A confession from a designer

Confession from a designer

I have a notebook problem, and one of the worst kinds. I am obsessed with notebooks and I am horrible at using them. I can spot a beautiful notebook all the way down the longest aisle in a store or in a stacked and stuffed-to-the-max shelf. I love the thickness, the way the paper feels, how it folds, and how a pen glides across its page.

I ponder, but usually not for long because THIS is the right notebook for my sketches and thoughts. And so, I purchase. Just like that, it’s home with me.

Then, I stare at it. I am handicapped by all of its possibilities, because right there it is so perfect. Once I break into it, this lovely preserver for ideas will drown with scribbles, ink blots, messed up lines, and awful handwriting. And maybe a few good ideas. 

Here’s the problem….

Like many of my designer colleagues, I love ‘near’ perfection (because, you know, it’s never really perfect). Unlike a computer; there’s no Command Z in notebooks. A notebook holds permanent marks of brilliance or whatthehecks?  When you put it down, it’s done, right?

But if that’s what you think, I want to change your mind about these idea keepers because we’re skipping important steps in our process when we don’t use them. 

You need a place where you can work out your ideas loosely and without judgment. Without this step, you don’t know what will fail or succeed. One of my college teachers insisted that we work out our bad ideas. Get them down and move on, he’d say. He wouldn’t let us throw out our sketches. The idea is that you need to live with what you have created, whether you love it or not, and you need to know why you love it and why you don’t.

The scribbles you make are either it or an affirmation that it’s best left behind. Then you know with full confidence that you’ve done part of your designer duty. It’s in this arena that magic happens, and it is this step that is often skipped in the journey of a project, resulting in missed opportunities. When you do the groundwork with pen and paper, there is more time to test, nurture, and polish “the one.”

“Sketch it out,” I say to my team. “Change up the flow.”  “Re-work the pagination.”  And, the hardest of all, “Have fun with this. Just draw it out first.” [Go ahead let the judging begin.] I say it because it’s true though. Love your notebooks and all of the awful and wonderful stories they keep secret. Get them dirty, use all their pages, bookmark what you love, fold what you hate, whatever you want, but spend time using your notebook – even when that’s hard.

CRC Marketing Solutions is a Minneapolis, Minnesota, digital agency that creates and executes ideas for building business.