Designing a layout is an exercise few people will do in their lifetime. For those of us that do, few of us will do it well the first time (or the second, third, fiftieth, etc.). It’s a complex process full of interrelated pieces that all need to contribute to a coherent final product.

In the world of graphic design, there is a document called the creative brief. The creative brief is an important tool for designers of every kind. It provides a road map of sorts. Simply put, it’s a document that outlines the parameters and objectives of the design, or what outcome it is supposed to achieve: more sales of a product, greater awareness or some other action on the consumer’s part and so on. Most briefs are just a series of in-depth questions that need to be answered as completely as possible. Getting the questions and subsequent answers right at the beginning of a project saves time and money in the long run.

Bringing this back to layout design, getting the questions right about what you want from the hobby and the layout you hope to one day build can save you time, money and frustration over the lifetime of your involvement with model railroading. The thing is, many of us get stuck in a rut of asking the same questions, thereby defaulting to the status quo, or we never really consider whether we’re asking the right ones to begin with.

Questioning Normal Ebook cover

I’ve put together a new ebook on this subject called Questioning Normal that is now ready. It’s just a short series of essays that originally appeared on the blog. You could slog your way back through the archives and read them here, or you could simply download and share this free curated collection. I’ve included more photos and more attractive to read page layouts than what you will find on the blog. If the price of The Missing Conversation has had you on the fence about whether or not to try an issue, this will give you a taste of what you’re missing.

Questioning Normal is a free download and you’re welcome to share it with whomever you’d like as often as you like. You can download it here:

I will also put this link on The Missing Conversation page so that you don’t have to dig through old posts looking for it.