On the Grid: Nice New Notebooks

If there’s anything I’ve learned definitively about the creative process, it’s that you can’t skimp on tools. Computers, software, and tablets are great and useful for many tasks, but notebooks are the tools I can’t work without. To that end, Princeton Architectural Press puts out Grids & Guides (2015), lovely sets of notebook paper with lines of all kinds.

Grids pads

There’s also the super-good Grids & Guides hardback notebook. Subtitled “A Notebook for Visual Thinkers,” this one has the periodic table of the elements, the planets, the human skeletal system, basic geometry, screw types and sizes, wood joints, alternative alphabets, and 144 blank pages of lines and patterns, some of which I’d never seen before. It’s the coolest thing bound since O’Reilly’s Maker’s Notebook. See below.

Grids & Guides

The Solar System

Grids paper.

Grids.

These lovely Grids & Guides are available from Princeton Architectural Press. Get on the grid!

Think Inside This Box: The Bēhance Action Method

Ever since Matt Schulte mentioned Scott Belsky’s book Making Ideas Happen (Portfolio, 2010) on his site, I’ve been test driving Belsky’s and his company Bēhance’s “Action Method,” which is outlined in his book. Being the notebook nerd that I am, I had to get some of those Action Books to, you know, follow the method properly. So, if your new year’s resolutions are already slipping, think inside this box:

The Action Method consists of Action Steps, References, Backburners, Discussions, and Events, and the Action Book is designed to employ these categories to help to achieve your goals. Donald Norman once claimed that “attractive things work better” (one could picture that credo posted on a wall in Cupertino). That is, if something is aesthetically pleasing, we are more likely to use it. Howard Rheingold is fond of saying “Don’t skimp on tools.” I used these insights to justify my purchase of yet another notebook.

In her book Writing Down the Bones (Shambhala, 1986), Natalie Goldman suggests using whatever notebook you can find. She finds fetishizing the tool an inhibition to getting things done. While Action Books are pretty and made with fine materials, they’re also rugged and ready to put in work.

The Action Books come with durable rubbery covers and muted but colorful to-do lists. The back of every page is ruled with dots, which are subtly guiding without being as intrusive as lines or as restrictive as grids. They’re perfect for notes, sketches, diagrams, flowcharts, mindmaps, or any combination thereof. My favorite notebooks thus far have pages ruled in a similar versatile manner (lines on one half of the page, none on the other). At the very least, I find these arrangements helpful in that they aren’t the traditional notebook pages or blank pages we’ve all been staring at all of our lives. The tools we use affect the thoughts we have (cf. McLuhan, Nietzsche, et al.) — even at the most basic level.

So, don’t skimp on tools. In addition to nice software, see what nice pens and paper do for you. As the Action Book itself says, “Show your ideas some respect.” I’m still working through The Action Method, but if nothing else, I dig the notebooks.

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You can check out the full line of Bēhance tools in the Bēhance Outfitter store.

The Maker’s Notebook from O’Reilly

The staff over at O’Reilly Media‘s magazines, Make and Craft, asked around to see what features The Ultimate Notebook would include. The result is their newly published Maker’s Notebook. “Clearly, lots of DIYers dream of designing their own project notebooks. We incorporated as many ideas from this Notebook Braintrust as possible,” explains Gareth Branwyn, friend and contributing editor to Make. Well, being the journaling, notebook geek that I am, I got my hands on a copy as soon as I could. Continue reading “The Maker’s Notebook from O’Reilly”