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Are you using the notebook that best suits your needs?

For those of us who love the feel of good old ink on paper, writing down our thoughts and ideas comes more naturally. In fact, it's even recommended. According to The Huffington Post, when you handwrite notes instead of typing them your brain processes the information better. Parsing down the information into a few words and utilizing your physical senses ultimately helps your memory and is useful for those of us in visual fields.

But when it comes to choosing the perfect notepad or notebook, there are a world of options out there. There are so many factors to consider:

  • lined, dotted, graph or blank

  • page thickness

  • page size

  • page count

  • design

  • and more!

notebooks for graphic designers

Here’s what these designers have chosen for their note-taking and sketching needs and how they made that decision:

Chaya Teitelbaum, @ttlcreative

I use the Fringe Studio notebooks from HomeGoods or TJMaxx. I like the weight of the paper, the cover and the binding. They come in a variety of beautiful cover designs, so you can pick one that compliments your style.

Fringe Studio notebooks

Yocheved Herzog, @thinkinkcreations

I don’t use any sketch pads or separate notepads in particular. I take notes on regular printer paper or my planner - the Blue Sky weekly and monthly planner.

I specifically like this planner because I can see my to do list in front of me on my desk and am able to write down to dos and check them off with a pen. There's also enough space for everything I need to do each day and a good view of the entire week. I also like that it doesn’t have exact times on the schedule, because I wouldn't be able to plan and keep to such exact timing anyway.

Blue Sky planner for designers

Dina Goldman, @dinagoldman_

I use the Remarkable.

The Remarkable is a special tablet that you can write on as if it were paper and email your notes and sketches directly to your computer. This way you never lose your notes, you can keep them straight in your client folder and don’t have to spend time typing them up.

Remarkable tablet for designers

For those of you who prefer digitizing your hand-written notes, you can also check out the Rocketbook. It’s a plastic-like notebook that you write on with special erasable pens so that you never run out of pages. When you’re done with the page you take a picture of it using the Rocketbook app and it automatically uploads the file to your location of choice (email, Evernote, Dropbox etc.).

Rocketbook notebook

Strathmore is our top pick for sketching. It has the best paper!

It’s thick, durable and doesn’t smudge.

Strathmore notebooks for sketching and drawing

Chana Snyder, @ptexgroup

I don’t have a preference in terms of brand, but I much prefer dot grid notebooks — they’re great for logos and sketching since they give you a structure as opposed to blank pages which have no structure or grids which have too much.

Mush Kanner,

I don’t use sketch pads much, but I do use an app called Tot for taking notes on my iMac. It’s organized, syncs across all my devices and looks cute. It’s also color-coded.

Tot app for notetaking

Chana Cohen,

I don’t really use a sketch pad. I just grab a clean sheet of 8.5x11 printer paper to doodle on, usually. I’m trying to get better about sketching out concepts before going to the computer, which is where I usually think things through.

Myself (@deenaenglard)

At work I always use the Amazon Basics yellow legal pads. The lines pages are great for sketching and they’re cheap enough that I don’t have to feel guilty about using up tons of pages so I have the space to sketch as much as I need. And the perforated pages make it easy to rip out any notes that I want to keep when he pad is finished.

Amazon Basics legal notepads for sketching and note taking

For my personal sketches and notes I love the Baron Fig notebooks. They have a beautiful, minimalist design and come in a nice in-between size and with a carrying case so I can bring it along in my pocketbook, without the cover or pages getting dirty or stained. I use it for ideas, thoughts, sketching, and even notes from articles and classes that I want to keep for the future. As an added bonus, for each notebook sold they plant a tree.

Baron Fig notebooks for sketching designers

Wrapping it up

While this isn’t an exhaustive study, you do see a few common threads emerging:

  1. Most people do take notes by hand

  2. For sketching, there is a general preference leaning toward dot grid or blank paper over lined paper

  3. Most surprising to me, not very many people sketch before heading to the computer (only around 50% of those polled). Sketching on paper is a great way to think and explore ideas without being overly influenced by inspiration you see on the computer. You can develop ideas on paper in directions that might never occur to you while in Illustrator.

Next time you start a project, try something new, whether it’s a new paper type, a new note-taking style or even a new process. Then head on over to Instagram to join the conversation and let me know how it works out!


Author's Note

Ever since doing research for this article I've been seeing many ads on Instagram for different planners. Here's a list of the most intriguing ones, in alphabetical order.

Driven Day | $$$ - a Jewish small business!

Ink+Volt | $$$

Meaningful Moments | $$$ - a Jewish small business!

Moo | $

Mosaica Press | $$$ - a Jewish small business!

Papier | $$

Shaatra Club | $$ - a Jewish small business!


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