the industry is invaluable! Stop by and say hello to the companies you’re interested in working with.

Of course, this is all assuming that you’re really good at crafting, scrapbooking, or whatever else you like to create. None of these tips will help if you aren’t incorporating good design principles, innovative ideas, and some serious creativity into your projects. That’s a given, right?

I hope these tips have helped those of you who are considering applying for design teams. It’s a lot of fun to work with creatives on a design team and see how they use products in a unique way. If you have any questions that aren’t answered in the tips above, feel free to ask and I’ll do my best to answer. Good luck!

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