Design Basics: Always carry a notebook

Avada News   •   June 2, 2016

Notebooks are fertile soil for creative seeds

Creative success requires us to plant seeds and play the infinite game. A notebook is fertile soil in which you can plant those seeds. While you could plant the same seeds on your computer, just think of all the other seeds that have been planted there. The likelihood of the seed bearing fruit in a digital wasteland is lessened.

In a recent article Benjamin P. Hardy said the following.

Your thoughts are the blueprint of the life you are building one day at a time. When you learn to channel your thinking — both consciously and subconsciously — you create the conditions that make the achievement of your goals inevitable.

In his book Presentation Zen, Garry Reynold tells the following story about visiting a designer at Apple

Most professional designers- even young new media designers who’ve grown up on computers- usually do much of their planning and brainstorming on paper.

This became very clear to me one day at Apple when I visited a senior director for one of the creative teams on the other side of the Apple campus to get his input on the project we were working on. He said he had sketched out a lot of ideas the wanted to show me. I assumed that he had prepared some slides or a movie or at least printed out some color images in illustrator or Photoshop to show me. But when I arrived at his office, I found that the beautiful Apple Cinema Display on his desk was off. (I learned later at this talented creative director worked forays without ever turning on his Mac)

I always write by hand before I ever turn on my computer. It allows you to limit the inflow, and there’s tremendous power to pen and paper in an increasingly digital world.
What Should You Put in the Notebook?

Sometimes people get tripped up because they have no idea what they’ll put in their notebooks. Other times they don’t want to ruin something as beautiful as a Moleskine with their chicken scratch. But as Amber Rae once said to me “Fall in love with your chicken scratch. Accumulate pages not judgments.”

Any of the following can be put into your notebook.


The surprisingly simple act of carrying a notebook can change your life and allow you to become the author of your narrative.

Technology is everywhere; in your office, in your home, in your handbag, in your pocket and probably very soon, on your wrist or your glasses. Since today technology is available at all times, there are more traditional ways of doing things that are getting lost. And that is good on some occasions and it is not so good in others.

Technology is allowing companies and households to get organized paperless or at least, with great reduction of paper, which in turn allows you to share information more easily, and save costs and space, resulting in improved environmental impact. That’s great. Who needs to be sent an invoice by mail when you can check it online and use it digitally in PDF format?

In addition, paperless means better organization, and better organization leads to greater productivity. In many cases, capturing the information directly into a digital system cuts out redundant work, reduces the margin for error and allows for the associated work-flow to get started immediately.

However, there is at least one situation in which I am totally in favour of using paper. Indeed, if, instead of getting information that other people or systems have produced, you need to capture information that is being created in your own brain, I recommend that you forget all that technology. If you need to develop something that is still not completely defined in your head—an idea, a design, a concept, a process, etc.—, take pen and paper and start spontaneously writing or drawing what you have in your head.

What are the advantages of using paper in these cases?

Paper has no restrictions or limits. A paper has a much simpler and intuitive interface than any application, without predefined rules.
It teaches you to value your ideas and mental processes above the tools that you use.
If you’re not enjoying what you’re creating, you can throw it in the bin any time you like and start over.
It is much harder to get distracted when you’re working on a notebook than when you’re at the computer or handling a smartphone. 1
Psychologists say that it is a great exercise to keep your cognitive abilities running smoothly as you get older. 1
They also say that when you write by hand, your brain absorbs information better, you learn more. 1

Intuitively, designers know this. It’s funny that, despite the great number of good design applications on the market, paper is still the most used technique in the world for prototyping design.

In many cases, the paper is only good for a quick sketch of an idea, which will then require other, more complex tools to be worked with. In any case, it is an utterly necessary tool for collecting ideas and remembering things.

By |2018-10-09T04:21:10+00:00July 18th, 2016|Latest Articles|