The best notebook in the world
I’ve found it. The best notebook in the world.
Ok, ok … the best notebook in the world for me. (And possibly for you.)
For something that’s essentially 100 pieces of paper stapled together, your choice of notebook simultaneously means absolutely nothing and is incredibly revealing. You could be extremely utilitarian and just grab the cheapest Spirax notebook from the stationery cupboard. Or you could go fully luxe influencer and get an £89 Whiskey & Fuchsia leather-bound number from William Hannah that you can Instagram all your beautiful life goals in. At the end of the day they all get the same job done.
For most of my life I’ve been a hesitant notetaker (fear of the imperfect) but I’ve found that if I take pleasure in the tools of my notetaking then I’ll do it more often and the benefits of scribbling and jotting will flow freely. Over the last few years I’ve found the process of notetaking invaluable. I use my notebook for a variety of things:
- Keeping my to-do lists;
- Communicating ideas to others;
- Long-form notetaking.
Sure, some of it’s a little anachronistic in our digital age, but I like the kinaesthetic properties of putting pen to paper and capturing a moment with a physical reminder. Over the years my notebook process has changed and evolved and I’ve zeroed in on the requirements that I have for a notebook. So, if you’re also on the lookout for a great notebook, here are my top 3. (They’re all A5-ish because that’s the perfect size to stash in my bag and carry to meetings, but still have a bit of space to sketch.)
As a product/UI designer the idea of a dot grid really ticked my sketching box and Behance’s Dot Grid Journal was the first dot grid notebook I spotted that looked decent. This actually coincided with the start of Canva and I’ve still got lots of little sketches of our UI in it from before we released.
There were a few downsides to the Behance Journal:
- The elastic strap broke pretty early;
- The hard cover felt (and performed) a bit cheap;
- It was hard to keep a pen with it;
- It only comes in black.
Still, the dots were handy, paper quality was OK, and I filled it all the way up. As I approached the last few pages I began to look for a better replacement, though.
I’d found that the dot grid was brilliant for UI sketching and to-do lists, and still worked well for long-form notes; so that was my one must-have.
One of the biggest bugbears with the Behance Journal was that I couldn’t leave my pen where I was writing and close the book. This is probably just a quirk of the way I use notebooks, but I like the way it acts as both a bookmark and also storage for my pen. Quality notebooks and hard covers seem synonymous (see: the rise of Moleskines) but I was fortunate to stumble across a Leuchtturm1917 Softcover Notebook in some random stationery store in Manila.
The soft cover was brilliant for my pen situation and the elastic strap kept everything in place. But downsides to the Leuchtturm1917 Notebook were:
- The pocket on the back cover made it really hard to flip pages;
- 120 pages – while not tiny – is a little on the small side;
- It only comes in black. (There’s lots of colourful Leuchtturm1917 softcovers, but the black is the only one that comes with a strap)
I filled that one up too though (I’m a thrifty person!), before searching for the holy grail …
At work I have a big stack of classic Rhodia orange A4 notepads on my desk because the designers love them for sketching (they have dot grids, naturally). Rhodia paper is also some of the best – it feels smooth and creamy, and is wonderful to write on. If you wrap that all up into a smaller, more premium package, you get the Rhodia Goalbook.
This notebook ticks all my boxes:
- Faux leather soft cover that flexes with my pen inside; 😀
- Cover is still stiff enough to support a coffee mug; 😛
- Strong elastic strap;
- A5 size for a good balance of compactness and space to draw;
- Dot grid markings;
- 240 pages;
- Page numbers for referencing;
- Luscious paper to write on;
- 16 vibrant colours to choose from. (Including one that’s close enough to Canva #00C4CC to make me feel appropriately branded)
It’s one of the few objects in my life that is a pleasure to have. I’d be really happy to buy another one once I’ve filled up all 240 pages, and I can’t imagine looking for an alternative. If – however – you disagree, I’d love to hear about your world’s best notebook, so send me a message, I’d love to hear about it.