I’m talking paper here. There is the added complication that the word ‘notebook’ has been hoodwinked by the IT fraternity in some veiled attempt to give their products some stationery type gravitas, but I’m not addressing that issue.
I’ve been thinking about how and why we choose the notebooks we use. Do we really consider if they are suited to our purpose or did we just plump for them out of habit or limitation of choice? I mainly use two A4 sized lined notebooks, one for my personal dealings in life and a smarter looking book for my business (the only design criteria was that it matched my business card holder which I attach to the elastic enclosure). I refer to them as my day books (not to be confused with journal which is a whole other subject!) but really I use them for notes, writing the date at the start of the week so I can keep track of ideas, workings outs and my to do list too. Looking back, I only developed this use of notebooks in my first ‘proper’ job, such was the influence of my boss and the lack of any job specific planner stationery.
As I bring more and more function specific stationery into the country from abroad its made me realise the possibility that the right kind of stationery can improve my creativity and functionality. I think we all need to take a step back and think about how we are going to use our notebooks and how better they can serve us and our ideas.
So what are the important factors in choosing a notebook? these will be largely personal as to how you use them but large themes appear
Factors in decision-making on the size of notebook maybe down to personal preference, task related or portability. You might prefer keep the flow of your writing by using larger size A4 paper so you don’t have to turn pages often and interrupt your chain of thought. It maybe because you like to sketch or use technical drawings as part of your note taking or you like a large notebook that you keep at your desk. A5 books are handy and portable, especially if you want to keep your book with you at all times. Pocket books are even more useful for inspirational thoughts and jotting ideas, lists, and directions that you need to refer to or note quickly
Binding & Cover
Here the choice is even wider, but you do need to think about the purpose of the notebook carefully, or you could end up with a draw full of empty notebooks waiting for the right project. Think about if the project you need the notebook for is long-term, or if the notebook will be the final product in itself. This may point to a hardback notebook with a strong binding to ensure its longevity. Spiral bindings are particularly good you personally prefer that your notebook lays perfectly flat when you’re writing, some left handers find the spring top notebooks easier to write in too. Soft covered stitch or stapled bound notebooks are great for short-term use, idea books, mind mapping and generally exploratory notes as you wont be afraid to get messy with them.
The type of paper in a notebook can be important if you use, like me, a fountain pen, markers that bleed or do a lot of mix media sketching. Also you may think about the environmental impact, if its recycled, if its paper from another source, such as stone, which has waterproof properties. Do your homework!
Plain, Line or Pattern
If you mainly use your notebooks to write then you tend you plump for lined paper. That is not such a simple choice anymore, as I see notebooks that contain a host of different line widths and even non white lines. Use of grid patterned paper has become much more popular these days as it allows much more freedom to sketch, doodle list whilst still allowing for neat structure. The ultimate freedom is a blank page of course, but for some this is very daunting. The trend from asian stationery is towards pattern, different type of graphs and grids, we even stock a hexagonal pattern notebook.
I include everything in this category such as perforated pages, pen holders, refills, pockets, envelopes, elastic enclosures and ribbon bookmarks. You know if you will use them. Most of its common sense. If your notebook has lots of loose paper in it, then look for a notebook with a pocket (we even have a notebook of just envelopes in stock!).
I’ve decided to re-evaluate my notebook use and downsize. I’m also going to branch into the world of planners for certain tasks I’ve presently been using my ‘day books’ for too. This epiphany is largely a result of sourcing stationery products for you. I never thought my quest for paper perfection would turn my life on its head the way it has. I guess once you start looking beyond the limitations in one seemingly insignificant part of your life, you learn from the process and it affects how you process other aspects too.