: views from the Hill

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Michael Bierut - 26 Years, 85 Notebooks

On August 12, 1982, I took a 10 x 7 1/8 inch National Blank Book Company composition book from the supply closet of my then employer, Vignelli Associates. From that moment, I have never been without one. I always have one at my desk. I take one with me to every meeting. I am now in the middle of Notebook #85. It's in front of me right now. Together, these well-worn books create a history of my working life that spans three decades.

I tend to be obsessive-compulsive, and I am very picky about the notebooks. No fancy Moleskines for me, just standard-issue office supply composition books.

I use them in order. Tibor Kalman once asked me why I didn't have a different notebook for every project. I have to admit, this would be more useful. But I don't. I fill each one up and then move to the next one, the projects all jumbled together. Starting with the third one, every one of them is numbered. Except for two at the very beginning that used gridded paper, they have blank, unlined pages. I hate gridded paper (but not as much as lined paper.) There have been times when it's been really difficult to get unlined composition books, which I gather are oddly unpopular. One time I found a supplier who would only sell them in bulk and I bought a whole boxful. I thought these would last the rest of my life, but I gave a lot away, which I regret. Now they're gone.

... continues

His nibs gives me grief because I'm enamored with blank notebooks. I'll be in a bookstore or stationery store and go missing and he'll find me looking at the stacks of blank notebooks of various sorts. When we moved from the bucolic village to the fair ville I gave loads of the simple composition books that Bierut describes away to an outfit that stocks supplies for teachers. My stash is growing again because there is something about blank books that calls to me.

I've started an exercise similar to (although not as arty as) Michael Bierut's. I wish I'd started decades ago. I'm on my second book and continuing forward.

My notebook of choice these days fits into my back pocket and goes on walks with me and sits beside me as I read. I also have a composition book that captures to-do lists and other bits and pieces I want to hang on to.

My inspiration for starting the exercise was a guy named Paul Madonna, who fills notebooks with his sketches and drawings and notes. He has a passel of them on the shelf in his studio (not 85 yet) and flips back in them when he's looking for information or inspiration. His conscientiousness about maintaining the notebooks and adding content struck me as a "good" thing.

Notebooks are a "good" thing.

DesignObserver - an interesting read
Paul Madonna's site

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