Monday, February 18, 2008

Carrying a Notebook is a Fad.

Well, isn't it? Maybe not a fad, but it is at least an idea that has caught on for one reason or another. For what it's worth, 'tis a "sticky" idea at the least. What is the value of a design notebook? Part of me feels that individuals walking around with a notebook feel better about the fact that they carry one than about how much usefulness they get out of carrying it. I mean, it can be a hassle. Get changed, get stuff for class, oh yeah! grab my design notebook :). What makes someone do that in the first place? Well, carrying a design notebook is a sticky idea. Hopefully by the end of this post I will have made a bit of sense out of why this is the case.

So, I decided last week that I would hold out on writing about design notebooks until I thought of something interesting to write about. The topic of the second Vital Ideation lecture was "Stickiness," and part of me feels that the act of carrying a design notebook is something that falls in line with many of the principles we discussed when talking about a product's stickiness.

The first things that come to mind...
First off. I think that the act of carrying a notebook around is the sticky part of this whole idea. The "design" modifier is really only a specific case of this phenomenon. The carrying of some sort of notebook, whether for ideas, doodling, sketching, tasks, or some combination thereof is what can be considered "sticky." The first things that come to mind when I think of a design notebook are the following:

  1. Moleskine --
    "the legendary notebook used for the past two centuries by great artists and thinkers, including Van Gogh, Picasso, Hemingway and Chatwin. With an elastic closure and an expandable inner pocket made of cardboard and cloth, which contains the history, they are ideal for students"
    It is actually kind of ridiculous how many different types of notebooks they have on their website. There is something special about this personal notebook idea. Something that makes people pay lots more than they should for bound paper for your pocket. Notice the sketch-book of Vincent Van Gogh himself to the right. How it shimmers with knowledge, uniqueness, genius and who knows what else. Is this what makes personal notebooks so sticky? Here is one of Olin's very own on personalizing their Moleskine.
    "I just retired a Moleskine and got a new one that I have to set up - I figured I'd take you guys along for the ride. "
    So begins the blog post, which describes the act of setting up the notebook as a "ride" itself. From tables of contents to specialized lists and such, the customization that goes into this moleskine rivals that of a personal computer. Crazy huh? It's only a notebook you might say, but it seems to be more than just this.
  2. Lifehacker. Oh lifehacker and other such "tech trick tips for getting things done" websites. If I actually listed all the posts on maintaining, purchasing, improving, creating, modifying, and streamlining personal notebooks, I would be spending hours compiling all the posts and linking to them all in this lowly blog post of mine. If you pass the lifehacker test* of being described in more than 3 or so blog articles, I think you qualify to internet and/or nerd sensation (see also: fad & obsession.) Well, maybe not. (*note this term has never been used before and will never be used again in any formal writing)
  3. PDAs, the Internet, and all other Electronics. Funny that this is one of the first things that comes to mind when I think of (personal) notebooks, but it is true. One of the intrinsic values of the personal notepad, whether for design or otherwise, is that it isn't a technical gadget, but it can be as personal and individualized as a computer, cell phone, misc. Apple product.
So, I started carrying a notebook myself. sort of.
I started carrying my own notebook mostly because I thought it was nice to be able to keep track of tasks, add tasks and then rip them out when I was done. It was also a convenient source of doodle space and paper during French class. But the real reason was that I had finally convinced myself that carrying a personal notebook wasn't completely a "hey they do it, I should do it too!" thing. Additionally, I found that carrying a notebook could be particularly useful personally as a way of keeping track of tasks from random things I am involved in which I sometimes forget to do/not put into outlook or any other-sort-of-reminder format.

The idea of carrying around a notebook to write down random thoughts on was one that I'veheard suggested for about a year now. ...Moleskine this, ideas notebook that... Maybe being at Olin has something to do with this....ok fine. It has a lot to do with this. I know my friends from back home would scoff at the idea of carrying a notepad around. "What the hell for?" they would surely tell me. Often times in this past year I have thought--"Wow that would be a really cool thing to keep track of, maybe in an ideas notebook!" Finally I have one, but I don't use it for ideas.

Most people don't use notebooks for idea generation.
That's odd. I don't actually use my notebook for idea generation. And I don't think many people do either. I supposed I am very biased in this, but I generally don't sit around by myself and come up with ideas. If I'm sitting around thinking about something that is interesting enough to warrant being copied down in a notebook of ideas, then I'll find people who I know would be interested and talk to them, who will not only potentially polish the idea if it isn't a horrible one, but the discussion that the idea will kick off will likely be of the variety that keeps me up for hours longer than I should instead of doing "coursework." Silly academics.

I suppose the only time that I have used my notebook to jot down random stuff has been during lectures from cool speakers, or while I was supposed to be doing other things, like during French class, when I sort of do other work I find more engaging in my notebook while i sort of interact with the rest of the class. I guess my notebook has been useful to me. And I guess in the end that's the point right?

A low-tech! personal ___(insert word of your choice)___ notebook is a sticky idea. For me, it allows me to _______ and also _______ wherever I am, sort of like a PDA or something. The best part is that when ____ happens, I can _____ using my notebook. How sweet is that?

My notebook represents who I am as a designer, engineer, over-committed student. Tis my PN. "Personal Notebook" :D :D :D


-Marco

1 comment:

Lucy Dunne said...

along those lines--the hipster PDA: http://www.43folders.com/2004/09/03/introducing-the-hipster-pda